I love Istanbul in the winter. I don’t love the writing of supremely overrated Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk. Aside from his obvious pride in claiming that Istanbullus are morose and melancholic, his writing is boring and pedantic with redundant symbolism (Snow Snowy, the Major of Snow Town, and his snow-white love interest spend time in a mountain of snow watching the snow fall.) And I don’t agree with him (even though he is from Istanbul) about the melancholy. I think everyone is just a bit cold and ticked off that these old houses are not adequately heated or weather-sealed. That made me crabby too when I was living in dank Victorian houses in San Francisco.
What is interesting about Istanbul in the wintertime is that everyone wears black and looks down at the ground. Bundled up under a scarf with a knit hat on, no one can tell if you are tourist or not. This frees a girl up for a number of things that she can’t get away with during peak season. Yesterday I walked over the Galata Bridge from Beyoglu to the Basilica Cistern in Sultanahmet, which I have amazingly never visited even though it is right there among all the other tourist destinations. In warmer times, this walk would have been loud and punctuated by various bouts of unwanted attention from men fishing off the bridge, touts trying to sell tours of the Bosphorus, random dudes in lavender dress shirts asking, “Vere ah yoo frum?” But yesterday the walk was quiet, no voices, just seagulls screeching and sounds of the Bosphorus lapping against the ferryboat docks. I was invisible as a foreigner and as a woman. That single luxury is the one thing missing from the list of pros of living here for most other months of the year.