This Week I Loved…

Reliving our hot air balloon ride in Turkey.Cappadocia096A bill-free day of mail.
1092076_10100582355317315_1430268217_oMy first big install with the designers at work, and these awesome pillows I found for it.1237758_10100586898432875_372879956_o Turquoise and Rose-Violet.1021023_10100582714098315_1416184951_o This week’s Color Theory class project using 6 random colors and abstract shapes of our choice.

1070135_10100583045778625_49520087_oAnd rewatching The Great Gatsby.

Like a Dream: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

Well folks, this is my last post on our epic summer vacation. I will leave you with few words, just a photo essay of sorts. During our short stay in the village of Uchisar, we made time for an incredible hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. There were about 40 other balloons in the air with us, and I have to say it was dreamlike. I have been on one hot air balloon ride before, but I had never seen such beautiful sights as these. So here I’ll leave you with my favorite photos from our time floating over Turkey. Enjoy!

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getting ready for take-off

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lifting off, another balloon just like ours

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beginning our journey

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looking up

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“fairy chimneys” in the valley below

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more fairy chimneys, and some cave houses

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the horizon as the sun rises

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local farms below

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a small farm in Love Valley

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the sun makes its way over the horizon

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a parade of balloons make their way through Love Valley

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lifting upward out of Love Valley

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picturesque clouds beyond the balloons

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golden and green farms below

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drifting up higher

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sweeping landscape below

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natural formations and plenty of vegetation

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balloons silhouetted by the sunrise

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gliding along with our companion balloons

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one of the tallest mountains in Turkey

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pretty high up now, with a great view of the other balloons surrounding us

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gorgeous greenery in the valley

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happy

Delicious Foods of Turkey

As I’m wrapping up the last of my posts on our trip to Turkey, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to talk about some of the delicious foods we had there. Some of the most phenomenal bites to eat were also the simplest ones! On our first day, as we were beginning to get a lay of the land in Istanbul, we started getting hungry right as we were in an area where few restaurants could be seen. Well, that turned out to be lucky for us! We came across this guy making fish sandwiches.Istanbul072 He was positioned right outside of this boat which functioned as his restaurant.Istanbul073 It was a super simple meal. Just fish, tomatoes, onions, and peppers on a bun. and only for the equivalent of about $3 each. So delicious! It was a great introduction to sea food in Istanbul.Istanbul075 Istanbul076 Later on in the trip, we had gotten a recommendation from a local to visit this restaurant. We walked through a lesser traveled part of town and around a couple of corners before arriving here. Little did we know this would be one of the best meals of our lives!Istanbul411 We were first greeted by these guys before being sat by a host.Istanbul410 Calamari…Istanbul403 Sea bass…Istanbul404 And fried goat fish. Everything was simply prepared, and seriously the best seafood I’ve ever had. (And don’t you worry, we made plenty of jokes about the anecdotal goatfish!)Istanbul405

We had so much fun joking around with the server, that he brought us 3 of these desserts on the house! Turkish ice cream (which tasted not unlike gelato) on top of dried apricots in a sweet syrupy sauce, and sprinkled over top with nuts. I will dream about this dessert until I am one day able to taste it again.Istanbul406 On our last night in Istanbul, we were on a hunt for doner kebab and came across this place. It turns out, this chef is quite renowned! I had to include this photo, because my foodie-husband was so excited that the chef let him into the kitchen to shave off some meat. When he came out from behind the counter, he noticed a few of his arm hairs had been burned off from the heat! And the chef stands here in front of the fire and does this all day, every day… can you imagine?

