Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More pictures

You said you wanted to see me in the pictures? Well, here comes the least likely version of myself, wavy hair and all. Don't cry out in indignation - it was for a wedding, and a big wedding at that (about 300 guests) so I felt I had to do something out of the ordinary for an exceptional moment.

Two roses ;-) Itir is just so very pretty!!!!

In his memoires of the city, Pamuk talks often about his recollections of the early 1950s, and among the recurring images there are the Bosphorus yalis. Most of them were supposed to be gone, destroyed by fire as they were constructed out of wood. These days some of the old houses are still in some precarious condition, as you see both below and above, but some othres have been either renovated or reconstructed to illustrate the financial stability of their owners. In some extreme cases, you can see the old and the new side by side, but even without immediate proximity, you can feel the constrast.

Leaving the luxury real estates from the banks of the Bosphorus, one can observe an increase in the number of national flags displayed from the windows of private apartments. I would say that this particular building is an extreme example.

Finally, a postcard view of Istanbul, with its skyline dominated by the beautiful and old Galata Tower. The buildings, like the city itself, are such a mixture of everything!

Monday, December 03, 2007


In order to describe my impressions of Istanbul I would have to write pages, a most worthy occupation but one that cannot be completed at this time. This time, meaning this week, is already full of of meetings, conferences, lectures and other activities that keep one employed but that do not allow for much writing on the side. Therefore, as always, instead of words - pictures.
The blue bead is the Turkish cure against the evil eye. Everyone has it, in the buses, in their homes, and even on themselves. I also have one now, just in case :-) !

This gun store is situated just outside a metro stop. Turkey does have gun control and one needs a permit to purchase weapons of all kinds. Still, to see them sold in the same location as pastry and paper products was a bit of a shock.

Just a taste of the delicious and very diverse selection of Turkish sweets.

Some historical views. This is the water reserve, or cystern, of the old city, now used as a museum, concert and exhibition space. The water comes from outside the city and used to be stored in this underground reservoir to supply the city with a constant flow of water.

Interior of the Topkapi palace, the traditional residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 500 years. In fact it is not a single palace but a complex of numerous buildings all located within the same inner perimeter protected by strong walls.
Topkapi palace, the Eunucs courtyard in the harem, or the private apartments area. As everywhere in the palace, there are lots of decorated tiles, some with Arabic inscriptions some with floral and vegetal motifs.

Topkapi, the Turban room (yes, the sultan had a specific place for his imperial turbans!) Again lots of tiles and inlaid mother-of-pearl, another decoration typical of the Ottoman style

Traditional houses in old Istanbul were all made of wood, which explains why so few of them are still standing and why even fewer are in a decent shape. The municipality forbids their removal but does not have enough money to restore them... Apparently as late as the 1950s old wooden houses were seen burning (if you read Orhan Pamuk's memoires there are quite a bit of references to this).

Inside the Orthodox patriarchate. Constantiople used to be as important for Eastern Christians as Rome was for the Western ones, but it obviously lost its power during the Ottoman period. The original seat of the Patriarchate was Hagia Sophia, the present location is in the traditional Greek neighborhood of Fener and is much reduced in size.

Interior courtyard of Hagia Sophia, the church turned mosque and now museum. Everywhere one can see how Christian and Muslim symbols are side by side (but only today, during its time as a mosque, the Christian references were hidden, though not destroyed). Hagia Sophia served as model for all the other mosques in the Ottoman empire, which differ quite a lot from their counterparts in India or the Middle East.

Sunset on the Bosphorus, with the Süleymaniye mosque in the background.

Sarcophagus from the Archeological Museum, smth like 500 B.C. And so serene.

The Library in Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor province of the Roman Empire and one of the largest cities of its time, with a population peaking at about 200 000 inhabitants. The library is one of the few larger constructions that survive.

Ephesus is also a primary tourist destination for all those who visit the Aegean coast, so there is the very old and the very new, side by side...

On a hill on top of the old Efes, lies the first church dedicated to Saint Mary, who came to these parts when she together with St John the Evangelist had to flee Jerusalem. Apparently she died and went to heaven from this particular hilltop, and this is a pilgrim site for all Christians. Pope Benedict the XVI (is he really the 16th Benedict!?) visited here last year.