We asked a few of our favorite authors to tell us about the most enchanted places they’ve ever been. This is what they came up with …
As soon as you get there, you know you’re not in Kansas, anymore.
Istanbul is instantly astonishing, a heady mix of architecture that dates back a thousand years to modern high rises scraping the sky. You see women shrouded in burkas so that only their eyes appear walking alongside fashionistas in six-inch heels and tight leather skirts. You’re woken up in the middle of the night by a haunting prayer call (and it comes back at five in the morning and then many times during the day). You walk into the Grand Bazaar, five thousand shops and sixty streets, and it’s almost like all the goods for sale went on an acid trip. There’s an explosion of color and texture, silky scarves and porcelain, boots embroidered in silk threads, and of course, those handmade rugs that are so lush you just want to eat them.
You can’t move without a vendor calling to you, “Where you from? New York City? I have a brother who lives there! Come here and I’ll make you a deal! Just for you!” Max, our son, began to make up home states. He was from Texas. He was from Dakota. Once, he said he hailed from Tunaville, but it didn’t matter. “Tunaville! My sister lives there!” a vendor said. You can walk the city for hours. You can’t sit down in a restaurant without the manager coming over, and even if he doesn’t speak your language, he makes sure you have every dish you want. When one restaurant discovered we were vegetarian, the manager brought out plates of tomatoes and cheese, figs and pasta, and he kept worriedly coming back to make sure we were all right.
Even the names of different areas are romantic and hint of intrigue: Sultanabad. Taksim. Sometimes you can be walking in the city and you happen to look up and there is the breathtaking majesty of the Blue Mosque or the Topkapi palace with the Sultan’s maze of rooms for his harem. The whole city glows, and when we left, on the plane home, I missed it so much I watched a Turkish film, set in Istanbul, called Fig Jam, twice in a row. I can’t tell you if it was a good film or a bad one, because all that mattered was it was set in Istanbul. And when I got home, I found Fig Jam on Youtube, and yes, I watched it again.