Daily Archives: 9 July 2012

My trip to Turkey 9: Istanbul again, days 1 to 3

Here we are back in wonderful Istanbul. No more long bus rides for a while, so I need a different strategy for maintaining what Richard called the travel–blogging balance. I’m giving dot points a go, with photos courtesy of the Art Student (unless otherwise stated).

Day 1:

  • The final, final farewell to our Intrepid group in the late morning soon after we arrived from the airport.
  • A walk in the old city, and a visit to the Basilica Cistern.20120708-181942.jpg

    You might think we’d have tired of wonders by now, but this had me in awe – though not so much that I couldn’t enjoy the misjudged name of the little cafe: even in that context, ‘The Cistern Cafe’ is too toiletish for comfort.

  • A quick look in the New Mosque, built in the 17th century, so not so new really. I know, I mustn’t go on and an about mosques, and the Art Student is now reluctant to go into any that are still places of worship because she’s uneasy about gawking where people are praying. But this one, built at the behest of a valide Sultan (the mother of a sultan’s premier wife), or rather a series of them, is sublime.

Day 2:

  • At breakfast, a squizz at the next Intrepid group, and oh they were a lacklustre crew (and yes, I do expect you to attribute that judgement to esprit de touriste corps
  • The purchase of Akbils (electronic public transport tickets) and a ferry trip to the Asian side of Istanbul, to the suburb of Kadiköy, site of ancient Chalcedon, where we enjoyed the view and travelled back from with a huge crowd of commuters (this was a happy mistake – we’d meant to go to Karaköy, a different place altogether).

We visited the Istanbul Modern. We thought we had visited it a fortnight earlier, but the real thing is on the other side of a busy street, and we’d missed its main entrance, which is through a car park. We spent a happy couple of hours there. The things that struck me most (no photographs allowed, but I’ve given links if I could find them) were:

  • Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Red Emotional Globe’, which casts complex shadows suggestive of mosque decorations
  • three projections of writhing trees by Jennifer Steinkamp that were first shown in the Basilica Cistern (what a brilliant space to show art in!)
  • ‘1+1=1’, a video piece by Kutluğ* Ataman in which a Cypriot woman, who is Turkish but living on the Greek part of the island, tells two stories in counterpoint from abutting screens, one of escaping Turkish nationalists and the other of escaping a massacre by the Greeks (it would have been wonderful not to depend on subtitles, but there you go!)
  • ‘Fifty Years of Urban Walls’, a huge exhibition of work by Burhan Doğançay, hundreds of paintings and collages, most simulating walls covered with graffiti, posters, notices, peeling paper, etc, some referring to Arabic calligraphy, some with extraordinary trompe l’oeil, some with passionate political intent, some bestowing a kind of immortality and gravitas on transient wall writings.

Elsewhere we:

  • spotted some transient, Newtown-worthy street art
    and some guerrilla weaving (photo by me on my phone):
  • saw an exhibition of work by Sophia Pompéry, including a huge video of an iridescent, reflecting soap bubble being blown, and a fascinating piece where we see a brush dipping in a rectangular puddle of water on a table, creating the illusion that it is painting the images that are actually reflections – I’m not doing too bad, am I, for someone who just hangs around with an Art Student?
  • caught a taxi to our new hotel, discovered that our booking started the next night, but were kindly found a room at a nearby inn (the Lamp, and very nice it was)
  • paid far too much for a pleasant dinner then accidentally tipped the excellent musicians 20 Turkish lira
  • wandered about in Sultanahbad, near the Hippodrome, where a huge crowd was taking the night air – like Macquarie Street on opening night of the Sydney Festival, only not drunk or frenetic
  • had a brief glimpse of a dervish ‘performance’ and were once again grateful to Intrepid Travel for organising our attendance at a real sema ceremony in Bursa, complete with Very Long Incomprehensible Sermon

Day 3

  • We lumped our bags back down the hill to the Aruna Hotel, our home till next Friday, where we’re paying more than we would if we’d known to book across the Golden Horn, but where our room is huge, with two handmade carpets and a spa bath.
  • We bought a Museum Pass and visited Topkapi Museum, including the Seraglio – such tiling, such opulence, such craftsmanship. Here are some piccies. I cant show you the emeralds as big as eggs or the amazing diamond, because photographs weren’t allowed and the Art Student chose not to go into that section because the back story of oppression and male domination was getting to be a bit much for her. Still someone made these things:




    The last one is from a Sultan’s chamber. It makes our flash hotel room look quite pauperish.

  • We visited the Archaeological Museum: antiquities, antiquities, antiquities, including many beautiful things, such as this huge bust of Sappho, who would have fitted right in as a 1920s flapper, I thought:
  • We went to part of the Istanbul Jazz Festival where we enjoyed a US based combo as part of a huge crowd at the Galata Tower and a young Turkish group, with a much smaller crowd, then wandered home through dark and almost deserted streets, watched weird British television and went to bed after the nearby wedding went quiet.

* See how I managed to get the little diacritical crescent on the g without having to get Apple to provide it? I wish I could say it was by HTML skillful ness, but actually it happened accidentally when I copied and pasted Kutluğ Ataman’s name.