Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Istanbul, July 30-August 2, 2009

I love Istanbul. The food, the sea, the tramway that makes navigation so easy, the hilly roads and by-lanes that make navigation impossible, the people, the food, the shopping, the magnificent opulence juxtaposed with colorful little European style houses with flowers on balcony grills, and did I mention the food? Of course nothing can beat baklava (and I ate enormous quantities of it) but I also loved sipping Ayran (similar to lassi), salatali pilav (similar to veg pulao for the desis) with kuru fasulye (bean soup) and kumpir (which is similar to крошка картошка, a baked potato served with cheese, yogurt, beans, peas and some 20 other toppings). I've decided I need to move to Istanbul, sit by the Bosphorous as I gorge myself on baklava and then trek back to my apartment on top of a hill on a hard-to-find nook of Beşiktaş.

Part of what might have made me feel so at home in Istanbul is the Turkish language. I only knew a handful of words before and the language sounds completely foreign but throughout the days in the city, I kept coming across words in Turkish that are either the same as or very similar to words in Hindi (talk about linguistic borrowings leading to a complicated displaced sense of 'home'!) Here's a sampler for those interested: kitap (book), hafta (week), sabah (morning), meydan (arena), hakim (judge), sabun (soap), amrut (guava), nar (pomegranate), sharap (alcohol), shikayet (complaint), just to list a few. In terms of hospitality, it also helped when I saw people going far out of their way to help us out- a woman who was rushing somewhere stopped when I asked for directions and asked around for about 15 minutes until she found and showed me the doorway of the house I needed. It's in stark contrast with the city I currently live in, which I love for other reasons, but where any pleas for assistance will almost certainly be met with a "не знаю".

I think my favorite part of Istanbul (besides the food :P) was the view. The hilly roads coupled with the view of the water reminded me of Athens and it made me nostalgic for a place I barely remember but want to return to. While we had some minor scares between me and my friend- like a lost cellphone (found), a lost MP3player (gone), overbooking on the flight and someone else with the same seat designation, a night spent at the airport due to late night arrival and misinformation about taxis, etc., they were minor blips on an otherwise excellent couple of days.


cringe-all said...

I expected you to love it.
The loanwords are understandable too. It's all from Arabic, so you would find some words common with Hindi-Urdu in languages ranging right from Swahili to Bahasa Indonesia. As such the language is from a very different family though.
No comments on the food. You are the expert on international cuisine. But there is indeed a popular bangla ditty about "bhojohori manna", an illustrious chef, who has learnt the art of "ranna" in Istamboul. :)


i loved your post and considering the fact that i do plan to visit turkey sometime, this post will remain my bible. keep having fun.

Tista said...

Yes, agreed that the languages are very different- the sounds and grammatical structures are not so similar. I was just trying to convey the strange feeling of joy when suddenly we came across a word that was the same.

compos,thanks :)