love in the city of spices

If I moved to Istanbul, this is what I would call my blog, love in the city of spices. Or perhaps love of the city of spices, as this is a city that I have a great fondness for,  and cannot even begin to describe exactly why. Istanbul is a place that must be experienced from the inside, with it’s rich history and rapid modernization. Certainly a cultural mecca. But alas, my story is being written in Paris, and it is my dear friend Karen (with whom I have shared many an adventure in our 20 years of friendship) that is living beneath the minarets.

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My first visit to Istanbul had been during my year of travel, I ran around the city in a daze, completely taken with the sights, sounds and tastes. On that trip I woke up in Asia and spent my days in Europe. This transcontinental life can only be possible in Istanbul.

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On this trip, my Italian’s first to Istanbul, we were lucky to be in the company of Karen and her husband (and two darling Turkish-American daughters). Emre, being a part-time professional tour guide, gave us a tour to remember. From the Blue Mosque to the Hagia Sophia, to the Grand Bazaar to the Spice Market, with many secret stops along the way.  What better introduction?

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The interior of the Hagia Sophia is a sight to behold, with a ceiling of gold.

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On my last visit, I barely stepped foot in the Topkapi Palace. On this trip we spent hours exploring this, the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for around 400 years. Enchanting!

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But it was the time with friends that provided the most memories. Many a night was spent over dinner with a view, catching up on our lives in two very unique and contrasting cities.

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And it was with Karen and Emre that we traveled from Europe to Asia.

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Dinner with a view.

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So much more to see, feel and taste! Already we are looking forward to the next visit…

Istanbul

Every morning I wake up in Asia and take the ferry across the Bosphorus strait to Europe. Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. Once called Constantinople, this city is deeply steeped in history, having served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). This city is filled with colors, cats and sights that are simply breath-taking.A mosque in the lovely neighborhood of Ortakoy.

The Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans for nearly four centuries.

The Underground Cistern was known as the Basilica Cistern during the Roman period. After the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Turks, it was forgotten of and nobody knew that it existed. Re-discovered in 1545, it was used to water the gardens of Topkapi Palace. Today it has an eery and mystical ambiance with fish dancing in its waters.

The grandest of Grand Bazaars, where many a treasure can be found…

The Hagia Sophia, built by Justinian between 532 and 537, is widely regarded as the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral ever built for more than a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1575, during the Renaissance.


The Blue Mosque, one of the most impressive structures in the world! According to legend, Sultan Ahmet I wanted to have a minaret made of gold which is “altin” in Turkish. The architect misunderstood him as having said “alti” which means “six” in English. The architect fearfully asked “am I going to be beheaded?”. Luckily, the Sultan Ahmed I loved the minarets. Prior to that time, no sultan had a mosque with 6 minarets.

Cappadocia




Cappadocia is unlike any other place in the world, and I have seen many! It all began with the eruption of several volcanoes whose residues became prone to successive erosions through wind, rain and variations in temperature and began to take myriad forms. In time a series of earthquakes in the Goreme region increased the impact of erosion. As a result this magical land was formed, consisting of a vast array of ‘fairy chimneys’ resembling mushroom caps. Ihlara valley reveals many shelters, churches and monestaries built into these rock formations, home to a dozen civilizations beginning with the arrival of the Christians in the 4th century. A world that is beyond the realm of my imagination. Walking amidst this volcanic terrain of minarets, cones and spires I had the sensation of living within a dream. The dream continued when I awoke in a cave dwelling with sweeping views to this mystical rock landscape.

Ephesus


The history of Ephesus dates back to 2000 B.C., a famous city of 250,000 inhabitants, a place of festivity and celebration for the many skillful artisans and wealthy merchants. Ephesus was founded by the Amazons and later conquered by the Ionians in the 11th century B.C. Artemis, the goddess of abundance, was believed to have ruled over this land that is now considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. It was incredible to experience this rich history, walking amidst fragments of this venerable civilization.


The Library of Celsus built by C. Julius in honour of his father C. Celsus, the General Governor of the Province of Asia in the year 135 A.D.


The Great Theatre with a capacity of 25,000 spectators, with 22 flights of stairs, a monumental masterpiece in terms of art as well as Christianity.

tea with Moses




In the land of Karakaya, an 800 year old village named for its dark rocks, shining silver in the moonlight, lives a man named Musa. As we ventured to this land, we were invited to share its secrets upon our chance encounter with Musa who became known to us as Moses. Captivated by tales of his life as an archaeologist and prophet, a conversation in Turkish translated by Emre, mingled with phrases of French to my delight, his world became ours for a timeless moment. Ela too became enchanted with this wiseman. With his eyes and his heart he spoke, ‘love and friendship will make the world go on.’

Aegean dream



Every morning I wake up to the turquoise calm of the Aegean Sea, in the village of Turgutreis on the Bodrum peninsula. This is the summer home of my dear friends Karen and Emre and little Elanur, the most adorable Turkish American baby I have so quickly grown to love! The first 3 months of her life she is spending summering in the Hamptons and Bodrum, quite a privileged life! Needless to say Ela and I have bonded in the last few days as I learn the many lessons of motherhood. Yesterday Karen, Ela and I ventured to the Greek island of Kos for a little tsatziki. These paradisic days are spent on the beach, swimming, boating in these tranquil waters, dining on grand turkish feasts of meze…in warm reminiscences of many years of friendship in a life that continues to unravel much like a dream.