The exhibition Journey to the Center of the East 1850-1950: 100 Years of Travelers in İstanbul from Pierre de Gigord Collection, which can be seen at the Istanbul Research Institute, tells the tale of İstanbul-centered travels of curious Westerners, who ventured out to the East from the 18th century onwards to quench their thirst for knowledge and discovery in their respective areas of interest.
Vehemently opposing the classic rules of travel organized as part of a logic, Gérard de Nerval described himself as a capricious traveler that surrendered himself not to the simple logic of railway travel, but to the randomness of passenger cars. Rather than struggling to survive in the blinding arena of rules, his priority was to enjoy dreams as pure as a small child’s in the cradle of randomness.
In a letter he wrote to his publisher Timothée O’Neddy, de Nerval complained about the social predictability of stations, the punctuality of scheduled boats, and criticized the new geometry of life Europe has established: “What a bizarre city, this Constantinople! Glamour and destitution, tears and joy; people act more arbitrarily here than anywhere else, but that also comes with more liberties; four different communities coexist without hating one another too much. Turks, Armenians, Greeks, and Jews. As children of the same land, they show far more tolerance to one another than our various provincial people or diverse partisan groups ever could.”
The decline of creative travel and its transformation into a monotonous act of consumption, on the other hand, was a commercial adventure that extended from the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid to the present.
Journey to the Center of the East 1850-1950 100: Years of Travelers in İstanbul from Pierre de Gigord Collection can be seen free of admissions until October 17.