During my time that wasn’t that much in this city, I grasp something that might not many people realize. I recognize it while strolling the city that used to be the colony of Gods and Goddess that was deprived by the empire of Christ. The Empire that was built with blood, sweat, and tears throughout centuries as if it was a tale written by Shakespeare, yet it falls as fast as Constantine the great decision to leave its capital to the golden horn. Regardless of the rich vocabulary in the Latin language, he named the city with his own name, and as a result of his own wish, his name was revealed through turbulent periods of uncertainty. The name perched with two notorious seas, the seas which they used for guarding, trading, and plundering their neighbor that they called barbarians. The reputation of his enormous wall spread throughout civilization, and it was built for one particular purpose, to separate his people from the infidels. Regardless of its reputation, his wall couldn’t defend fifty-five thousand Arabian pikes that marched so firmly as if it was a forest of steel that filled with ambitions to rob the pride of his empire. Although his crown was taken by the wicked, his name was still a precious jewel at the beginning till the edge of the Ottoman empire, his name can be heard all over central Asia, written in the dry land of Anatolia, and oft-seen by the self-centered European as if his name was another Mongol invasion that terrifies the portion swaths of Europe. Even though the lucky rarely gets dirty, sometimes even a ruler can be ruled, a peasant can become a tsar, thus his name has turn to dust. Now, we know it as Istanbul, a city that attracts many thinkers, wanderers, and believers. A city that equaled a Turkish proverb “A red apple invites stones”.
In this city, there are some places that remarked well on my head. One of them is the hippodrome, a chariot racing stadium of ancient greek. The Hippodrome reminds me of how ancient greek people learned from the theater, music, and poem. Perhaps this might sound hilarious for those who are illiterates or even the ones who so-called educated ones, but at least instead of letting numbers decide their future and forcing people to sit, obey and listen to the teacher that might feel threatened by the bright students, teacher that can only turn them into academic experiments and unintentionally put out their dreams, ancient Greeks learned with excitement. Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Seneca to Empedocles lectured people throughout centuries with their wise phrases that are barely comprehensible for common people, however, it inspires leaders who need their point of view, philosophers that almost lost their word, teachers that tried to be wise, and scholars who tried to interpret their sincere thoughts. I suppose that students of ancient greek learned to think, while most of us learn some arbitral facts that might change with time.
Back in my hometown, while I prepare my luggage to move out to the capital, I decide to bring something and put it into a briefcase that only serf to bring my books, some of the books are the books that I stole from the library in my mother’s office back in my minor days, the library which was all hush and quiet. 1453 by Roger Crowly was one of the books that I stole, Just a glance at the cover of this book is enough to send me back in time and stir strong feelings of nostalgia to my precious childhood memories within me, it reminds me of how I was very keen to visit the Bosphorus strait by myself. The strait that raisin up to protect the righteous, the wise, and the sinner. The strait that is exceptionally narrow and yet it separates culture, beliefs, and an unalike vantage point. The strait that witnesses a triumph and a fall of an empire likewise cheers and weeps when necessary. The strait who tolerates cultures that go and stayed after centuries of uncertainties, yet she still welcomes them with a long glittering gold carpet as if she was their home at the very beginning. A strait that used to be my childhood playground.
Not even the guardian of holy wisdom know the viking runic.
After all of those places that I can’t mention one by one, I visit the celebrated Hagia Sophia, the Holy Wisdom, the largest church of the Roman Empire. hmmm, no, no, it’s a mosque! no, it’s a museum! nooo, it’s a mosque! Despite the utility of it, whether it’s for a higher purpose or just another Disneyland for tourists, Hagia Sophia has a special place in my thoughts. It makes me realize that destruction and beauty are merely the same things. It was said that “after three days of allowing his army to pillage, rape, and kill whatever they want. Sultan Mehmed II weeps in tears after seeing Hagia Sophia, he regrets letting the gorgeous city into the hand of the savage”. Though despite most of the heritage of Constantinople being destroyed in only three days, I assume that the Rennaissance would not take place since all the thinkers, and artists of the holy city fled to western Europe when Constantinople fell. They reintroduce the west with the forgotten prudence of antiquity and ancient wisdom, thus perhaps we can’t see the work of those geniuses if Mehmed II didn’t spoil the holy city. Geniuses such as Tintoretto, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, or Galileo Galilei……. Then?? cry not Mehmed, cheers!! … Again, excuse me. Entering the Hagia Sophia was an unexplainable experience for me. Hagia Sophia that now is filled with the sweeping view of the mathematical complexity of Islamic Calligraphy which fitted so well with what used to be a church and its columns that recall the time of the Roman Empire, the dome that is so high surrounded by windows that display bright sunlight as if it represents heaven, and without trying to disrespect people who were praying, I wish that they look up before or after their prayer, since the dome will elevate them to heaven. There was also an unexpected one, it was almost like a meaningless scratch, I can see why it was concealed for centuries, though it’s much more than that, it was the handwriting of a Vikings centuries ago. Perhaps he was listening to the boring solemn of the priest while trying to kill his boredom he wrote something that was terribly unnecessary in such place, it said “Halfdan was here” in a Scandinavian language, allowing it to add another accessorize to the mystic atmosphere of Hagia Sophia, perhaps I should have done such shenanigan if im a Viking. Despite the angelic Islamic ornaments and Viking runic inscription carved on white marble, there are also hidden gems, precious ones. The crafts that longing to be seen again, paintings of the biblical story from the Christ to the Byzantine emperor that once used to furnish the building, unfortunately, have to be hidden beneath the ornament of their nemesis. Funny isn’t it? the cliche of stacking one sublime thing and concealing the others. The cliche, as my urge to summon back fascinating bits and pieces of exquisite stuff, still and all, has to destroy others. The cliche how destroying something might allow something new to be brought into existence. The cliché qui me touché.
Istanbul. Even though, it was just a glance. Your crowds, traffic jams, salty breezes, the horns blowing from its ships, and the cries of the seagulls, will never let me forget you. But for now i have to go.