The Joys of a Long Bank Holiday …

Today is the last day of Bayram, the long Bank Holiday here in Turkey, and Istanbul was just bliss over the last few days. Apart from the daily glory of 22 degrees and sunshine, the streets of Istanbul were unprecedentedly empty, most of the shops were closed and one could wander the neighbourhoods and almost experience a cosy small-town-feeling. Today, things are slowly returning to normal again, the streets are filled up with people, the traffic is back to its usual congestion. Well, we enjoyed a fleeting moment of tranquility lasting for almost four days in a 16 million+ metropolis – one should not complain!

Friends and I had a wonderful time, from museum rallies to food orgies and other kinds of pleasures, everything was dipped into to enjoy the time off. Every night we had dinner at a different place. From a quick bite in a side street restaurant in the neighbourhood to fine dining with a 360 degree view over Istanbul, we did it all! Shamelessly! … (more on that in a later post. watch this space!) And as if that was not enough, we went out clubbing and dancing until the early hours almost every night … Loved it!!!

After seeing the video installation at Istanbul Modern last weekend, I felt more like seeing some ‘old art’, and I went to the Pera Museum that is currently showing ‘Scenes from Tsarist Russia’. The exhibition consists of 19th Century Russian paintings from the collection of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Pera Museum, Meşrutiyet Cad. 65, Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Among other works, it features one of the most important Russian paintings by one of my favourite artists, Ilya Repin‘s Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-73), and I could not wait to see it – and it is just soooo unbelievably powerful in the flesh!!!

Ilya Repin, 'Barge Haulers on the Volga', 1870-73


another work shown by Ilya, Repin, 'Portrait of Anton Rubinstein', 1887

A real discovery was the Hungarian artist Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry (1853-1919), who I had never come across before. His works were displayed in a separate exhibition and I was simply blown away by his drawings.

Csontváry, 'Back of Bearded Man', 1894, charcoal on paper, Csontváry Museum, Pécs

In order to keep the scheme of contrasts going, I went to see my first Turkish film in a cinema here in Istanbul. And I can only highly recommend it – Five Minarets in New York. A very interesting and timely approach to one of the most debated issues in present time. Many interesting layers of opinions, powerful and emotional scenes and I even enjoyed the action parts… In Turkey it is the most successful Turkish movie ever.

watch trailer:

Friends from abroad were here for Bayram and it was their first time in Istanbul – and they are yet another group of converts to this magical city. More to come, I am sure …

One Response to “The Joys of a Long Bank Holiday …”
  1. Queen Melania says:

    Yes, those barge haulers on the Volga are looking almost exactly the way many people are feeling – downtrodden by work and weather and taxation. In fact I am pretty sure that they are working only in order to ensure that their state benefits are not stopped.

    They could be used in a Gillette ad, with that fabulous hirsute look they are rocking. The next painting in the series might have been “Barge Haulers Enjoying a Cocktail on the Thames”, against a background assertion, reflected in their smooth shaved cheeks, of “Gillette – the best a man can geeeeeet.”

    Now there’s a happier thought.


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