I entered a travel writing competition on ‘We Said Go Travel’ a while back then completely forgot about it. There’s a prize I think, but I’m not too sure what it is now. My memory isn’t what it once was. Anyway, the competition theme is ‘A Place You Love’ so I entered an article about Istanbul. I lifted it from Act Two of Turkey, Surviving the Expats – one of the eBooks I’ve been flogging to death recently. I doubt I’ll win the competition. My writing style is a bit too risqué for most mainstream travel sites where blandness tends to reign supreme. But, if you’d like to give my piece a chance (and you’re on Faceache), either click on the luscious image above or follow this link and ‘like’ the photo on Facebook. I thank you.
ISTANBUL, THE CITY THAT STRADDLES TWO CONTINENTS
No trip to Turkey is complete without tasting the wonders of Istanbul, entertainment, media, cultural and economic capital of Turkey with a population of 13.5 million (and counting). The political capital, Ankara, seems dull and provincial by comparison (think Canberra versus Sydney or Ottawa versus Montreal). Greek Byzantium, Roman and Ottoman Constantinople and Republican Istanbul, the city that straddles two continents is dirty, busy, loud, infuriating, sophisticated, exciting, chic and sublime.
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I was really pleased when Istanbul Stranger asked me to guest on her blog as part of my virtual book tour. She’s deliciously witty, calls a spade a spade and her sharp observations about her life in Old Constantinople are a joy to read. She’s American but I think her writing style has a distinctive ironic British twist. Maybe she was a Brit in a former life. I’m there to plug my book but, as this isn’t Oprah’s Book Club, I thought I’d regale you with tales of my first visit to the good old US of A.
Ladies and Gents I give you Yankee Tales.
Our second day in Istanbul was spent meandering through the piazzas and pavilions of the splendid Topkapı Palace, epicentre of the imperial Ottoman court for 400 years. The unheralded highlight was chancing upon relics of the Prophet (yes, The Prophet). We gazed incredulously upon bits of His beard, tooth, sword, bow, a heap of soil used for ritual ablution and a clay impression of His foot – all allegedly genuine. Slightly less credible are the rod of Moses (of the plagues of Egypt fame), King David’s skull, Abraham’s cookware, and Joseph’s turban (though sadly not his coat of many colours). We were most disappointed not to see the Ark of the Covenant and a charred twig from the Burning Bush. Naturally we remained suitably deferential to avoid stoning by the Faithful. I suppose it’s no less fantastic than the implausible holy artefacts revered by the old ladies of Christendom.
In the extensive grounds we encountered the phenomenon known as ‘Islamic Chic’. Gaggles of giggling girls wandering about their Ottoman heritage adorned in exquisitely tailored dark hued, figure-hugging maxi coats garnished with sumptuous silk scarves of vivid primary colours. The head coverings, moulded at the forehead into a shallow peek as if hiding a baseball cap beneath, framed their painted faces. Modest and modern, I suspect the look is more a sign of wealth and status than of piety. We finished the day with a flourish by ambling around the excellent archeological museum.
Ol’ Constantinople is simply sublime and just gets better each time I visit. We travelled home that evening wanting more and vowing to return.
We took an all too brief trip to Istanbul to celebrate our anniversary. We did the usual whistle-stop tour of Sultanahmet (the old city). Haghia Sophia still leaves me in speechless awe every time I gaze up towards the magnificent dome that seems to float effortlessly above. Onwards to the curvaceous Blue Mosque built a millennium later. Better outside than in, the seductive silhouette of mosque and minarets defines the famous city skyline. Domed out, we rested outside in the lovingly tended park and endured the call to prayer in thunderous surround sound.
We spent the evening in Beyoğlu, the increasingly hip shopping and entertainment district that looks proudly down on the old city from across the Golden Horn. We expensively dined along Istiklal Caddesi, the broad pedestrianised boulevard that runs like a spine through the area. After settling the extortionate hesap, we ventured out into the night in search of a minority interest inn to quench our thirsts and assess the locals. Unsurprisingly, the Byzantine gay scene is infinitely superior to any other in Turkey. We supped in a couple of minor league joints before ending the night in the appropriately named Tekyön (One Way), a large pulsating dance bar. It might have been London or Paris, except the disco tits on display were attached to young carefree Turks rather than cute Colombians. Discouragingly, you know you’re getting old when, like policemen, the competition is getting ever younger. We left the boys to their play and headed back to our hotel for a cocoa.