Istanbul

Arrived at Ataturk airport there’s not much to say, I got into the shuttle to the hotel and what I saw of the famous Byzantium walls were not only in a state of disrepair some parts crumbled away and some of the most shocking slapdash renovation I have ever seen. Prior to this is was a city obviously changing so whilst cruising down Kennedy Caddesi (avenue) – there was a lot of construction work and new buildings being put up which we obviously not catering to the majority of the population. Large billboards of modern skyscraper luxury apartments overlooking the Marmara Sea with an affluent couple holding hands looking towards the horizon. Great views of the sea from the road and of parks at its edge, you would think that this part of the city was sparsely populated.

When we got closer to Sultanahmet, the traffic was building up and there seems to be a penchant for white cars – everywhere. Car turned into Kucuk Ayasofya the avenue where my hotel was situated (Sarnic Hotel) was supposedly as central as it gets. Admittedly, I discovered this to be true the following day on my travels when I took a different route and within 5 minutes was in Hippodrome Circus is now SultanahmetMeydani (where there are Egyptian obelisks and the remains of the serpent column and the German column – Alman Cesmesi with its golden ceiling). I had seen these sights the previous night but it was another experience seeing them during the light of day. The sheer history from its inception as a racing course, then became a site for executions and demonstrations.

The magnificent Blue Mosque with its six minaret towers made its presence known on my first night when the call to prayer (adhan) jolted me out of my slumber. During the day wandering through the city – I heard the call several times but no rush was witnessed. You can walk into the courtyard and see the patterns on the floor and the mini domes onto top of the square hallways and the multi-tiered dome.

I didn’t enter inside out of respect….for my pocket. I still had to go see the Hagia Sophia, I don’t think there was the possibility to enter so I wondered around the gardens and the street behind it which also housed the Harem and then some balconied houses. Further on the same street is the Topkapi Palace once a seat of power but I’ve heard that Dolmabahce Palace was the one worth seeing.

I decided instead to head for the Istanbul Modern Museum via the Galata Tower so jumped on the tram from Sultanahmet to Tophane which takes you over the Galata Bridge where there are fisherman catching fish for the local restaurants. The tower is for all to see but I couldn’t actually find good signage so went on to appreciate some art at the Istanbul Modern.

The Istanbul Modern, Beyoglu www.istanbulmodern.org
Was a welcome surprise – a short walk from the Tophane tram stop and not far from Minar Sinan Fine Arts University. Again the area was filled with construction work and a mosque was being renovated. I guess in these times of renewed faith and political manoeuvre in parts of Turkey, I understood why they had armed guard and a x-ray booth to check bags. The work inside is by local artists who have been fearless in challenging the status quo –InciEviner’sRestropective–Who’s inside you was memorable and powerful, any woman could identify with societal and paternal oppression she was fighting against. I spent over 3 hours in there. I recommend it and the view to Uskudar across the Marmara is great. You could take the newly completed Marmaray line.

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Istanbul