As we passed under the Aqueduct of Valens, the guide explained that it was Atatürk who had changed the name of the city from Constantinople to Istanbul when he formed the republic. "Istanbul means 'I go to the city' and it is what many people called the city already," the guide said.
Well, I went to the city all right, with all its mosques and the magnificent Hagia Sofia, and the ancient Grand Bazaar which is still impressive, the spice market, the eerie Basilica Cistern, the Topkapi Palace with its tranquil gardens of Gülhane, and the other elegant buildings lining the Bosporus. This is one of the many great things about working for a Swedish company in Sweden: company trips to take the baths at Budapest, or ski the slopes in the Swiss Alps, or wander around one of the fabled cities of the world, Istanbul, which was Constantinople, and before that, Byzantium.
I even managed an evening with an old friend who lives there, who showed me around Beyoglu and Tunel where you must walk in between cafe tables to make your way through the narrow winding streets. And on to Tarlabasi, where he lives, amid prostitutes and thieves, a district that apparently horrifies all Turks he meets.
"The wierdest are what I first thought to be ugly little old village ladies working as prostitutes. Then I realized they were actually men dressed as little old village ladies," he said. "There's something for everyone." And then he chortled.
Now I just need to convince the husband that we must visit in the autumn.
The Swedish word for the day is förtjust. It means smitten.
- by Francis S.