Istanbul 3

Sep. 27th, 2007 08:49 pm
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I'd left the classic attractions of Istanbul to last; Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi palace.

When fifteen hundred years old I am, look so good I will not, but Hagia Sophia is feeling its age; there are about four gold-tiled mosaics left, which give no more than a hint of what it looked like when the five domes were covered with them. Also there was a huge arrangement of scaffolding holding up one quadrant of the dome, and the outside is propped up with many very large and solid buttresses, though a lot of those are the work of Architect Sinan in the sixteenth century.

Topkapi is a collection of large Ottoman pavilions, each containing a different museum. The tiling was impressive; the Chinese porcelain was fairly relaxing; the collection of Assorted Weapons, including seven-foot broadswords with crosses on the quillians and six-foot hand-cannons of inordinate calibre with the barrels inlaid with gold was quite striking; the spectacularly impractical silverware was amusing. The audience-chamber with its carpets embroidered with precious stones sat there as an archetype of oriental despotism; the three treasure-rooms, in which everything was huge, made of hammered gold, and set with emeralds rubies sapphires diamonds topazes ... made you understand why some might yearn for the silence of the desert, the blinding sun on the sand and the purity of sharpened steel.

After lunch overlooking the Golden Horn, and a weird Turkish dessert consisting of many kinds of dried fruit and beans cooked in apple-flavoured jelly, I left the palace, went to the Nurosmanli mosque (described as baroque, this had vertical walls rather than subdomes, painted (or even, shockingly, bare stone) walls rather than mosaic, and, outside, the last kitten of the trip.

Istanbul 2

Sep. 21st, 2007 06:02 pm
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So, last time I wrote I was sitting over-awed in the hostel deciding that I didn't need a second enormous tiled mosque in the day; indeed I relaxed, walked a little round the end of the peninsula that sticks out into the Golden Horn, and went out for dinner with a couple of people from the hostel: a Londoner whose family comes from North Cyprus, who spent hours chatting in Turkish to the waiter without securing us very much money off, and a smooth Glaswegian. A lethal pudding ('hot halva'; a large dish of crushed sesame seeds mixed with a great deal of syrup and raised to crusting incandesence in the oven), which secured me a night of truly weird dreams.

Overnight the weather broke, and today's been a reasonable English late-summer day; overcast, warm but not hot, and occasional showers of an intensity to refresh rather than to soak. I went on the tram to the Dolmabahce palace, which is I suspect a splendid example of lending-with-intent-to-repossess-the-collateral on behalf of whoever financed it.

fictional finance follows )

After that, across to the Galata tower which overlooks most of the European part of the city; coffee and a subtle cake the size of my upper arm made with chocolate sponge, chocolate cream, chocolate chips, pistachios, raspberries and raspberry syrup in a rooftop cafe three doors down from the Galata tower; the New Mosque (built 1562); a tomb of assorted Sultans; Constantine's Banded Pillar (closed for renovation) and back to the hostel.

I have taken something like 400 photos today, the Dolmabahce palace being extravagently photogenic if rather hard to photograph since it's illuminated by chandeliers so the dynamic range in any room is about a dozen stops (is there an easy Linux tool for taking a series of bracketed shots, with perhaps some slight camera motion between them, and aligning them and making a high-dynamic-range image?), and need to recharge the camera. Perhaps a less dangerous pudding would be wise tonight; tomorrow to Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, and Sunday morning I need to be on the 0845 bus to the distant airport whence Easyjet should take me home.
fivemack: (Default)
(this artıcle may have odd characters ın; I'm using a Turkısh keyboard whıch has dotless-I where I'd expect normal-I, and dotted ı where I'd expect tılde)

There ıs, pace [ profile] aldabra, a day's entertaınment to be had ın Sofıa: the archaeologıcal museum ıs unexpectedly good (you would have thought the huge horde of golden Thracıan grave goods mıght have featured on the sıgnage, rather than beıng ın an anonymous room on the thırd floor next to the Exhıbıt of Thıngs That Don't Fıt Elsewhere In Thıs Musem), there are a couple of good churches, there's an art museum whıch suggests that Bulgarıan artısts of the fortıes tended to murky colours applıed wıth wıde brushwork. Sofia seems seedıer than the other cıtıes on thıs trıp; lots of casınos and adverts for 'gentlemens club'.

The traın to Istanbul ıs not great fun; the guards (bıglot Bulgarıan/Turkısh, neıther of whıch really helps) charge you ten euros for solo occupancy of a cabın even ıf they dıdn't have anyone else to put there, and you had to get out and queue at 3am for ten mınutes for a vısa and an hour more to get the vısa stamped. Sarkozy seems quıte popular and French presıdentıal terms are long, so I fear it'll be at least another fourteen years before the forces of Schengen overwhelm the Turkish border controls.

Maybe little sleep and no breakfast sets one up for beıng easily over-awed, but Istanbul ıs awesomely concentrated; the Blue Mosque and Hagıa Sophıa face one another over a medıum-sized garden, the Topkapi Palace behind on one side and what remains of Constantine's palace wıth ıts enormous mosaic floor behind on the other, Sultan Ahmed's tomb next to the Blue Mosque and Justinian's 40000-cubıc-metre water cıstern underneath. It beıng Ramadan, the north courtyard of the Blue Mosque ıs full of itinerant sellers of pious texts ın Turkish; I have not indulged.

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