Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Istanbul, interiors

My further adventures in the magnificent city on the Bosphorus. Starting with Aya Sofya — for nearly 1,000 years, this was the largest enclosed space in the world. Interiors don't get much more impressive. Once a church, then a mosque, now a museum. Loads of tourists can't blunt its impact. (Very difficult to photograph, though.)


I already complained about tourists blunting the impact of Topkapi palace. But I have to admit the place had some pretty sweet tiles. (That back wall there is all tiled.)

(Add a little tortoiseshell and mother of pearl.)

The giant Ottoman mosques were great interiors as well. And there's something about putting on a headscarf, taking off your shoes, and padding around a place that make you regard it with reverence. This is the Süleymaniye Mosque, arguably the finest of the lot.

My favorite mosque was the Küçuk Ayasofya Camii ("little Aya Sofya"), which like its namesake was built as a church in the sixth century. You can tell it's really old because nothing quite lines up. It was a bit off the tourist hamster run, which gave it a wonderful hush.

Switching back to the secular, here's the Spice Market. (The Grand Bazaar is similar, if a bit more shopping-mall-esque.)

An old arcade in the European Quarter. (I've always loved old arcades. Maybe because you really don't see them in America?)

An old shop on Istiklâl Caddesi, the main drag in the European Quarter. I wished I found more vintage commercial interiors in the city, but they didn't seem to have survived that well. Given the Turkish people's love of tea, the lack of historic cafes was especially disappointing (ah, but all cities can't be Buenos Aires).

Inside Sirkeci train station, once the terminus of the Orient Express.

This is not an interior, but shot from one (the vase of flowers in the foreground is the giveaway). I was having lunch at 49 Kirk Dokuz Café, in the European Quarter. The hip design of the place was right in keeping with "the Brooklyn of Istanbul," but the view through the plate glass window was what made me really happy. When I sat down and looked out I said "this looks like a Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph," and that was before the old man wheeled his wooden cart of bric-a-brac into view. I was too busy eating to wait for the perfect Cartier-Bresson photo, but it just goes to show that with some interiors, location does half the work.

And I'll close with what struck me as the strangest interior in Istanbul: these little boxes for the guards at Dolmabahçe Palace. Poor dudes.

A final post, on hotels, to come (hopefully)...


Erin said...

Gorgeous. But the guard boxes are more than a little disconcerting!

carol l. said...

i thought you were shooting a statue! and then I read the caption. Was he armed?

carol l. said...

The bookstore sort of makes up for the lack of coffee (tea) shops.

Cassie said...

Yes, he was armed.

mb said...

Thanks for taking me back through some favorite haunts in Istanbul. My husband and girls rented a boat on the Bosphorus one afternoon. We were able to see the beautifully painted/decorated houses along the water. We stayed in the old city in a hotel that was originally a prison. Scenes from Midnight Express were filmed there. (right next to a archeological dig)

mb from Dallas

Margas said...

Loved your posts about Istanbul. The pictures really convey the spirit of the city. Those station shots are truly magical.