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.





38 Responses to “A tulip as a symbol…”

  1. Carsten said

    And thank you for taking us to this fantastic city. If you have an open mind, you can easily go back in time and imagine the greatness of the Sultans empire.
    Did you hear the story about the mosaics in Hagia Sofia? When the muslims took over, they wanted to destroy all traces of the Christianity. But the sultan saw the mosaics as art for generations and ordered them covered with plaster. That is why we can see them today.
    Sorry for interfering…

    • Hello Carsten, thanks for the visit, no interfering at all :)I am not sure I heard this story about the mosaic, there was so much information given in a short time. A lot of restoration work is going on in Hagia Sofia, frescoes and mosaics being carefully brought to light, so maybe in a few years we will admire even more artworks.

  2. truels said

    That was an impressive post from Istanbul, I enjoyed reading this post and it made me feel the atmosphere of this eciting city again (I was there in 1974 🙂 )- and you have captured so many different and excellent photos here!

  3. Gerry said

    I do not think I will ever be in Istanbul, so it was especially fine to have this visit through your eyes. I can just imagine the new quilts you were stitching in your mind!

    I was struck by the fact that you flew there from Geneva in less than four hours. That is food for thought.

    Thank you for another banquet.

    • Hello Gerry, I liked your comments, thank you. Yes, Turkey is not far from Switzerland, we also have many Turkish workers here and it was interesting to see a little of one of their cities and home country, their way of life. It helps understanding differences and knowing more about their history.

  4. Cindy said

    Oh Isa, what an experience!
    Thank you so much for sharing with us, your photos make me feel as though I was there too.

    • Cindy, I am happy you felt like being there with me too. You know what I forgot ? Taking pictures of the tasty and gorgeous looking meals I ate 😦 I know you would have enjoyed this. I was too hungry (from all the walking) and … greedy.

  5. sartenada said

    Great photos.

    That was so nice to take a tour with You in Istambul. I have always wanted to in Hagia Sophia. I guess that it is an experince. Thank You presenting these.

    Happy weekend.

    • Thank you for your appreciation, sartenada. Hagia Sophia is a fascinating place and the ongoing restoration works will let us discover even more. Hope you will visit Istanbul one day. Happy weekend to you also 🙂

  6. Wow…I was never much interested in Istanbul until this article. You did a wonderful job on this photo essay, Isa! The detail photos of the patterns and in the bazar are my favorites.

  7. giiid said

    Thank you for showing some of your photos from Istanbul. I like to see the combination of motives you have chosen, old wooden houses (which looks very interesting), together with photos of the palace, the market, mosaics, breads and sunset. All in all a colorful, charming and inviting extract of which I´d like to have more.

  8. yesbuts said

    Great series of travel photographs. I particularly like the patterns picture and bazaar shots

  9. Monik said

    De Byzance à Istanbul…Merci pour cette belle visite virtuelle qui complète l’exposition mémorable que j’ai eu le plaisir de voir à Paris, l’an dernier au mois de novembre..!
    Si cela t’intéresse, j’en ai fait un compte-rendu illustré en date du 29.11.09. Bonne journée et merci pour ta visite et tes commentaires! 😉

    • Sympa de te retrouver ici, Monik, j’apprécie tes commentaires et tes superbes photos ! Je vais de ce pas visiter ton site et lire ton compte-rendu sur l’ exposition de novembre 09. Merci.

  10. Karma said

    What a beautiful and interesting post! How wonderful to have such beauty and history only a short plane ride away. The only time I have ever been off the North American continent was for a Carribean cruise on my honeymoon 18 years ago – I really hope to make my way across the Atlantic someday.

  11. Isa,
    Your photos are lovely as always but this time, it’s really special as you’ve shown me a destination that I’ve always wanted to visit. My roommate from college has a home there and I love the cultural aspects juxtaposed the long history. You’re very fortunate to visit and I hope to do the same one day.

  12. Thank You isabelle , great photography and write up about Istanbul. You make me want to travel …

  13. Janice said

    Your photos are gorgeous! I went to Istanbul about 20 years ago and felt much the same way about it as you clearly do, but the photos you’ve taken are much, much better than the ones I took all those years ago. Now you’ve made me want to go back!

    • Hello Janice, It is good to read that you enjoyed travelling back to Istanbul with me 🙂 No doubt you would find this city very changed today but its spirit and history are still very present and enchanting. Thanks for your kind comments.

  14. Janice said

    Hello Isa, here I am again but this time to tell you I have an award for you here:
    I don’t know if you like to participate in awards. If you’d like to display it in your sidebar, or if you prefer not to – that’s fine. I just wanted to show my appreciation for you and your blog, and to ‘share’ you with people who read mine.
    Hope you have a lovely weekend,

    • Janice, how lovely and generous of you ! I feel very touched by your award and especially honored that you chose to give it to me. It is a first for me ! Many thanks and much gratefulness. My weekend is fine 🙂 I’m up in the mountains, Fall is in full bloom, the air chilly and snow not far, topping the peaks. I hope your own weekend is just as fine, Janice.

  15. iniyaal said

    Beautiful 🙂 Lovely pics and interesting information. Those bazaars look very interesting. They are so much similar to our Indian bazaars. Would have been exciting to spend time there. I have read much about Constantinople right from my senior school days. Interesting to see the pics. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nice to read you, iniyaal.I feel sure you would have had great pleasure in visiting Istanbul bazaar. It is the world’s largest and oldest covered bazaar, it used to be a caravanserail. There were some Indian spices too, cardamon, cumin, curcuma, many sorts of curries and so much more. I brought back a “sampler” of about 12 small packs of spices. One of them is “sumac”. Do you use it ?

  16. Martha said

    Great shots especially the palace and the blue rain coat parade. Looks like it was a great trip.

    • Hello Martha, so nice to read you. I have been enjoying your blog about Italy and Tuscany for quite a while. I am glad you enjoyed the blue rain coat parade 😉 quite a sight on that grey day ! It was a short but wonderful trip. Thanks for visiting.

  17. ancientcloth said

    I felt I was there with you looking at all your lovely photos and reading your words. Thank you for sharing ❤

    • Hello Marie, thank you for your words, it makes me happy if you felt you visited a little of Istanbul through my pictures. There was so much to visit and show in a few pictures. I really enjoyed this total change of scenery and way of life.

  18. So incredible. Thank you for the gorgeous photos. I’ve always wanted to visit Turkey, and you’ve made it even more so!

    • Thank you Camille. I am sure you would love Istanbul, its bazaars, its restaurants which I did not mention, my mistake 😦 the food is close to the Mediterranean one but not quite the same. I remember those homemade raviolis filled with lamb meat and lightly covered with a yogurt sauce… Turkish wines were pleasant too. A real nice journey.

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