Istanbul640In search of beverage to go with our doner kebab, we came across this wonderful little wine and cheese shop in the basement of an old apartment building near Galata Tower. They of course had a huge selection of Turkish wines and cheeses, and we happily picked up a bottle of wine to go with dinner.Istanbul643 Istanbul644The morning we left Istanbul to head to Central Turkey, we had time for a leisurely breakfast at this delightful cafe.
Istanbul670 It was here that we had our first full traditional Turkish breakfast. It’s a huge spread of olives, tomato and cucumber salad, cheeses, breads, jams, eggs, coffee and tea. It was the perfect send off from our time in the city.Istanbul665 While our time in Cappadocia was short, and most of our meals were on-the-go, we had one last big celebratory meal with our friends and travel companions in the town of Uchisar. We started with cocktails in this lounge, which I absolutely loved the design of. It was a combination of modern, vintage, and traditional Turkish elements, and felt super comfortable, like a place you could easily spend hours in.Cappadocia423 Cappadocia418 Then we headed downstairs to the restaurant for a rich, delicious meal.Cappadocia451 These were pheasant samosas, and really didn’t need the sauces they came with at all.Cappadocia441 Then some grilled haloumi cheese on a salad.Cappadocia442 And a zucchini salad.Cappadocia444And finally the main course, for me it was a dish of hand-made pasta with lamb meat and a yogurt sauce. So rich and comforting.
Cappadocia447 We just didn’t want the night to end, so we extended the night a little longer with dessert in their cigar bar.Cappadocia472As is tradition in Turkey, every meal ended with a Turkish tea to help digestion. So I will let you finish this visual meal with a Turkish tea as well.Istanbul493Everything we ate in Turkey was so delicious, we’ve already begun searching the LA area for substitutes. We’ve found a great place for traditional Turkish breakfast, and are on the search for more.

What Turkish bite would you most like to taste?

A Peaceful Cave Village in Cappadocia, Central Turkey

What can I say really, except that Cappadocia is a magical place. After spending some time in Istanbul, we relocated our journey to Uchisar, a small town in Central Turkey. It was an incredibly quiet, peaceful place after having been in a big, crowded city. Cappadocia is best known for it’s cave homes and underground cities. (Oh, and for hot air ballooning… that post is coming up soon!) Some of the caves are still people’s homes, while others have been converted into hotels and bed & breakfasts for visitors. Cappadocia333 We were lucky enough to secure a cave bed & breakfast called Taka Ev. The owner was always there to help, made every arrangement for us from airport transportation, to our rental car. We had such an amazing time staying there!Cappadocia297 Our room was set back into the mountain just past this sitting area.Cappadocia006 Cappadocia007 Cappadocia008 And it was indeed a cave! Some of it had been renovated to be certain. But the seemingly random hole in the wall to the left of the bed… well, that was once used for crushing grapes to make wine!Cappadocia001 Cappadocia003 Cappadocia004 The town was a combination of caves, homes and business that partially used caves, and structures that were built on the mountain (rather than in it). They used materials that blended seamlessly into the mountain and surrounding landscape.
Cappadocia134 Cappadocia136 Cappadocia137 Cappadocia138It seemed that every hill was speckled with caves that had been dug out hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And many of them were easy to access. You could just walk right into one and check it out. Sometimes you could even clearly see the distinction between a living room, a room for cooking, and a room for sleeping, really not at all unlike a small suburban house.Cappadocia293 Cappadocia159 Cappadocia160 Cappadocia162 Cappadocia168 Cappadocia169Nearby in a town called Goreme (a little more highly traveled by out-of-towners) we went into their open air museum, where they had some incredibly elaborate, almost high-rise style cave structures to wander through.Cappadocia248 Cappadocia234 Cappadocia252 Cappadocia255 The most incredible thing about the open air museum was that there were several ancient Christian sanctuaries with these unbelievable frescos painted from floor to ceiling. We got in trouble for taking these pictures, but I had to include them… and trust me, these weren’t even the most amazing ones there! The columns were perfectly carved and the colors were so vibrant. There was one sanctuary (no pictures, sorry) that actually had the only known depiction of Jesus as a teenager!Cappadocia240 Cappadocia247 Cappadocia246 We made sure to do some hiking through Love Valley. Some of the vegetation reminded me of California in the summer. This farmer had a business set up, off the main road and out of sight. You wouldn’t know it was there unless you hiked by like we did!Cappadocia189 Cappadocia202 Cappadocia230 See why it’s called Love Valley? No I’m not joking, that really is why it’s called Love Valley.Cappadocia195 We also did a little hiking through the valley just below Uchisar. There is a footpath that connects all of the towns in the nearby area, so you can easily walk from Uchisar to Goreme and beyond.Cappadocia353 All along this path we came across small local farms. Everything seemed to grow without effort, and we only ever saw one person, or maybe two (usually an old couple) tending to the farms.Cappadocia361 Cappadocia364 There is actually a small wine industry in the area as well, and they really were good wines! Any vineyard we passed by seemed tiny, but thriving.Cappadocia378 In some areas they had even gone so far as to terrace up the hill to make more space.Cappadocia379 Cappadocia167 We spent some time wandering through the “downtown” if you can even call it that. Yes, we did indeed bring home a Turkish rug, and it came from this shop. The owner was such a friendly guy and had grown up in the area. He had this incredible collection of keys. There must have been hundreds of them!Cappadocia323 Cappadocia328 Cappadocia324 We loved coming across this group of men hanging out on a bench in the middle of town. They were happy to pose for us, and I like to imagine they’ve been friends since they were kids. Who knows, but don’t they look like it?Cappadocia409 Looking at these photos again, it’s surreal to think we were ever there. Admittedly we didn’t do as much site seeing as maybe we should have, but we were all so relaxed and felt so peaceful there. It felt natural to just rest, wander, and enjoy the view.Cappadocia316 This last photo was taken the morning we left as we were just about to get into our shuttle to the airport. It was so hard to leave! We hope to get back there again one day.Cappadocia481Wouldn’t you love to take a nap with this view in the backdrop?

