I have returned from my great trip abroad. With me I have brought my new travel companions Cold and Earache. They are not welcome and I’m hoping they take the hint and take a hike.
Did Istanbul meet my expectations? you ask. Good question. It was very much… itself. The first day my friend and I saw the Hagia Sophia and I tell you, that inner space is breathtaking.
It was always such a relief to see Hagia Sophia’s warm terracotta pink and orange form whenever we were making our way back to the hotel after a tiring day of seeing the sites. As our hotel was situated in a small street tucked away behind her, it was a wonderful landmark to show us that rest was just around the corner.
We of course saw the Blue Mosque, situated just across a couple green lawns and a street from the Hagia Sophia. The person that commissioned the Blue Mosque wanted to have a building made that would rival the Hagia Sophia. Yes, the minerets are big and the tiles inside cast a beautiful blue hue over everything. With that said, in the Hagia Sophia you feel embraced with the warm golds and glistening mosiacs. In the Blue Mosque I felt cold, but impressed by the details.
Not only were the sites wonderful to behold, the food was amazing. I am sure my teeth our now riddled with cavities as I ate obscene amounts of baklava. Anna and I opted for Turkish cuisine at ever turn. We ate pancakes with spinache, mezze, Malti (ravioli with minced lamb, spiced sauce and a dollop of yoghurt), corn baked at a stand, and breads and tea from one of the many food stands dotted around the city.
Navigating our way through the narrow streets was sometimes hectic, claustrophobic and after awhile, the calling out of Turkish men shop owners and workers at restaurants did get a bit grating. ‘Where are you from?’ was the phrase of choice to hook you into conversation. Or they would guess. ‘You sisters?’ and then to me ‘Are you French?’ which I took to be a ginormous compliment. To be mistaken for looking French? Heck yeah, I’ll have that. Sometimes rather inventive things would be said to us. Anna received a ‘Are you real or are you dream?’ and I the ‘You dropped something; you dropped my heart.’ Puh-lease. To be honest, I kept my sunglasses on most of the time and put on my I’m-not-listening-to-you harsh expression and pushed my way through the crowds. I must say, though, that on the day I ventured into the town alone, not one person bothered me. So, I suppose there is a certain level of respect for the lone woman traveller. Maybe they realise it isn’t nice to be hollered at when you are on your own. Or perhaps it was Anna that was getting all the compliments :).
What we didn’t expect was to inadvertently wander onto the set of the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall. Apparently, they had been filming around the Grand Bazaar and the New Mosque. We arrived on the scene either before or after, as we did not see the dishy Daniel Craig in the flesh. There were ‘Polis’ cordons, crew vans, and fake stalls complete with painted sponge items that I think were supposed to resemble some kind of edible item, like a fruit or something.
On our final day, we took the Tramway across the Galata Bridge to visit the other side. We took a tour through the Modern Art Gallery where I saw a very beautiful video of dancers, precise, strong, moving to a soundtrack that I wish I could get ahold of. We then took the Fernicular up to Taksim Square. One of the streets linking Taksim Square to the Galata Tower is supposed to be amazing for shopping. As we weren’t really there to shop, we instead people-watched from a couple coffee tables, enjoying the variety of faces and clothes, teas and coffees.
I did spend quite a lot of time drawing and painting on site. As I’m still a little new to painting watercolours on site, I’m not entirely pleased with my results. I tried to not only capture the buildings, but also the feeling of warmth or energy or light. Hopefully, within the next couple of years I will actually be able to do all of those things. With that said, here is a photo of some of the works I created whilst in Istanbul: