Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Easter Return from Istanbul

For the first time in over a year, I have managed to get myself in and out of Arlanda airport without any trouble. No one claiming my ticket wasn’t valid. No one mismarking my luggage. No one losing my luggage. No one forgetting to announce delays. Of course, I flew without checking any bags and checked in online eliminating any interaction whatsoever with the actual employees at Arlanda, but I’ll take it.

I escaped to Istanbul for about a week, taking advantage of Sweden’s love of religion and the red days that are Good Friday and Easter Monday. Praise Jesus. Or something like that.

Anyway, I used the Christian celebration to escape to a country that is predominantly not Christian. The call to prayer five times a day from the minarets dotting the skyscape of the city was a poignant reminder of that. And pretty damn impressive when you find yourself on the dilapidated roof of a building around 13:15 surrounded by at least four different mosques.

Within ten minutes of landing, walking towards customs, I saw a child being led around on a leash by an older sister. From the grunting parents following behind, they seemed to be German. It was incredible and I think set a good tone for the whole trip.

Istanbul was a fascinating city, a city which seemed on the brink. On the brink of economic boom on one block. Economic bust on the next. Secularism on one block. Fundamentalism on the next.

A constant cacophony of sounds seemed to create some sort of Istanbulian sound track. The clinking of spoon against tea cup. The honking of taxi drivers. The call to prayer. It all added up to a city that seems to constantly be bustling. Shops open well past midnight, people streaming through the streets, street vendors hawking cheap plastic. It was a far cry from a late night on Drottninggatan. And I want to go back.

In news completely unrelated to Istanbul, I saw flowers a couple of days ago. To most people this might seem rather benign. To anyone who has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of signs of spring in Sweden, this is incredible news.

Welcome to Sweden. And a triumphant return through Arlanda.

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  1. Wow, on a leash ?! I know it's quite common in some areas, but well, I've trouble getting used to it, even if it must be easier. Would you like to loose a child in Arlanda ? ;o)

  2. Im pretty sure if anyone saw a kid on a leash at Arlanda the parent would be charged with child abuse.

  3. LOL a leash! that's hilariously awful. i've seen a ton of those in Canada though.
    Istanbul is amazing isn't it?
    There is LIFE there, where as here. It's sort of dead in comparison. :)

  4. Something worth to mention is also that Istanbul is the European Capital of Culture this year, together with Essen (Germany) and Pecs (Hungary).

    I´ve heard that Istabul (or what the Vikings called it, Miklagård) is an amazing city, but I´ve never been there my self. Is there any differences between the European and the Asian part of the city?

  5. You should have said "Alleluia!"

  6. @Lost - seriously. a leash. they have those things in canada?

    @Ramses - a very good point, because of the title they are doing a lot of renovations on cultural buildings which is both very cool, and kind of frustrating from a touristy point of view.

    There was a bit of a difference between the two sides. The European side seemed much more like a business center whereas the asian side seems more like where you would want to live. but that was based on just a couple of days in the city.

    @anonymous - dont know how much that would have been appreciated...

  7. "poignant reminder of that" Why poignant?

  8. because it was my first time in a country that is predominantly muslim and so seeing the minarets and hearing the call to prayer was a very powerful display of the religion. pretty interesting and a lot of fun to see.

  9. Did i read it right?! A kid on a leash?! wow, wow, wow! I couldn't even imagine that.