Whether it was by conscious decision or subconscious override, we have been associating smells, noises, and colours to our experiences since the day we were born. And with such a myriad combination of cultures, religions, and traditions haphazardly coinciding for hundreds of years, Istanbul arouses every one of the senses. Spend long enough here, and the city quickly becomes known by an association of noises and smells.
If I close my eyes, Istanbul fails to exist in it’s physical form; narrow, winding streets leading off four-lane congested highways; dilapidated shanties shadowed by high rise building; horse drawn carriages overtaken by automobiles; fluorescent lit shopping centres glaring over local farmer‘s markets.
But rather, it exists in an eclectic combination of noises and smells that are associated to everyday life; the call to prayer fighting to be heard through blasting car horns and construction saws; blaring pop music mixing with traditional Turkish songs; hawkers pushing carts on streets below as women gossip from windows above.
The Bosphorous, in all it’s beauty, is transformed into seagull cries, ship horns and frying fish in the darkness of sealed eyelids; the local cuisine is remembered by roasting meats and smoke from burning embers. Winter by coal fires, Summer by sweat; cat cries that sound so human it’s hard to define them from a crying baby. And the undercurrent to all these sounds, is the chatter and bustle of human life that can only be achieved by the millions of people existing together, side by side.
Many have been transfixed by Istanbul’s charm, and few have made it their home; perhaps the reason Istanbul lingers in the mind for so long, is that it continues to exist by senses that can be triggered at any time; long after the memory of the city has faded, long after you’ve closed your eyes to dream.