I might have an odd view on cities, strongly influenced by the opening scene of the magnificent “Amélie”. I perceive every cluster of human dwellings, be it a household, a campsite, a village or a metropolis, not as a single entity, but as a composition of the subjective habitats of every individual living there. An example; when I think about the town where I used to study until recently, I naturally have a different Bielefeld in mind than any other former or active of its residents. To me, the trams were like veins, pumping the students, workers, guests from one end of the city to the other. Each place of importance is connected to the tram lines and I remember their position according to the nearest station. Places I traversed regularly, like the uni, are represented with more detail in my mind than sites I rarely visited. Quarters not connected to the tram system are shadowy lands hidden in the mist of ignorance. It is obvious, though, that other residents or non-students would imagine the parts of the town they are accustomed with in full colour and light, while the uni or my dorm would be faceless voids like their homes are to me.
What is true for the medium-sized Bielefeld or smaller realms such as your grandparent’s bathroom is also true and unimaginably more fascinating for the colossal crucible of matter, time and life that’s called Istanbul. Every block is the periphery of someone’s world. Each time you pass a street, you are unknowingly entering someone’s domain. For me and most other foreigners, Istanbul is pictured from high flats in the central districts or from the view you have when taking a ferry over the Bosphorus. Alas, many natives have lived in the outskirts of Istanbul and never even seen the sea. For them, Istanbul has nothing to do about water. Instead, it might be perceived as a forest of mono-coloured concrete buildings, each filled with friends, hazards, competitors, customers, strangers. Moreover, each 500-tenant block, itself an organism stuffed with warm-water-veins and an electric nervous system, is filled to the top with stories. Stories not only of the living inhabitants, but also of the physical and immaterial objects, such as the graffiti on floor five which informs us of Emres love to Ezgi; two imaginary individuals who’s real-life counterparts might have not seen each others in decades, just married or might be separated by death.
The complexity is even more beautiful if you add another dimension, which is time. My flat, rather my little house, is two hundred years old. One room features the star of the Ottomans on the ceiling. I’m wondering, who was it built for? Back then, it would probably have been a middle class or upper middle class residence. Maybe an officer? A tradesman? After the end, fall or rise of their lineage, who lived here then? Did a poet write his verses in the room I’m sitting in right now?
These are the thoughts that go through my head when looking at the numerous skylines of Istanbul, a city that old, that at least ten big Wikipedia entries are needed to tell its story. Maybe more. I lost count at eight.
Anyways…I’m back abroad, so from now on, I’ll start posting again!