Pictures, people want me to take pictures of Istanbul in the snow. It’s been snowing rather heavily for a few days now, and I guess the people who request pictures imagine the most beautiful views: mosques covered with snow, the old city turned white, narrow streets with snow flakes coming down.
But that version of Istanbul in winter doesn’t exist. At least, I haven’t seen it, and I’ve been around town quite a bit over the last few days. With my camera ready, because I also thought I’d get prize-winning snaps. But there is too much traffic, too much salt spread, millions of people continuously walk on the fresh snow, there is too much city warmth, exhaust fumes, too much of everything to destroy the perfect winter picture. Which of course doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy myself. I sat in the bar of Istanbul Modern Museum and watched the view over the Marmara Sea fade away behind an ever thicker curtain of snow, till only birds remained visible and the boat from Kadiköy that slowly came through the white air. I walked in Üsküdar with the snow coming down on me. I shopped in Istiklal Street with the sleet in my face, and saw the great effort shopkeepers make to get customers into their shops without slipping – constantly cleaning the entrance, putting cardboard on the doorstep, or towels, or a kilo of salt. I took ferries and couldn’t see any of the view – and was happy that apparently the captain did. I passed by the tourist spots of Topkapi, the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia: they didn’t turn into white fairy tale buildings, but it was nice to see the tourists around them deal with the snow. Istanbul: you shouldn’t try recording it, you should just live it.