Markets of Istanbul

One of my favorite things to do in Istanbul was to peruse the markets. Whether we were shopping or just walking through, it was wonderful to see so many varieties of foods, spices, teas, and handmade goods. I was constantly tempted to stock up on all sorts of things I never would have had enough room for in my suitcase!

The first one we came across, and maybe my favorite, wasn’t even really an official market. We were wandering around trying to find our way to the Suleymaniye Mosque and ended up strolling through an area of town that seemed relatively untouched by tourists.Istanbul097

All along either side of the narrow road were tables set out with local fruits and veggies for sale, all for a very reasonable price.Istanbul091 The colors of the veggies were so vibrant! Istanbul090 Istanbul089 Istanbul088 I’d never seen so much garlic in one place as this little set-up.Istanbul086 Dried fruits and spices smelled so delicious as we walked by!Istanbul082 Istanbul081 The next day, on our way to the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern, we found ourselves walking through the middle of the Spice Bazaar. We passed through here quite a few times during our stay in Istanbul, since it just happened to be right in between our apartment and a lot of the sites we visited. Istanbul283

Sure, there were lots and lots of spices around every corner, but it was also easy to find turkish candies and sweets, and rows upon rows of beautiful teas.Istanbul276 Istanbul279 Istanbul275 Istanbul287

How about this beautiful raw honey comb!Istanbul273

Not only foods, in the Spice Bazaar there we plenty of vendors selling dishware, linens, and scarves. Admittedly some of them seemed intended to draw in tourists, but there were still lots of wonderful treasures to be found.Istanbul281All the beautiful spices and teas made the whole bazaar so colorful!Istanbul284We made sure to stop by Istanbul’s famous Grand Bazaar, which is much more geared toward Turkish goods, like linens, scarfs, ceramics, tapestries, and rugs. The Grand Bazaar is one of the biggest covered markets in the world, and has been around since the 1400’s.Istanbul435

Sadly we were mistaken about what time was closing time, so we got there just as most of the vendors were closing shop. But with the sheer number of vendors that had shops there (somewhere around 3,000), you can imagine how crowded it must be during the day! On the plus side, with the lack of crowds, we were able to take some time to look at the architecture and decorative details of the place.Istanbul437

It was a huge space! Each hallway seemed to go on forever, and all of the arched corridors were beautifully painted. Istanbul443 Istanbul441 Istanbul450Istanbul447 Istanbul444 Of all the markets we came across, I think my favorites were the unexpected vendors that set up shop on carts, sometimes pushing their way into crowds in search for business. Even though much of the city seems to be built of stone, these markets provided delightful bursts of color throughout Istanbul.

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Hagia Sophia: A Treasure in Istanbul

It took us a couple days before finally getting to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but oh! what an amazing place! In a way, I guess I’m glad we did this on our last full day in the city, because if we had seen it first it might have made everything that came after it seem less exciting. The Hagia Sophia as it stands now was built in the year 537, but it’s the third structure to stand in that location. (The first two were burned to the ground in riots.) Built as a Greek Orthodox church, it was converted into a mosque during Ottoman rule in 1453. Now it is officially a museum. A slew of restoration projects over many years have once again revealed some of the Christian imagery that was painted or plastered over when it became a mosque, but living in the same space still are the names of prophets written in Arabic calligraphy. (It strikes me as an important message in today’s world for evidence of these two faiths to live side-by-side like this under one roof.) The sanctuary inside is enormous, beautifully constructed of marble and stone, with seemingly no surface untouched by decorative details like painted patterns or incredible mosaic frescos made with gold tiles. Certainly pictures could not fully do this place justice!

