What can I say about being in Istanbul? Its overwhelming and comfortable. Foreign, yet already becoming familiar. Certain areas of the cosmopolitan Beyoglu area, built up in the fin de siècle European era and now retrofitted with modern shopping district feel similar to other areas of Europe I have visited. Other places, with many-minareted mosques feel uniquely Eastern to my sensibilities. Crowded shopping bazaars and streets filled (literally) with black haired Turkish men and scarf covered Turkish women seem reminiscent of the energetic and overwhelming outdoor markets in India. Yet my sister managed to tie it all together nicely when she arrived by viewing the city through a lens of … cats. If you friend her on facebook you can see her quite astonishing photo series “Cat go back to Catstantinople,” and the follow up “Cause its Catstanbul not Catstantinople” which have cats photobombing every picture of architecture, greenery or local culture.
While she visited me here for five days last week, we developed a competition centered around this classic Istanbul sight: Cat Watch 2013, in which we raced each other to the highest tally of stray cat sightings. After a while we gave up the count and just settled for exclaiming “cat” every time we saw one (or several). The cats of Istanbul are wild but not feral since they are kept tame and happy with locals who provide them with outdoor cat structures and put out piles of scraps and actual cat food in corners and alleys. Anywhere I sit with a sandwich or snack I’m sure to be soon haunted by a feline companion waiting for my leftovers – they don’t seem to have encountered vegetarians much and don’t grasp that my cheese, bread or pomegranate won’t appeal to them much if offered. Now that KJ is back in the states and re-entering her life as a busy Med student, I’ll try to remember my role as an architecture enthusiast and get back to putting up posts on my blog.