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My Silk Road The Piglet stumbles across the continent

76 - "Huzun" in Istanbul

TURKEY | Monday, 31 December 2012 | Views [549]

Sunset from my apartment terrace

Sunset from my apartment terrace

As has been my habit, before and during my time in a country, I read books about that country. Not just guidebooks - these I read long before I landed, but books by local authors and books by ancient travellers to that country, to get a feel for the atmosphere and the people.  Colin Thubron, Peter Hopkirk, Susan Whitfield, Ibn Battuta and Xuanzang have all informed and inspired me in the China and Central Asia parts of the Silk Road.  

In Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk was the obvious choice and in particular his book on Istanbul (and all credit goes to my mom for introducing me to the book).  Reading Pamuk while physically in Istanbul and in not just Istanbul at any time but Istanbul during the rainy winter has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of this trip.  According to Orhan Pamuk, a melancholy known as huzun pervades Istanbul.  Huzun is, I read, a Turkish word that denotes a state of mind that is as much about hope as it is about loss.  In Pamuk's book, huzun is a community-wide emotion and not felt only by the odd individual.  Looking out onto the silvery grey mists lifting above the domes of the mosques, wandering along the bridges that connect both shores of the Golden Horn as the rain and wind whips around oneself, leaning against the balcony of the ferry that crosses between the western and asian sides of Istanbul and feeling the surf against one's face - I felt I managed to understand just a hint of what Pamuk wrote about.

I should also mention a lovely surprise - Pamuk's Museum of Innocence, located on a narrow side street a short walk from our serviced apartment in Beyoglu and around 10 minutes walk from the Galatasaray High School.  This is a museum where words from the book have been transformed into imagination and made concrete.  An experience not to be missed even if one has not read the book. 

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