Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Istanbul...not Constantinople

There is order. There is disorder. Then there is Istanbul.

After spending 5 blue sky filled days in the Bosphorus saluting, Europe/Asia straddling, 14 million strong metropolis in north western Turkey, we decided to capture some of our reflections on this outlandish, wild and beautiful experience before we begin to question whether some of the things we encountered were real, imagined or induced by the tastiest kebabs ever eaten.

Istanbul is steeped in Islam and has beautiful and architecturally splendid mosques dotted across the city framing the skyline at dusk with their minarets and domes breaking the outline and reflecting the depth of history that permeates the very fabric of the city. Staring defiantly in the face of regulations and state control however we saw acts that showed a spirit of invention, defiance and were head scratchingly bonkers all at the same time.

There are two images which will stay with me from Istanbul. The first is a man on the side of a dual carriageway  (often choked with traffic) next to the Sea of Marmara who had a pistol and rifle on a box, 2 strings of washing line between two sticks and tied to these were about 20 balloons. He had created a balloon gun shy in which members of the public could try their luck shooting balloons as they flapped in the air (who knows what a prize winner would receive).

The second is the Museum of Innocence. Originally a book by the Turkish nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk that details the obsessive love that a wealthy businessman bears for a shop girl 12 years his junior for over 30 years. Since April 2012 it is also a live museum that acts as a complement and extension of the novel. Sited over 4 storeys it presents a curated collection of incredibly detailed and observed artefacts that relate to the narrative timeline and act as a meta-fictional experience that a reader/visitor can immerse themselves in and learn more about the characters and environment that exist within the novel.

This is not to say the man selling bow and arrows in a traffic jam, a albino rabbit tombola, a palatial 16th century pavilion for princely circumcising decorated with Iznik  tiles, a harem specifically for eunuchs, whirling dervishes or underground toilets with Medusa heads, do not merit further attention, but serve as cultural breadcrumbs and act as an invitation for you to take a trip, sometime in the future, to this unique city.

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