For its combination of sheer cultural eclecticism and pure physical appeal, Istanbul has to be one of the top five cities on earth.* If you've spent enough time there to become a fan, you'll doubtless have become a fan of Turks, surely some of the nicest people anywhere.
Turkey is never long without troubles or controversies. September saw record flooding in Istanbul. The country's biggest media tycoon, who is not a favorite of the Prime Minister, was assessed "a staggering 3.75 billion lira ($2.5 billion) fine for allegedly evading taxes." To make domestic political hay, Prime Minister Erdogan (a former mayor of Istanbul) has had a running battle with Israel since the Davos meetings in January, and just this week Turkey stopped Israel from participating in a NATO war exercise in a dispute over Gaza.
But despite the usual calumnies and controversies, the Turks are in the midst of doing something good. They're playing football. Today "Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan arrived in the western Turkish city of Bursa Wednesday to attend a Turkey-Armenia World Cup qualifier as part of the two countries' move to normalize ties after nearly a century of rift," according to the AP.
This brings to mind a fine photo of Turkish football fans being protected by Armenian troops in Yerevan a year ago. It was great photographic work from Onnik Krikorian/Oneworld Multimedia 2008. we posted it here at the time (and will use this excuse to post again).
The occasion for the photo? Turkish President Abdullah Gul was in the house on 6 September, 2008 in Yerevan's Republican stadium for a World Cup qualifying soccer match.
There will be trials, and there are many on both sides who oppose reopening the Turkish/Armenian border that Turkey closed in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan during the conflicts that engulfed the former Soviet Union after its collapse.
*I'd fill in the rest of the top five with Hong Kong, Paris, Sydney and leave the fifth open for debate - your results may vary.