October 21, 2010
A large, very large city (15 mio inhabitants) spread over two continents, Europe and Asia, linked together by two bridges and whose symbol is the tulip. A city whose name varied over time and civilisations : Byzantium under the Greek settlers, and Constantinople as the new Eastern capital of the Roman Empire. Did you guess where I had the great pleasure of spending four short days recently ? Yes, right In Istanbul, Turkey, just 3 1/2 hours away from Geneva (by plane). But what a change of scenery and way of life !
Describing and picturing all I saw in this short time is not really easy. I took many photos of the main touristic sites we visited. A morning cruise on the Bosphorus, gardens and palaces visited during a rainstorm that looked and felt more like a deluge, a Byzantine underground Cistern, the famous Bazars, the seagulls that were everywhere and as big as ducks, ancient Ottoman quartiers and their wooden houses, small sesame breads sold in the streets which never tasted as good as when eaten under the pouring rain, the bridges and their busy lanes (day and night) that we crossed by bus, and so much more… There are a lot of blogs and sites about this prestigious historical city – named “European Capital of Culture for 2010″ – that will inform you much better than I would about the incredible and precious treasures of Istanbul. Personaly, I chose to share with you some images that may tell you how I felt about Istanbul, its contrasts, the traces of its historical past and its ever-present beauty.
A mosaic in blue shades like the magnificent domes of the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet I mosque) and the Hagia Sophia Museum (formerly a Basilica, then a Mosque and now and museum.
The breathtaking shades of Hagia Sophia’s stained glass windows, a soft inner light that no words can tell. I felt an indescribable feeling of serenity (in spite of the crowd); I could well imagine the fervour shared inside the same basilica/mosque over the centuries by so many believers.
Deserted benches in a luxuriant vegetation.Group in blue…It was a great day for street vendors We were offered blue plastic raincoats and umbrellas. ‘brellas,’ brellas ! was the rather joyous cry people heard all day long in the saturated streets. And of course, we were only too happy to buy an umbrella on such a wet day !
When rain was just too much to put up with, the Grand Bazar and the Spice Bazar (also called Egyptian Bazar) would welcome you. A feast for the eyes and, in some shops, a delight for your sense of smell. Imagine carpets, shawls, embroidered boots, jewels, spices, soaps, leather goods, glasses, ceramics, coffee, those very special herbal teas and the sweet Turkish delights Just anything you can think of.Walking in Istanbul’s ancient Ottoman areas is a totally different experience and well worth it.
Away from the crowds and the most visited sites, small wooden houses huddle together along uneven streets where people live and work. Another vision of old Istanbul, its craftmen and shopkeepers, small stores and cafés where tourists are rare.
Fruits, veges or other food are often sold in the streets. Tempting, delicious.
As the evening comes, a muezzin calls for another prayer. The sky darkens before rain starts falling again. Will the remaining golden patches of sun between the clouds announce a sunny day in the morning ?
Yes, indeed ! The sky has cleared up and a sunrise over the Bosphorus was one of my favourite moments in Istanbul. Pastel shades over the straight for boats which are coming back slowly to the fishing market early morning. A view I never tired of.
Thank you for accompanying me for this short visit through the ancient part of the city. I thought I would focus on the historical part of Istanbul although the modern area is quite another story and well worth seeing too.
Below are a few links of interest for those of you who would like knowing more about Istanbul.