96 | thisformercathedral istodayamuseum,but you should also be ready for huge queues. If by this juncture you haven’t already felt thegreatness of Istanbul, whichcarries within it thehistoryof thewholeworld, the only city lying on two continents, you will nd it inHagiaSophia, in thatwondrous fusionofOttoman, Byzantine, Genovese, RomanandancientGreekarchitecture.Youwill see Christian mosaics from the year 1020 and, if you look up, magni cent Islamic arabesques and fantasticmedallionsbearing the names of prophets written in calligraphy. Just above themedallions, youwill see a restored seraphim, with a face that is an amazingsight in itself.Wecouldsay that it is magni cent, fascinating, breathtaking, but the greatness of Hagia Sophia can only be evokedby the fact that, as soonas youstep inside, everything is silenced and you will feel aneedto remainsilent.Youcandeclare yourself a believer or an atheist, but Hagia Sophia is awe-inspiring regardless of your religiousbeliefs.Youwillbesilencedby faith anddesire, whatever you thinkofmiracles, placeyour thumb inthe“cryingpillar”or the Wishing Column, in the hope that youwill extract amoist strawberry. If your thumb is wet, your wish will come true. Given that the column ismade ofmarble and located abovegroundwater, youmightget lucky. In the end, everything is possible in Istanbul. Another interestingelement thatwill surely catch your attention is that there are no stairs in Hagia Sophia, rather you climb a steeply sloping stone corridor to reach the gallery. The reason for this is that the Byzantine queen insisted on being carried up to the second oor, so a wide, steep corridor was built instead of a staircase. After that, you can carry on to Topkapi Palace and indulge in the recounting of the sultan’s daily struggle to surviveon the throne. The huge estate that was reserved for the most in uential people in the empire, alongwiththeharem,providestheperfect backdrop to fantasiseabout the sultan and his turbulent life. And from there your path leads to the Grand Bazaar… Enchanted by aromas and colourfulness, I traversed the endless labyrinths of theBazaar, without any ideaofwhere Iwas going,whilesaucersemergedinfrontofme lledwithTurkishdelight, baklava, various teas and co ee. I was easy prey and I was aware of it. Whatever the situation in the country, back in the times of the tribes, before Islam, bazaars were always safe places that people didn’t enter with weapons. In this placewhere East collideswithWest, one thing has always had primacy above all else, and that’s trade. When it comes to trading, where you come from and what your faith is doesn’t matter. It is important that you knowhow to trade. Although the Grand Bazaar might seem like a ruthless place to you, that’s just an illusion. One of thebasic rulesof thebazaar ismorality, and respect comes before pro t. Still turnedo by barter, strolling and a pile of sampledTurkish delight and baklava, I dug my way to a small, hidden, traditional co ee shop with real Turkish coffee. Inside sat the owner, a gentleman in his later years by the name of Rafael, and I was the only customer, which gave me a chance to sample a little of everything that he had in his little co ee shop. That’s how I discovered ayran, a traditional Turkishdrink that I woulddescribe as a savoury yoghurt. I drank it all, accompanied with strong, bitter co ee, while Rafael watched in wonder, expecting disaster. I returned the next day for the same combination, and the day after that. I might not have impressed the Istanbul traders, but Rafael admittedthat I lefthimspeechless.To leave a man speechless who’s from this city of wonders, which is traversed by a million a day and who has been watching it all unfold for decades is no mean feat, don’t you think? I returned from Istanbul with bags full of Turkish delight and perfumes, but also with an addiction to ayran and a load of new avours and aromas. Those were three days lled with wonders, after which I am convinced that Napoleon knew perfectly well what he was saying when he declared Istanbul the capital of the planet. Iz Istanbula sam se vratila sa torbama punim ratluka i parfema, ali i sa zavisnošću od ajrana i sa gomilom novih ukusa i mirisa. Napoleon je znao šta govori... I returned from Istanbul with bags full of Turkish delight and perfumes, but also with an addiction to ayran and a load of new avours and aromas. Napoleon knew perfectly well what he was saying... Ajran, tradicionalno tursko piće, nešto kao slani jogurt Ayran is a traditional Turkish drink, something like a savoury yoghurt TOPKAPI iStock / RuslkanKaln