A tulip as a symbol…

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 !

One of the bridges linking the Eastern shore of the Bosphorus to the Western part of Istanbul.

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.

These are various patterns seen during the visits. The tulip (symbol of Istanbul) on a prayer carpet, an intricate mosaic in the Topkapi Palace and a rich embroidery sewed on a Sultan’s kaftan.

The magnificent Topkapi Palace and its gardens were visited under a heavy rain. The sky had darkened considerably but the area was not without any colours…

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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Bridges_in_Istanbul

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topkap%C4%B1_Palace

Advertisements

Piemonte

October 1, 2010

Back from a visit to Italy, in the Piemonte area which is not far away from the South of Switzerland;  it was a long drive though, the winding and steep roads went through mountain passes and narrow valleys. Photos will follow when I will be back from another trip to a completely different and unexpected destination 😉Until later and enjoy these first weeks of October which I hope will be mild and colourful. Fall is definitely on its way…