Thursday, July 3, 2014

Istanbul: A condensed journey

Mr Hippo and I went to Istanbul for a conference, and we only had three days to tour around before and after the conference.  It was a intensive and condensed journey in every perspective.  

As a trans-continental city, Istanbul condenses the distance between Asia and Europe. For us (poor) Australians, we have to fly hours to reach other continents.  Yet here in Istanbul, Asian and Europe are pretty much just two neighborhoods separated by the Bosphorus.  The other continent is just a bridge/train ride away, and the first time we took the train, we were in a different continent before I even realized it.  The picture above shows one of the two existing suspension bridges cross the river, the Bosporus Bridge.  I took the picture during our Bosphorus cruise. 

Apart from condensing distance in space, Istanbul also offers a condensed view of history.  Residents with different culture and religion have left their own signatures in all forms.  The picture above shows Christian and Islamic art pieces in Hagia Sophia, which served as a Cathedral and then a mosque in the history.  When Ottoman rulers coverted Hagia Sophia into a mosque in 1400s, they actually plastered over the mosaics of Jesus and Mary.  The art piece only started to come back to life after  1935, when the Republic of Turkey re-opened Hagia Sophia as a museum.

My favorite form of art though is Turkish lamps.  Before coming to Istanbul, I don't remember seeing many lamps with more than three colors, but three becomes a minimum requirement here. 13 is more like an average number. Each lamp is pretty much a shiny and condensed color wheel with different designs and patterns (the picture above shows a collection of them in a specialty store in Grand Bazaar).  I would have bought a couple just for their warmth in cold Canberra winter, if we didn't have to travel to another two countries before heading home.

My least favorite form of condensed thingy encountered in Istanbul was Baklava, a Turkish pastry dessert.  I had tasted it in other parts of the world (the first time was in a kebab shop in the Jewish quarter of Boston?) and never like it, but I thought I should give myself another chance as it is more authentic here.  Luckily I just nibbled.  As I remembered before, it is SO sweet to the point that, if a bee tastes it, he will be shamed about how bland honey is by comparison!

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