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TURKEY | Sunday, 3 March 2013 | Views [272] | Scholarship Entry

Istanbul – 14 million people – three empires – two continents – one day – and a lot of cats. This city belongs to the cats – really cool, without any trace of intimidation by human presence, they walk the streets, the parks, the cafes, the restaurants, the shops, the houses, the yards and act as if like they know they have 9 lives. Mentioning many lives, in ancient Egypt where cats were really honoured, immortality was the ultimate goal of the mystical Science that combined all of the ancient knowledge and wisdom. The symbol of this longing for eternity is the phoenix, a bird that flies to Heliopolis every thousand years to burn and be reborn from the ashes. Probably inspired by this legend the spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali coins the word ‘phoenixology’ – to describe the pseudoscience invented by him to conquer death. Herodotus says: ‘Everyone is afraid of time but even time is afraid of the pyramids’. We are not afraid of time, we want to catch the moment which is the essence of the eternity.
We arrive early in the morning in the day after Christmas, we take the tram at the center at 6 o’clock in the morning and we reach the Blue Mosque, colored in ghostly orange light. The croaking cormorants fly in circles around the minarets and everything looks like a surrealistic painting that came to life. The hostel we are sleeping in is only two block away. Above the door there’s an inscription: World peace is inevitable. The first day we meet a 32-year-old Romanian actor and we are expecting him to turn us into vampires or at least steal our kidneys – not because he is a Romanian and probably an heir of the legendary count but because he lived for 7 years in the center of New York City – where, in his own words, everyone is much more vampirish than in Romania. His name is Stefan, he takes us on a walk around the city, we wonder whether to have lunch in Europe or in Asia, we take a boat at the Bosphorus, we buy duner kebap, pomengranate juice and baklava, we talk about art, theater, Dali, God. After he leaves we go to St Stefan Church, the Bulgarian iron church (the only one in the world) at the shore of the Golden Horn where I am captivated by two decapitated marble statues of angels. I ask the man who sells candles at the entrance if there’s any mystical story behind these statues. Vampires? Unfortunately, the heads just rolled down somewhere behind on the line of history and no one knows exactly how and why.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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