December 10, 2011

Çukurcuma, Istanbul. October, 2011

It was drizzling and raining on and off. We’d just had lunch with our new Istanbul friend Cenk, then stopped for a quince dessert before descending the very steep streets to this neighborhood of antiques dealers, one we’d read about in Orhan Pamuk’s extraordinary novel The Museum of Innocence. Jay had loved the book as much as I did, and I had promised I’d show him the area. Who would have thought we’d find the actual corner, the very house so pivotal to the book’s narrative...and that when we found it, we’d spy this plaque! A real museum? Even more remarkable, just then a small group from the German Bundestag approached in the rain, knocked on the door, it opened and they started to enter. When they told me they were having an “exclusive” advance tour, somehow I was bold enough to ask, “Can we join you?” They kindly asked the museum proprietress who said no. In Turkish I implored, “Lutfen?” (Please.) Then a miracle happened. As if entering the door to Alice’s rabbit hole, we were allowed into the most magical and wondrous and teary hour of our trip. Among the many obsessive treats in store when the museum opens to the public this spring: hundreds and hundreds of lipstick-stained cigarette butts, gathered after the novel’s “loved one” has dropped them, mounted as precisely and as tenderly as butterflies in a science display. Mesmerizing.


  1. This is fantastic! Thank you, Sandy, for brightening a sleet-slicked winter's day!

  2. "Magical" and "enchanting" should be used sparingly but this truly has something wondrous about it. Thank you, literary fates. On the other hand, your expert preparation and legwork made it possible. Thank you, Sandy. My favorite story of 2011.