Thursday, December 29, 2011

City Living

I recently got back from a rather amazing trip to Istanbul and it got me thinking about the aspects of a city that make it appealing. I have had the good fortune to see a number of interesting places all over the world and I would have to say my favourite three metropolises have been Edinburgh, Scotland; Prague, Czech Republic; and the aforementioned Istanbul in Turkey. I also think Vancouver is a fantastic city but I disqualified it as it is basically my hometown. (I am going to discount Odessa, Ukraine as well as a hometown because my Ukrainian friends will freak out if they are not included, but everyone should know that Odessa has the second best Opera house in the world)
I boiled the essence of a remarkable city down to three components:
1) It's all about the levels - the topography of the city must be varied. There should be some hills and some valleys. When the city is flat you can't appreciate the scope, one of the best parts of city life is thinking about the mass of humanity that has come together to share a small patch of earth.
Edinburgh, Prague, and Istanbul all have these amazing hills in the city where you get amazing sight lines and on the flip side when you are at the bottom looking up you get a real sense of awe.
2)Water - there needs to be some water to look at. There is something magical about watching waves crash against the shore or watching it flow along the banks with the cityscape as a backdrop. I could spend all day just sitting near a body of water watching the waves and the people around it is so relaxing.
3) Getting Around - there needs to be a way to get from point A to point B without wanting to gouge your own eye out with a spoon. Istanbul and Prague have pretty bad ass public transportation systems which get you where you need to be although 24 hour systems would be much appreciated by those who can't finish thier drinking by midnight. Edinburgh is so small that you can easily walk from anywhere to anywhere with the added bonus of finding little hidden pubs to stop off for a pint or two or three...
Bonus Round - having hundreds or thousands of years of history is a huge bonus. Standing on the same spot where a king, prince, or knight stood at some point in the past is an exhilarating feeling (at least if you are a history geek like myself). 

1 comment:

  1. I haven't yet been to Edinburgh but I can agree with everything else in this post. I adore Prague and I love Istanbul.

    In Prague, the view of the city and the river from Letna Park in springtime, with the lilacs fragrant below on the river banks, and the multiple bridges spanning the river completely inspires me and makes me want to live there forever.

    It's also magical to sit with a giant Turkish breakfast before oneself in an outdoor cafe next to the Bosphorus and watch the cargo ships and the pleasure boats and the battleships float by. It never gets old. One of my friends spotted a submarine once! Wouldn't that be cool to see?

    I also don't understand why public transit ends so early in Istanbul because it doesn't seem to match the local's clock.