Istanbul510 Upon entering, we were greeted by a set of these rather imposing looking doors. They actually predate the current structure, and are too tall for the doorway they are in so they are built into the floor and cannot be closed.Istanbul512 Immediately, the pattern and detail begins in the first hallway.Istanbul515 At the end of this entrance hallway we saw our first mocaic, a scene of Emporer Justinian gifting the Hagia Sophia to the Christ Child. Istanbul517On the interior dorrs, you can still see markings where the cross was removed and replaced instead with this arrow-like symbol often seen in the Muslim faith.
Istanbul520 Sometimes it was difficult to discern which details were painted and which were mosaic, because of the attention paid to detail in the design.Istanbul522The first time you step into the sanctuary, it’s admittedly a little overwhelming! The space is several stories tall, the dome gilt with gold leaf. The flowers in the four corners around the dome were revealed in a recent restoration project to be covering images of angels from the days when it was a church. You can see the face of one that was recovered in the lower left-hand flower. (In the Muslim religion, no pictorial depictions are allowed, which is why the preferred decoration in mosques has more to do with pattern and calligraphy. All images in the sanctuary were covered over with paint and/or plaster when it was converted to a mosque.)
Istanbul523Incredible amounts of beautiful marble can be found all over, on walls, floors, columns, you name it. Much of it had been imported from Egypt at the time the Hagia Sophia was built, and some marble types were rare even then.
Istanbul530 Each column is topped with some of the finest carvings I’ve ever seen. It all seems so finely detailed, and perfectly executed. Istanbul531 Istanbul536 This tile mosaic of the Madonna and Christ Child had been covered with plaster before the restoration projects began. Istanbul546 All of the corridors have high ceilings and low-hanging chandeliers, which used to be candle-lit and needed to be close to the ground so they could be reached easily. And while the more modern lighting throughout the entire building was certainly helpful, there was plenty of natural lighting flooding in through large windows and skylights.Istanbul550 Istanbul551 In order to get up t the second level of the sanctuary, we used a dark, undecorated corridor and system of ramps, which were apparently used during construction for pushing, dragging, or rolling materials to the upper levels.Istanbul554 Istanbul590 The sheer size of the space was even more apparent from above, where we could see how small the people below seemed. Istanbul561 Sadly in the years before the Hagia Sophia had proper protection as a museum, people would take the little tiles that made up the mosaics as souvenirs, so many of the frescos are missing the tiles that could be easily reached. Now of course there are security personnel to make sure no one gets too close to these. Istanbul562 But look at the incredible detail! Rosey cheeks, the shading of the beard, the folds in the clothing. Unbelievable! This is as detailed as any painting by one of the masters, but  this is made of tiles. We took our time browsing and taking in all of the mosaics on the second level. Istanbul564 Istanbul574 Istanbul578On the second level, we found this pattern, which we didn’t seem to come across on the ground level. It’s much darker than a lot of what we saw elsewhere.Istanbul570 Also, it was a treat being so much closer to the details on the ceiling of the sanctuary. (And there’s that previously hidden angel again!)Istanbul572 Istanbul589 We even found this little corridor of Iznik tiles, a signature of Turkey.Istanbul591 Back down on the ground level we snapped a few more pictures of this incredible space. Istanbul600 Towering marble columns were on all sides.Istanbul601 Istanbul606 Istanbul616

After one last look up in the sanctuary…Istanbul611…and one last look at the beautiful ceiling patterns in the corridors…Istanbul602 Istanbul603 …we got a glimpse at the few remaining artifacts from the previous structure that this Hagia Sophia had replaced. This was all that was left after it burned down, but it is so important to acknowledge this as part of the history of this place. Istanbul619What do you think of all the detail in this nearly millenium-old place?

