Longing for Istanbul

Hagia Sophia | Istanbul

Hagia Sophia: elements of Islam and Roman Catholicism

It’s incredible to think that one year ago this week, The Working Dad (my husband, Mark) and I were preparing to take off for Istanbul to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary. I’m amazed that: a) time has flown by so quickly, and b) that Mark and I made it another year! Seriously, though, in the year since we were in Istanbul, I think I’ve fallen in love with the city more than I did while I was there.

Shortly after we returned from our nine-day trip, I wrote about how I’d felt so completely overwhelmed the first few days we were in Istanbul. It was also during those first few days that we visited the most popular and significant sites, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. I had read countless blog posts and tweets from so many people about how Hagia Sophia is their favorite place in the world, and how completely stunning Blue Mosque is. Possibly because I was so overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and anxious, and therefore not in my right frame of mind, I didn’t feel any of that while at Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. In a way, I kind of feel like I was ripped off. I wanted to feel that same kind of connection to those places but it just didn’t happen. That’s not to say that I wasn’t in complete awe of other attractions or spots in the city, for I was quite captivated by Basilica Cistern and Süleymaniye Mosque.

In the year since our trip, I have read heaps of accounts of other peoples’ experiences in Istanbul. With each blog post, story, or article I read, I get this slight feeling of longing – longing to return to Istanbul to give the city, and myself, a second chance. No one is more surprised by this development than I am. When Mark and I returned home from Istanbul last year, we told everyone who asked that yes, we had a wonderful time, but we do not feel the need to go back. Well, now I do feel the need to go back to establish a connection with places like Hagia Sophia; to again absorb the colors and the smells of the Spice Bazaar; to drink fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice bought from a street vendor; and to mingle some more with the locals in Üsküdar, my favorite Istanbul neighborhood.

Üsküdar on the Asian shore

Maybe the old saying is true, that absence – or, in my case, time and distance – does make the heart grow fonder. It might take some convincing, but I’m thinking Mark and I should return to Istanbul for our fifteen-year anniversary.

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0 Responses to Longing for Istanbul

  1. paula November 1, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Thanks so much Francesca, I always feel like I’m right there with you on your travels!

    • Francesca November 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      Thank you, Paula! That is quite a compliment 🙂

  2. Ted Nelson (@travelingted) November 3, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I had that feeling with the Everglades in Florida. Although I enjoyed it when I visited, I dreamed about it quite often after coming home and could not wait to return.

    • Francesca November 5, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Hmmm, I think I’ll be ok if I don’t ever go back to the Everglades. See, I have this major alligator phobia and the Everglades is like Anxiety City for me.

  3. ilivetotravel November 3, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Francesca, I totally get how arriving in Istanbul, being so different, could throw someone off. I hope you get to return so you can find out if the city was just not your cup of tea or if indeed it was the effect of just getting there for the first time that threw you off! I loved being in the Hagia Sophia imagining all that the church had seen in the history of modernity! But I digress… 🙂

    • Francesca November 5, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      And the thing is, Raul, I’d traveled to other places that are notoriously chaotic – like Naples, Italy – and had no issues whatsoever. I can’t explain it but I do hope I get to back, too!

  4. The World Wanderer (@TheWrldWanderer) November 3, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Oh, I love this post, Francesca! I do feel that distance helps you fall more in love with a place. I HATED Ho Chi Minh City when I first arrived – feeling completely overwhelmed, then as we went further north, to more relaxing and quiet places, I began to miss the insanity of HCMC! While, at first, I thought I’d never wish to return, the more I thought about it, while in Vietnam still, and when home, I fell more and more in love with the city and country. I long for Vietnam all the time and didn’t expect it! I think that maybe it’s the places that challenge us and get us out of our comfort zone that really get under our skin, usually with time, and then have us longing to be a part of them again. I hope you do go back! (I’ve actually been dying to get to Istanbul for some time – I need to see the Hagia Sophia after that year of art history in hs!)

    • Francesca November 5, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      I like what you say about the challenging places getting under our skin… It’s like, it was difficult but I got through it; I’m proud of myself so let’s go back and really enjoy it! I can get behind that reasoning.

  5. lola November 4, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    i really hope to get to Turkey someday. i always enjoy your posts on Istanbul. i can understand why you are longing for it!

    • Francesca November 5, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks, Lola! I hope you get to Turkey soon, too!

  6. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) November 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I so want to go here… I’ve never been and I already LONG for the city.
    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Francesca November 5, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      🙂 I think you’d find plenty of ways to “stay adventurous” in Istanbul, Craig.

  7. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h) November 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    I can’t believe it’s been a year! Oh my…I swore that I’d get to Istanbul ASAP after reading your posts and seeing your photos. How time flies.

    • Francesca November 5, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Sure does fly, my friend!

  8. Pola (@jettingaround) November 10, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    This post reminded me of a Charles Dickens quote, “One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind.”

    I think I’ve had a similar experience with the city that everyone seems to love – Barcelona. When I was there, it took me a bit to warm up to it. I had a good time, but I wasn’t quite “feeling” it while there. Thinking back at the time and the city, I’d like to go back and see if it’d fall in love with it. And maybe I would…

    Btw, after Skyfall and talking to you, Istanbul got bumped up on my bucket list. 🙂 Lovely photo of the shore!

  9. turkischland November 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm #


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