Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Turkey - Istanbul (4)

Dedicated to Mum - Happy Birthday!

It was another wet and grey day in Istanbul, with quick storms and erratic periods of abstinence.
One of those days were you can happily spend an extra hour in the dorm bed just because you can hear it raining outside, and think, "What's the point of getting up now? This is nice."

Once up, I made a special pilgrimage for Mum's birthday. She wanted images of "patterns", so although I've been gathering them constantly since the GT began, I saved my visit to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts until today. It was an extraordinary place - so many huge antique carpets, hanging from walls the size of those in the NGA's lower galleries. Briliant ancient mosque doors, ornate metalwork, some tiles, and plenty of calligraphy and those long elegant scissors she really likes. And I took plenty of "patterns".

After that I leisurely strolled through thunderbursts, armed with my black umbrella, to the Little Aya Sofia. It was closed for renovations and looks like it has been for years. Still, I found a few more gorgeous mosques and made the most of those. This included a nice long chat with a Belgian-Russian young couple who didn't realise there was such a thing as mosque etiquette.

Eventually I crossed the Galata Bridge again, ostensibly to find the Dohmadahce' (totally mispelt) Palace. Turns out I needed a ferry to get there, so I'll put that excursion off until we get some better weather. In my attempt, I chanced upon the alley that led to the Istanbul Modern Art Gallery.

This was a very impressively scaled contemporary art gallery, just what you might expect for a city of 17 million. It looks like a Coles outside, with pink lines across the carpark, and a spacious, functional, excellently aligned white cube inside. Rhetorical and flourishing artspeak translated from the Turkish was suprisingly quaint, but it still sounded much like anything you might find in an Australian catalogue. It was a great exercise to explore the permanent exhibitions and assess which pieces (and artists) were regarded as holding the most significance within their collection.

Their temporary exhibition - Centre of Gravity - hosted a few familiar international names, such as Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, and Anish Kapoor, amongst others. I contributed to an immersive viewer-participation installation consisting of colour photocopies volunteered by visitors. These could be of anything - their faces inside the machine, the content of their pockets, their hands, whatever. Mine was the back of my hand, Fatima pose, with the golden kangaroo pins scattered around, and my watch face visible. I took a photo of it on the mural wall with some of the others as a self-portrait.

Later, as the rain ended and the gallery kicked us out, I made my way steeply uphill to Istiklal Caddesi. From the garden of a sublimely positioned mosque I caught the most stunning sunset over the Bosphorous. I was able to witness the ships passing between Asia and Europe, the towers of the Topkapi Palace and five other mosques, the golden apartments strecthed out across one side of the strait, and the most bold rainbow I have seen in a long time. All with a bar of dark chocolate I picked up cheaply that morning.

I will have to tell Lonely Planet about that view.

The day wrapped up with a generous dinner in a busy restaurant, yet another Turkish menu but I was lucky this time. I also located a CD of the Turkish pop song that has been following me around the place.

Tomorrow - perhaps a ferry ride?

(Love you lots Mum, hope you had a great day!)


  • At Monday, October 03, 2005 6:57:00 am, Blogger Jenny said…

    Thank you love - how could you top a prowl in the Tentmaker's Souq, an evening felucca cruise on the Nile with good wine, snacks and friends, and dinner at Kebabgy.

    Well, maybe you could with a day in Istanbul - but I was happy!


  • At Monday, October 03, 2005 10:42:00 pm, Blogger Sardone/McRory Family said…

    I have finally caught up with you and your travels.
    Make sure you get to the Cisterns before you leave that great city.
    Try some turkish pizza as well.
    Turkey was my favorite place to travel, great people food and prices.
    How many lira do you get for a dollar these days?
    Good on ya, stay safe,

  • At Monday, November 07, 2005 3:43:00 am, Anonymous berque said…

    I can help u about spelling it's Dolmabahce...:)


Post a Comment

<< Home