Istanbul: An Honest City

During our short time in Istanbul, it occurred to me how honest the city as a whole is. What do I mean by that? Well, everything in the city seems to be exactly what it is, with no efforts to mask it or make something be any different cosmetically than whatever it already is. There are buildings as old as the year 500 and buildings as new as just a couple years old sitting happily side by side, with no attempt to make one look like the other. Some buildings are even dilapidated or abandoned right in the middle of a high traffic and otherwise well maintained area. Even the new storefronts added to old buildings are built with the style sense of the time in which they were built, so that walking around you can see additions from the 1940’s, -70’s, or -90’s among original and new buildings. I love this about Istanbul, especially in contrast to a place like Los Angeles where sometimes it seems everything has a facade to make it appear to be different than it actually is (not unlike a movie set).

Our first impressions of the city were from the rooftop of the building where we rented our Homeaway apartment. We were practically next door to Galata Tower, and could see it clearly over the nearby buildings.

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Istanbul struck me as a crowded city with little park space for its size, so it was not surprising that people had added greenery on rooftops and patios wherever they could find space.
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Looking out at the sprawl, it seems old, new, and a little gritty. And I will admit, I hadn’t thought much about air quality before we got there, but there was a noticeable amount of exhaust in the air. Istanbul018

Near our apartment, we came across this car. It seemed to fit in quite naturally with the cobblestone streets.Istanbul027

With little sidewalk space and extremely narrow streets, I was surprised at how easily people and cars were able to manuver around each other. With little need for car horns, people would part to allow the cars to come through, and then fill in the road again once it had passed. Both pedestrian and driver were aware of each other and their surroundings, and with a little patience could work together to allow passage.

Istanbul030 Some of the streets were so narrow it was hard to imagine a car would even fit, presumably a result of the original city being built long before cars and the subsequent sprawl that came after. But somehow it worked, and the cars got through. (No huge SUV’s here!)

Istanbul671 It was not uncommon to see the Turkish flag flying, or even a flag for Istanbul. It struck me that people were proud of their home.Istanbul040 And perhaps even more frequently than the Turkish flag, we came across buildings that were no longer fit for use, just left to breakdown right in the middle of the city’s commerce.

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This one struck us as particularly interesting. We could still see the decorative paper on the ceiling and even though it was falling down, I could almost imagine what it must have been like inside in the 1800’s. Istanbul289

Some of our favorite moments were while wandering off the beaten path, just exploring the lesser travelled pockets of the city.Istanbul413

This woman happily posed for a photo, and then immediately ran inside to tell whoever was in the house with her. We couldn’t understand her Turkish, but we heard her excitedly saying “California” to her family inside. Maybe we’ll be able to return one day with a copy of the picture for her.Istanbul414

Closer to the more tourist-travelled parts of town, I notice the colors of the buildings became much more vibrant.Istanbul293

Some of the greenery in the area seemed to have been there forever, like these trees that almost seems to grow right out of the sidewalk.Istanbul424

Roman structures still stand in the middle of the city.Istanbul080

And of course, let’s not forget the Hagia Sophia, which was built in the year 537 and was the third structure to stand here. It was a church first, then was converted to a mosque. Now it’s a museum where both Christian and Muslim symbology are displayed side by side. (More on the Hagia Sophia on Thursday!)Istanbul509

And right across the park is the Blue Mosque, built in 1616.Istanbul511

On more than one occasion we came across chickens like these, which belonged to someone nearby and were presumably used for eggs and food. Istanbul104

And there were loads of stray cats around the city. It seemed that the people take pretty good care of the feral cats in the area. Frequently we would see food left out for them, and the adult cats all seemed very healthy (although they definitely looked more like wild cats than the domestic kitties I’m more familiar with).Istanbul291

Every bridge we crossed over was heavily lined with fishermen. They seemed to just camp out for most of the day trying to catch whatever they could.Istanbul064

And there were always men pushing carts around the city selling baked goods or cooked meats.Istanbul071

Day and night.Istanbul263

At night there seemed to be another world of commerce altogether. Individuals selling all sorts of food and goods anywhere where they could find an open enough space to do so.Istanbul258

We drank loads of Turkish coffee, which is offered after every meal. I loved that this cup embraced the beautiful patterns seen all over Turkey. They do patterns so well in this part of the world!

