It was 5am. Already in a slowly awakening daze, the insurgent sounds began echoing from the distant side of the Bosphorus. Bending through the cobbled streets lined with centuries of contorted paths from those who travelled from continent to continent, the noise built in a turmoil of discordant symphony.
We were staying near the Galata Tower on the European side of the city, and opposite our ageing and cracked apartment stood a small mosque hidden behind the false front of shops and vendors. As the noise built further in the lucid haze of sunrise, our own Mosque commenced the calls to prayer. Superseding all of the other calls, suddenly the melody came through and the most mesmerising chorus continued to reign strong for what felt as long as the city had stood. Quite simply it was one of the most etherial, supernatural experiences I have had. One of those moments where dreams blend into reality, particularly as I stretched out of the shutters to watch the sun rise over the city.
Istanbul is a vibrant, contrasting and immensely diverse city. Yet underneath the negative news stories is an astonishing place, in my experience unique in its culture and atmosphere. Cosmopolitan wine bars border devoted and traditional ways of life. One can spend forever simply watching the variety of local faiths, cultures, backgrounds and prosperities wonder through the streets, and with a cuisine as complex as the city itself there is not much left wanting after a visit to Turkeys most populous city.
As with any other short break, cultural sites and frequent food stops comprised most of our time in the city. It was that moment in the morning however, the shear serenity of the scene and all encompassing sensory engagement, that stood Istanbul out. I must on every travellers bucket list, you can never be left wanting in such a rich environment. Just make sure you leave those earplugs on the bedside, because 5am is calling.