by Kleitia Vaso

My favorite foreign city is Istanbul. I anticipated a ruined type of beauty, a gloomily romantic kind of place as I had just finished at that time Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories and the City (2003). I didn’t expect to like it in the way I did and as much, but part of the reason for this unforeseen love and fidelity is the city’s (or rather the parts I saw) unexpectedly unabashed, showy-to-the-limits-of-being-excessive, beauty. In short, beauty unafraid of being present and of expressing its power, capable, if unleashed, of drowning out everything else which might be more important logically but not strong enough to match its irrational influence. What I remember most vividly is the city’s greenery and, most importantly, its flowers. Istanbul made me aware of a sleeping sense of nostalgia for parks and botanical gardens which inherently contain that same kind of overwhelming and unsubtle beauty; the soothing green punctuated by bright, lush colors.

Of course, being an inhabitant of a city polluted by concrete, layers of dust, and unhappy-looking people only increases this mix of nostalgia and desire for something that fights and outweighs everything else just by existing. While it may seem that thinking of gardens in Tirana is the same as watching a lot of movies during times of war (which has happened) – the city has so many other, seemingly more exigent problems – I keep thinking that more than anything, I want a garden. Instead of imagining a comfortable house inside, I dream of the outside and I suddenly understand all the weird older people in the U.S constantly tending to their yards – garden is too romantic a word for the U.S – with their patience and gardening shears. Is this love of gardening and flowers a sign of getting older or just maturing? Let’s say that I don’t know but I think that Istanbul, the city I expected to love in a melancholy dramatic way as I read it in Pamuk, completely surprised me with its joyous colors and awakened a dormant love within me. In beauty I trust!

by Kleitia Vaso