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We drank loads of Turkish tea, also offered after every meal, as a social drink, and even in some shops while you’re looking around. Istanbul493

We played backgammon, and smoked shisha. (It’s just tobacco folks, don’t get too excited.) Both are traditional middle-eastern pastimes that we found incredibly relaxing after a long day of walking around.Istanbul630Cafes seemed to pop up out of nowhere sometimes. This one was in a small, open area and even had tables set up on tiers that looked more suited as a mini amphitheater. Vines had made their way up over the electrical wires and seemed to have been there for years. (We saw this often around the city, and sometimes they were even grape vines!)Istanbul497

Istanbul is also home to Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express. It has been restored to its original glory, including these fabulous skylights and decorative details.

Istanbul673 This cabinet, made of wood and inlaid mother of pearl, houses original copies of all sorts of great classic books by Christie, Hemmingway, and more.Istanbul677

Even the apartment we stayed in held true to its original history. While I don’t know the exact age of the building, the walls were clearly original construction, the bathroom  and kitchen seemed to be afterthoughts (presumably because running water and electricity came well after the building was built), and winding staircase leading up to our 2nd floor apartment had marble steps that had been worn down so much over the years that they seemed to bow, and the edges had rounded over, so that we really had to be careful not to slip coming down the stairs.Istanbul506 The shop owners in the area were so proud of their businesses. (This one was my favorite!)Istanbul686 People walked down the area’s pedestrian street, Istiklal Avenue, even early in the morning before most of the shops had opened.Istanbul681Because of the timing of our trip with the beginning of the protests against Turkey’s Prime Minister, we encountered a few peaceful marches. These people made themselves known by chanting and shouting their cause.
Istanbul035 This one held us up for about 20 minutes on our way to the airport as we were leaving Istanbul. This was the day after they had received union support, and another 240,000 people for their cause. These were happening all over the city that day.Istanbul690 Istanbul692And the views of Istanbul were dreamlike in the evenings. There was a whole level of activity that started aorund the city once the sun went down. And with the glow of the lit-up mosques and the sounds of the call to prayer, it was somehow peaceful, even among such a crowded, bustling city.

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What are your thoughts or impressions on Istanbul?

Mosques of Istanbul

As soon as we had arrived in Istanbul, it was apparent just how many mosques there are all over the city. Hundreds, probably thousands, line the skyline in any given direction. And what’s more, they all seem to carry an incredible amount of history with them. A stark contrast to the very new, glamorous mosque we had seen in Abu Dhabi just the week before.

On our first day in Istanbul, we spent most of the day wandering and ended up at one of the more well known mosques there, the Suleymaniye Mosque. It sits on top of a hill, where it can be seem from all different points around the city.
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It was a huge structure, surrounded by a beautiful green that somehow reminded me of a university campus.Istanbul108

Once we stepped inside the courtyard, we were surrounded by arches.
Istanbul120Outside, the minarets towered overhead.

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And inside, the domes created a cloudlike cover of color and pattern.

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Because images are not allowed in Islamic places of worship, instead of painting murals or frescos, verses from the Koran and the names of the prophets are written in beautiful Arabic calligraphy inside and out.

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Lanterns (now retrofitted with CFL bulbs) hang from long cables attached to the very high ceilings. This allowed the candles to be lit easily from the ground (before electricity was available).Istanbul138

And as we left, we were treated to this incredible view!Istanbul158

The next day we went to visit an even more famous mosque, the Blue Mosque, or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Located right across the park from the Hagia Sophia (which will get its own post very soon!), it is most easily distinguishable from a distance because of it’s 6 minarets. Mosques here usually have only four minarets, but legend has it that there was a misunderstanding and instead of the gold capped minarets the Sultan asked for (the work for gold is “altin”), the architect built him six (“alti”) minarets. Oops! Lucky for him the Sultan liked them.Istanbul301

Inside the courtyard, the scene was very similar to the Suleymaniye Mosque’s courtyard, but boasting taller, wider arches with a more airy feel to them.Istanbul309

Admittedly I expected the inside to be more blue (there were plenty of other colors to accompany the blue details) but it was nonetheless an incredible collection of pattern.Istanbul319

One of the historical facts I find interesting and very apparent in this part of the world is that while Europeans had begun to perfect the human form by way of religious depictions of Jesus, Mary, and other biblical icons, art in Islamic countries was all about color, pattern, and calligraphy (being that they were not using human depictions of important religious figures, but rather their written names). Istanbul324

