"If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital." This is a quote by Napoleon. The French poet Alphonse de Lamartine was quoted saying "If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul." And the French writer Pierre Loti once said, "Holy Istanbul! Your name is the most enchanting one of all names which enchants me." Wow, talk about raising the bar. (It’s also interesting that they’re all French)
The first time I encountered the name Istanbul was when I was a boy, and my mother was singing to herself an old Japanese pop song. The lyrics roughly translated to something like “Oh, fly me to Istanbul,” and this phrase repeated over and over again. I thought to myself, “Istanbul? What a funky sounding name for a city!!” I was maybe 8.
A number of years later, I was watching a travel channel documentary, where the camera would walk around the streets of various cities, and the footage would make it seem like the viewer was right there with the crew. During the episode on Istanbul I was only half-glancing at the television, but soon I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Something about the city, the architecture, the feel, it was entrancing. And the occasional, absolutely stunning, drop-dead beautiful lady walking in the background made me think, I HAVE TO GO THERE!! I was maybe 15.
When I learned the history behind the city, it only made me more curious. This city has been around for over 2000 years. Originally part of the Ancient Greek Empire, it was called Byzantium. Then it became Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Finally, taken over by the Ottoman Turks, it became Istanbul. So, it was only one of the most important (if not the most important) city for three major world empires. To top it off, Istanbul is located right at the connecting point between Europe and Asia. I mean, I can’t even fathom how much history and culture is crammed into this city. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. I feel dizzy just thinking about it. No wonder Napoleon said what he said.
My idolization of Istanbul is becoming borderline uncontrollable. I don’t know if I can make any unbiased analysis when I get there. It’s like having a crush on the prom queen/cheerleader captain dating the all-state quarterback. Completely out of my league. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore lol.