Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Making the most of our last days in Istanbul

The last day and a half we had left in Istanbul, we made it to three museums, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the Islamic Arts Museum, the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art; the awesome Underground Cistern; had tea at the Hafiz Mustafa 1864 sweet shop in Sirecki that we had walked by a dozen times during the week; watched the mesmerizing Whirling Dervish ceremony and tried the showy Turkish dish, Testi Kebab.

The museums were all very impressive.  The Istanbul Archaeological Museum, on the grounds of the Topkapi Palace, has a vast collection of sculptures and statuary from the Archaic to the Roman era. There were also a lot of archaeological information on the Istanbul area which made it particularly interesting and relevant.  It has extensive floor space over several floors in the main building and two other side buildings - one could easily spend half a day here.  

The entrance to one of the buildings in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

A mihrab in the museum
Young boy sculpture from 1st Century BC
The Islamic Arts Museum is right beside the Hippodrome and has some exquisite treasures including many artifacts around the Prophet and multiple illuminated versions of the Qur'an. It was not crowded which meant a very enjoyable time browsing without having to jostle with the crowds.  

The Islamic Arts Museum

This was called "Beggar's Bowl"!

We squeezed in the Islamic Museum of Modern Art the day we left Istanbul, visiting after we checked in at the cruise port as it was only a ten minute walk away.  It was particularly enjoyable after several days of looking through the past - the art here gave us very positive glimpses of the future.   These two pieces really stood out for me at the Istanbul Modern: 

"Virtual Places" by Istanbul artist Ali Alisir, images of microchips and electronic circuits overlaying images of historical buildings in medieval Europe;  

"Northern Smoke" by American Pae White interweaving digital technology and the ancient art of tapestry

The Basilica Cistern, an amazing feat of engineering, was intriguing and quite a challenge to my photography skills (and my camera) - we spent a good part of an hour here just because it took me that long to find a suitable camera setting to produce a half decent photo of this underground water chamber.  It turned out my iphone did a better job in seconds.
Basilica Cistern

Another angle taken with my iphone - no fiddling around with settings!
It was the weekend and the locals and tourists from near and far were out in full force - a great time for people watching on the streets as we sat down for afternoon tea on the second floor of the historic sweet shop Hafiz Mustafa, which looked out on the train tracks.  

Afternoon tea at the Hafiz Mustafa, looking down on the busy street near Sirkeci train station

Some street scenes in Istanbul...

The Whirling Dervishes - a religious ritual/performance originating from the Sufi master Rumi.  The most authentic performance was supposed to be the one at the Galata Mevlevi Lodge but they were closed for the holidays.  We were told the next best was the one at the Hodjapasha Dance Theatre which was just around the corner from our hotel.  It helped that there were surtitles projected to explain each segment of the very meaningful ritual celebrating the religious journey towards the divine.  It was a great way to wrap up our last evening in Istanbul.

Preparing the Turkish dish "Testi kebab"

Testi kebab with chicken

Saying goodbye to sensational Istanbul as we set sail at sunset...

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