At first sight Istanbul doesn’t really seem like a city of romance and intrigue, but it’s there. Around unsuspecting dark alley corners, on rocks near the sea, in dark and dank uninviting tea shops, and yes even in cemeteries. If I were to have a romance in Istanbul, and this is all hypothetical, of course, it would be pretty awesome.
It would start in a hostel, not the most charming beginning it may seem, but you see, it’s in hostels where a girl who’s passionate about travel will find a boy who shares that passion… why else is he paying for a cheap bed in a dorm of snorers with questionable hygiene? So we’d be at the hostel, everyone chatting in the common area and someone would mention magic tricks – my cue to woo. I would dazzle my fellow hostelers with my tricks, making sure my awesomeness was being noticed by that certain boy who had caught my eye. This hypothetical flirting would continue throughout the evening, tra la la la la, fast forward to the part where it’s clear we’re both interested but we’re just passers-by in this city, after all, so how attached should we get, right? Well, lets say we decide, “heck, you only live once, what’s wrong with a little romance?”
Courting is best done on walks through empty city streets so the next day I’d plan some way to do just that by announcing that I’d go with so and so on their way to see such and such monument and then I’d probably break off and go my own way. I’d make sure this announcement was made in earshot of the boy who would then announce, “I think I might just join you!” PRESTO! A day date! Although at this point we wouldn’t dare call it that aloud. So we’d walk and chat and avoid hawkers all the while getting hopelessly lost in tiny winding streets then finding ourselves again exactly where we didn’t mean to be, but oh well that’s part of the fun, right?
It would be time to rest our weary wandering feet so we’d probably decide on some tea, but where? As travelers, we’d need somewhere cheap… ah! a sign advertising 1 Lira per cup of tea (roughly 60 cents)! So we’d follow the sign…. through a cemetery, yes, a cemetery, where in the very back there’s a tent with tables, chairs, tea and lots and lots of men smoking hookah. It’s starting to feel more like a date: sitting telling jokes and stories, gazing into each others’ eyes, actively ignoring the fact that we’re in a cemetery…. The hookah would probably start getting to us after a while so we’d decide to take to the streets again, going new places, seeing new things, until a stomach rumble would interrupt our conversation, because at this point we would have been walking for hours without even noticing the passing of time.
We’d probably be near the sea and Mr Man would propose dinner, fish, perhaps? At dinner, the Turkish waiter would dote on me bringing free tea after free tea and making my day date appreciate the fact that he’s the one that gets to sit across from such a perfect specimen of a female. And I’d be quite content being the one across from him.
Most day dates would be coming to and end at this point, but since it’s all hypothetical, let’s continue…. We’d amble up the narrow streets still talking endlessly because we hadn’t even begun to run out of things to say and hear. Then he would suddenly turn to me and say, “I have a great place where we can go, but it may seem a bit dodgy at first”. Let’s add here, the fact that this charming male is British so everything he says sounds even more appealing. So he’d lead me down dark and empty alleys, the kinds of alleys that make me question how much I actually trust this guy who I’d stumbled upon at a hostel of all places…. he could be anyone. He could be running away from the Turkish Mafia (capital M). Or he could have a wife and kids in England. Or he could be the guy who shows up in the news a few years down the line as the serial hostel kidnapper/killer, finally giving my parents closure as to who murdered their youngest daughter. Fortunately he would turn out just to be the guy who leads me through dark and scary alleys to a beautifully lit street, if you can call it that since it’s entirely stairs. He’d take me to the roof of a cafe, because everyone knows that roofs are the most romantic. There’d be live music but no atmosphere, so he’d lead me back down to a secluded nook off the street. Because everyone knows that secluded nooks off the street are the most romantic. There’d be a couch, blankets, and a heater, but he’d be glad for the chill – his chance to put his arm around me. Of course, he’d been too shy to come near me all day, so he’d probably be on cloud nine at such a close encounter.
So we’d be sitting in our own private cafe, pretty much, enjoying the live music that’s streaming out an overhead window when he would take the opportunity during a rare pause in conversation to admit he’d wanted to kiss me all day but he was shy and didn’t know how I would react, and may he kiss me now. Well A. I’d spent the entire day with him loving every minute of it… B. I’d get to tell everyone about the romance I’d had in Istanbul with a Brit…. and C. what the heck, why not? so yes, he may and must kiss me. And obviously because it’s all hypothetical it would the perfect kiss. One for the movies.
The nature of travelers is that they go their own ways, so while maybe he was staying in Istanbul, let’s say he got a job there, I on the other hand had to continue on. Several days of travel would pass, but let’s say Noel and I were afforded the opportunity to return to Istanbul, and our British friend offered us the spare bedroom in his apartment. I’d take him up on the offer, reasoning that it’s not a bad idea if my best friend is there, she’ll protect me. Our hypothetical romance would continue as long as Noel and I would stay there (which would probably go from the planned 3 days to a week) and we would have all kinds of dates. Not raisins, just dates. I’d meed him for his break at work, we’d decide to risk sitting on the rocks by the sea because they’re more secluded, but we’d realized that they smelled like cat feces and were dirty and uncomfortable so we’d choose a park bench instead. We’d find little tea shops that only played Elton John but, at least the tea was cheap. I’d buy him strawberry Nestle Quick to start his working day off right and he’d bring me back free bread from the restaurant because he knows how I save them for sandwiches later. Life would be just dandy… until it was time to go. Hypothetically I could decide to stay… but this story already seems a bit unrealistic, so I’d go… obedient to our travel itinerary, but downtrodden.
At least I would have had an amazing romance in Istanbul with an English man. There could be no complaining, he had made me feel beautiful and cherished, even if it did have to end.
Even if it was all hypothetical… right?