This makes for some beautiful decorative details. Seeing the way they handled pattern has really made me change the way I think about pattern in general. A few more photos to show you what I mean…Istanbul325 Istanbul333 Istanbul336 Istanbul344 Istanbul345

The reason the Blue Mosque picked up this nickname is because of the amount of Iznik tile used throughout the interior. The tile order for this project was so massive that the Sultan forbade any tiles to be produced for any other purpose until this mosque had been completed. There are over 20,000 of these tiles in the Blue Mosque.Istanbul347 Istanbul348

It was indeed quite a treat to have spent some time inside this mosque, an incredible work of art in its own right.Istanbul351

After a long day of walking all over the city, I caught a glimpse of this tile wall peeking out over a balcony above us as we walked by.Istanbul457

We wandered up the nearby staircase, toward the tile, and discovered the Rustem Pasha Mosque. It was almost hidden, sitting in the middle of a densely built area.

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Inside, we were the only tourists sharing the space with a couple of Islamic worshipers. Some of the details inside were quite different from Suleymaniye and the Blue Mosques, like this wonderful carved and painted wood ceiling detail.Istanbul460

And the decorated dome overhead was just as spectacular, perhaps especially in that it occupied such a small space.
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More so than the Blue Mosque, we felt enveloped in blue Iznik tiles. They were everywhere, covering just about every flat surface from floor to ceiling.Istanbul464

And among the tile, some beautiful marble and painted pattern details.Istanbul468

No surface seemed untouched by decorative detail, not even these ceiling panels. Istanbul472

As the sun was beginning to set, we felt privileged to have happened upon this small, seemingly hidden, spiritual space. We were so tired when we entered the prayer room, feet throbbing from walking all day, and yet this space brought us a surprising sense of peace. It was a wonderful place to rest for a few minutes.Istanbul476

What do you think of all this pattern and detail? Do you like it?

Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul surprisingly turned out to be one of our favorite sites we visited. It might have been in part because we really had no idea what to expect. It’s such an ancient place and just feels like it is a part of a significant history (which it is). Built when it was still Constantinople, the Romans built this cistern (among many others) to hold the city’s water. This is the largest of all the cisterns they built. Constructed in the year 476, this was by far the oldest place I have ever been (until we visited Cappadocia, that is… but more on that later!).

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The entire place is just a sea of columns. Of course they are now lit for better viewing for tourists, and they keep the water level very low. But just imagine: all this for what is essentially just a water tank!

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The cistern served a very specific function, and there is no disguising the engineering that went into it. But perhaps the most surprising element of design is that all three styles of columns (doric, ionic, and corinthian) exist here in harmony. Why, you may ask? Well, apparently the Romans were recycling, pulling unused columns from all over and just popping them in here to hold up this underground structure. Istanbul368 Istanbul372

Because the Basilica Cistern is now a museum, they’ve installed boardwalk-like walkways throughout, so you can wander all around. They offer a very affordable portable audio tour, which admittedly we shared but found very insightful!
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Among the plethora of columns there is exactly one of these, decorated with evil eye symbols which ward off evil and persons with nefarious intentions.Istanbul376

Even more interesting recycled elements include two Medusa heads. Their purpose was simply to prop up the columns they lie under, but since the myth was that if you look her in the eyes you will turn to stone they were sure to position her on either her side of upside down as a remedy to the possibility that she may do you in.
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We took our time walking through this incredible place, and even though it was dark and damp there was something quite special about being there. Maybe it has to do with the extraordinary contrast of that depth of history in comparison to the very short history of the buildings and artifacts here in the U.S. Istanbul389

But regardless of what made it feel so special, I loved staring down the rows and rows of ancient columns into the darkness imagining what it must have looked like when it was new all those many centuries ago.

Istanbul397What is the oldest historical site you have visited? What did you love about it?

This Week I Loved…

Mixing paints for my Color Theory class.1065683_10100542953823225_16864961_o

This original 1920’s elevator in a friend’s apartment building.

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A sausage lunch.sausage

Sunset in Glendale.sunset

This photo from our tour on the Bosphorus.Istanbul206And these behind the scenes photos from Freaks and Geeks.

http://imgur.com/a/1qseH