A film camera. That’s what I used back in 2005. A decade ago. Flip phone. Not yet on Facebook. In Istanbul, sleeping in a city with prayer-call for the first and only time in my life. A beautiful, lively city. A Muslim San Francisco. Gateway to Asia, they say. But that implies that you’re coming from Europe. Here, at the top of the the gallant Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi), I felt like I was at the center of the world. Two young men from the Turkish countryside stood beside me, as deliriously happy with the view as I was. This is Istanbul, the city of history books. Constantinople, a place as alien as Jupiter.

Galata tower view of Istanbul 2005

Istanbul, the magical setting of Topkapi, with its rotting wooden buildings and its streets as tangled as yarn. And memories of From Russia with Love, its ferry rides and rendezvous inside the Hagia Sophia. I eyed the Russians tourists with interest, pretending it was still the Cold War.

Istanbul, at the mouth of the Sea of Marmara, not far from the Black Sea.

Three nights, two hotels, innumerable carpet salesmen hounding me every time I stopped to consult my map. An instantly fascinating place, one well worth a visit, and now long due for a return. How much will have changed after 10 years?

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