A sea of red and white …

Last night I had dinner with a fellow Istanbul expat (French). He is researching the early roots of Christianity and travels for that all over Turkey (mainly East Turkey) and Africa. We went to a very nice restaurant right opposite Galata Tower, and therefore just around the corner from where I live (very convenient (!) as the weather was absolutely horrible yesterday: rain and storm all day long, 12 degrees… read more:http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-225723-heavy-showers-strong-winds-thwart-daily-life-in-megacity-istanbul.html). 

The restaurant is called Galata Kiva http://galatakivahan.com/ and specialises in Anatolian cuisine, actually their intention is to re-introduce some ancient traditional dishes to contemporary Turkish cuisine that have been forgotten about. It was all very interesting and equally tasty. So, we ate and talked and ate and talked and suddenly it was 11pm and we decided to pop by another new friend. He is also French, a musician who gave up his career as a concert guitarist and formed instead his own ensemble. In the  early 1970s he started to question the values of the Western culture and hit the road. His journey took him to California, Morocco, and then to the Antilles. When he return to France in 1974, he composed several plays for the traditional guitar, and took part in a creation of the Tunisian director Sharif Allaoui. In 1976 in Paris, during a reception at the future Egyptian minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, he listened to a disc of the Iraqi musician Mounir Bachir. He so fascinated by his music that he gave up the traditional guitar and the jazz harmonies and launched into the study of the Arab lute and the refined laws governing the Oriental micro tonal music. But very quickly, the limits of the instrument frustrated him and when he discovered the richness offered by the Oriental zither ” the qanûn “, nothing could stop him. Consequently he crossed the Orient, from Tunis to Beirut, Baghdad to Cairo, Istanbul to Damas to follow the teachings of the great Masters. Thus he became the disciple and then friend of Mounir Bachir in the honor of whom he composed a ” Bagdadian Suite “, performed at the time at the Festival of Babylon in Iraq. As you can see, he certainly is a very interesting man. He lives in Beyoğlu in the most magical flat; very appropriate to the music he is performing. He is a wonderfully  free-spirited person, great company and was a very very inspiring end to last’s nights evening. 

Yesterday in the late afternoon, between 5 and 6 o’clock, there was a break between yet another downpour of rain, and I popped down to Istiklal and what did I discover when I passed my favourite English bookshop Robinson Crusoe (http://www.lexnet.dk/books/country/turkey/bp-robin.htm)? 

window display with the new Chatwin book

Yes, how very timely, a new book has arrived and is prominently displayed in their window – a collection of Bruce Chatwin letters! Isn’t that just such an incredible timing? – On my first week anniversary of being in Istanbul … It is a must, I couldn’t resist and I can’t wait to get lost in it …! It is a beautiful hardcover book. The inside cover pages show a black/white photograph by Bruce and inside are quite a number of new photographs of him as well. There is even a chapter with his letters during his time at Sotheby’s (1959-1966)…

... and Chatwin gone!

Today is a bank holiday in Turkey. It is their ‘Republic Day‘ (Cumhuriyet Bayramı) commemorating the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Istanbul is covered in flags – a breathtaking sea of red and white …

view of Istanbul on Republic Day 2010

The weather calmed down slightly, at least it didn’t rain anymore in the afternoon, and I made my way down to Sultanahmet to see Hagia Sophia. After years of restoration work and constant scaffolding inside, it is now all open and splendid again. And I must admit, it is such an impressive building and the Byzantine mosaics that have been revealed again are giving a real taste of the splendour this church must have represented in the old Constantinople.
inside Hagia Sophia
the dome inside Hagia Sophia

interior of Hagia Sophia

the 'dancing' lamps of Hagia Sophia

a window in Hagia Sophia

But as you can see, I am always captured by the beauty of the Islamic elements of the interior as well … 

On my way home, I took the ‘Orient Express route’: I walked along the Bosphorus, ‘arrived’ at the old Istanbul train station, where the Orient Express stops. It even has its own Orient Express restaurant…

en route along the Bosphorus

Istanbul Gar

the Orient Express restaurant

… crossed Galata Bridge, the view of Süleymaniye Mosque was simply beyond words …

picture postcard perfect sensation ...

and walked down to Pera Palace Hotel from where I had a very atmospheric misty evening view down to the Golden Horn.
tonight’s misty evening view
So, and tonight I will just stay at home and lose myself into the world of Bruce Chatwin …
2 Responses to “A sea of red and white …”
  1. Jane McAusland says:

    Patrick this is very good, I am almost with you at the Galata bridge. Your musician friend sounds fascinating, I heard the wonderful Iraqi master at a festival in Fez some years ago. The Iraqi Bach..

    Forgot to say (but you probably know) that Kasmin took the front cover picture of Bruce at Westonburt Arboretum in Somerset, UK. JX

  2. Queen Melania says:

    There is a blog post missing so we need to fill it in. On the next evening (Saturday) he went out with an outstanding collection of people and danced in a Cuban bar. As you do, in Istanbul. I wonder, I wonder. What else is he not telling us about? xxx

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