Incurable romantics should visit the Museum of Innocence in Beyoglu, Istanbul. Read Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence first, or visit the museum and then read the novel, or visit the museum while you are reading the novel. It really doesn’t matter, since Pamuk created the novel and the museum simultaneously, each influencing the other, and both lovingly devoted to Fusun, the fictional character and dream woman to the main character, Kemal.
Strolling down the quiet and shaded Cukur Cuma Avenue, I admired the old Ottoman buildings painted in earth tones and pastels. Looking for the small museum on the corner of Dalgic Court, I passed an aged Turkish Bath, a small grocery, and a workshop that sold handmade leather purses, much like the neighborhood where Fusun and her family lived. In fact, this is the neighborhood in the novel.
Upon entering the museum, I felt I was entering a shrine to the lovers of love. Among the appreciative few, I moved from one small glass case to another, each one devoted to a chapter in the book with quotes and corresponding relics: old photos, cigarette butts, tea cups, postcards, a sun dress—anything having to do with Fusun, what she had worn or touched or desired. On the top floor I climbed up to view the small cot where the fictional old and ailing Kemal told his story to Pamuk, all part of the make-believe.
As I left, I felt like this museum had really been devoted to Istanbul itself, where life and art seamlessly blend.