Istanbul, Turkey is very much a cosmopolitan city- but 98% muslim so mosques everywhere and a few Byzantine churches- converted then into mosques- such a crossroads of history and culture. I have been imagining Romans, Greeks, Ottomans, Crusaders (burly Germans, aristocratic Italians, argumentative Frenchmen– all kinds of people walking on the stones of the Hagia Sophia and Hippodrome. The Bosphorus is this huge element with houses that are built right up to the edge, old wooden houses called yalis- seem almost russian. Guess it is there just over the Black sea. Then at moments it is filled with tankers and cargo ships from all over the world- what an amazing location. I have been on the Europe side up to know but tomorrow will cross over into Asia and go nearer to Iraq, Iran and Syria that ever before. So much to write about, think about- the cave awaits.
I had a fantastic time sampling lokam or Turkish delight and am bringing back some special boxes- one that is rose-flavored- who needs rose colored glasses when you can have rose flavored candy, right? Nico asked me to get him something heavy and copper and I searched and searched in the darkest corners of the Baazar and did find a fabulous dagger encrusted with fake stones….alas i thought it might not make it through customs and in a tiny corner of a han or caravanserI found a heavy Aladdin-like oll lamp that we can fill up and light and rub it to see what happens- maybe I am bringing back a genie! (hopefully he is dark, handsome and has lots of time – and likes kids…)
They are really lovely sweet people here although I see very few women except in the evenings in the park-where I am in the Old City. It is Ramadan until the 15th so the fast ends at sundown around 8:15 and all the families come to the park in front of the Blue Mosque with buckets and pails of food for a picnic. The calls from the muezzin are at first sort of shocking ( like having someone shout in your ear, its time to pray) and so exotic but it makes me wonder if it is a help or a hindrance to one’s own faith. I guess I prefer the quiet part….The day I got here i tried to go out for dinner but it is impossible- everything is booked. But I have had some great food- doner kebab, thick almost cheese yogurt with roasted eggplant and cumin, chicken stuffed with olives, raisins and spices…yumm and of course baclava.
Will send a few pics when I get to my cave. I did a short Turkish practice run a few days before coming of key phrases and it is amazing how truely delighted and genuinely surprised the Turkish are when you garble a few phrases. That has opened doors and made this time here fantastic. From sitting in carpet shops drinking tea with carpet guys to haggling with peddlars at the Grand Baazar, to bargaining with street kids selling wooden tops- they have all been caught off guard and delighted- including me! I even did a studio visit with a Turkish artist who is trying to keep the traditional arts alive- the calligraphy and marbling- he tries to do it in a different way. Pomegranates and whirling dervishes…. He uses too much purple for my taste but he was really sweet and will be doing a semster at Rice University this fall. So good for Texas….
Today being my last day I went to the classic and most poetic hamman in the Sultanhamet Old city- women only section beautiful marble space with domed ceilings letting in natural light. Old marble sinks with copper bowls and baskets of soap- and big slab of marble to lie on and have a big huge lady called Azra exfoliate and scrub me down from top to toe, front and back, hair, ears, face. I felt like a baby…..if only we could do that a few times a week we would be in great shape!
The whole thing just gets more and more mind-expanding and interesting……just wanted to say hi from the Middle East- I am off to a place where it has been 125 degrees for a week- no sea, hopefully I will find a pool or lake or something- and there is always the cave.