Thoughts on Istanbul, There and Back Again

Our trip to Istanbul was relatively fresh in the aftermath of the failed coup d’état attempt against Erdoğan and it was only natural to have more pronounced security measures. Mostly bag checks at the entrance of public buildings and a helicopter flying over every once in a while.


My feeling was of a calm and solid state, a feeling contrary to many people’s drama over travelling to Turkey in general. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well-aware of what happened and the seriousness of the situation, so are the Turkish people, but life is far from over, the necessary protection measures have been implemented and there is no reason whatsoever not to visit Istanbul.



Despite being a Muslim country, Turkey has gone a long way on the secular boulevard of Atatürk, but things seem to shift direction in the last few years. This is manifested not only by the numerous new mosques in Istanbul, the official state policy of tax relief for people building mosques, but also by the come back of some long forgotten ways. A fresh from the oven example would be the rigid division of male and female spa in our five star hotel. A rule that caught us off guard. A rule typical of many Arabic countries, but not so characteristic of European Istanbul… Until recently. I’m not sure if this has turned into an official state policy or if it’s still a matter of personal preference for the hotel owners.


This is the atmosphere around the Blue Mosque and an integral part of the voice of Istanbul. It’s clearly distinctive and full of mysticism, and rather exotic, but I cannot help but think that the new world calls for a different mindset.



Speaking of Turkey’s revolutionary secularization and the impact of Atatürk, it might be interesting for you to know that the name of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk actually consists of Mustafa Kemal (the chosen one, the perfect one) and later on the Turkish Parliament supplements the Atatürk, meaning father of the Turks.


And to reinforce my thesis in favor of the secularization of Turkey, here are two quotes by Atatürk, which seem to sum up quite well his philosophy. And mind you, the second one is truly revolutionary and shows the scope of his doctrine. I have come across those long before I started reading Atatürk: The Biography of the founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango. Definitely worth reading.




Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say “What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?” If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness.”




I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science.Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow-men.”


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 


I leave it to you to figure out your stance.



As a tourist I’m not a fan of the indiscriminate museum-church-whatever-historical-building-visiting approach, I’m a person of another disposition so to speak, my gaze lusts after other things. Yet this was my first time in a mosque. And just like I’ve learned more about the German core grain walking around Berlin, not in the Reichstag, the same goes for Istanbul. People’s attitude to religion, however, has always been both interesting and puzzling for me, more specifically what makes a person religious, generally speaking, and why did they pick up this teaching/denomination/cult in particular. Besides, it is my deeply rooted conviction that every human act, no matter how complex or out-worldly, or imperishable it seems, is fueled by some rather practical and primitive motives. This is what the building made me contemplate on, a curious place the mosque.



Politics and religion aside, you know that Turkey is the promised land of sweets and spices :D.



And some hairy locals who seem to cohabit in а heavenly bliss :D.



Catch you later, Istanbul, and “welcome” to us home, crossing the border :).



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Sleep tight, lights out,




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