The Beautiful Colours of Istanbul

Hubby and I have been reminiscing over the beautiful things we saw in Istanbul (a sign that we need a new holiday), and it made me think that there’s so much of the countries and cities I have been to which have so many hidden, beautiful parts. There’s a lot of iconic landmarks like the Haga Sofia and Blue Mosque, the Basicilica Cisterns and Topkapi Palace which are of course, a must-visit. But there’s hundreds of other things you can find when you take yourself off the beaten tourist track. One of my favourite memories is walking through winding alleys, past blocks of flats with clothes-lines stretched across the street above us, and bridges and stairs until we found some beautiful rainbow stairs. It was the fact that along the way we saw a lot of beautiful places, which felt so much more real than the tourist spots – grafitti supporting Palestine, the ordinary public on their way to the markets, street-sellers selling cheap handbag replicas and lots of beautiful flowers, buildings and decor.

So here are my top 9 favourite, most colourful photos, each with an accompanying colourful memory. There’s a story behind each photo so make sure you hover over each square to read it!

 

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Happy Places: Libraries & Bookshops

I have a few places which I’d call my happy place (a shop with colourful pens, for example!) but one I think are one of my go-to happy places are libraries. I don’t go to libraries as often as I used to since I got my electronic book reader, which I use (when I do get time to myself!) or I end up forgetting I have a pile of books in my room (I currently have five next to my bed) and start reading something else.

I went to a local library yesterday, and loved the fact that although there are many changes to libraries, there’s still that magic of hundreds of books and the potential of a new world to step into. It reminds me of my childhood a little as well, since my sisters and I used to visit the library every week (and take out the maximum number of books allowed) – one of my earliest memories of the library is my dad taking me to the library as a child, and the estatic joy at seeing all the children books – so it’s no wonder that this feeling has stayed with me.

Whenever hubster and I go somewhere new, I always look for a bookstore or library to make myself home. This is a picture of one of my favourite discoveries – a beautifully quirky bookshop we found in the city of Istanbul, which had art, beautiful old books and a big curved staircase which just made the whole thing amazing.

So here’s one of my happy places, being surrounded by books. I just need to find that library which had the huuuuge books in them, so I can stand on top and pretend to be a tiny person lost in Book Land…!

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #1: A is for Alhamdullilah

Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.
– Alan Cohen

Alhamdullilah, in it’s simplest translation, is the Arabic phrase for ‘Praise God’ and is something many Muslims say when wanting to express their thanks and appreciation to God.

One of the things that always strikes me about Islam is its capacity for beauty, and the the fact that there are so many ways to ask for mercy, for prayers, for good deeds and rewards. The month of Ramadan is the most beneficial – the Devil (Shai’tan) is locked away and all the good deeds and blessings you do are multiplied through the act of fasting and prayer in this month.

Of course, at the core of this is the fact that Ramadan and abstaining from all the luxurious things we’re normally used to has a purpose – to make us aware of how lucky we are in a world where there is still famine and poverty ride in so many countries – what better way to empathise with their hunger than to feel it for yourself?

So, at the end of every fast, when the sun sets and the food is set out, there is a fresh sense of appreciation for our ability to set out a feast and enjoy our meal. Unlike many others in the world, we are lucky enough to set out our food and quench our thirst, finishing our meal with Alhamdullilah to give thanks for what we have.

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Flashback Friday: Topkapi Palace

One of the places I would recommend to anyone visiting Istanbul is the Topkapi Palace, a gorgeously luxurious palace-slash-museum with some seriously gorgeous artifacts, and several buildings and gardens to wander around and admire. I love looking at historical pieces, and there were several from different eras of the Ottoman Empire, but the best thing about this place was wandering around the different gardens and palace buildings and seeing the work that went into each of them.

Wherever you wander, there’s blue tiles, gilded gold walls and beautiful arched doorways to walk through and explore, although I think my favourite place was a small clearing on the side of the palace which lead to a view of the sea – serene, peaceful and somewhere to think about the history of this palace and its legacy.

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Blue Door, Blue House

I saw a blue door. Eyes followed to see a blue wall, a blue house. It reminds me a little of those books, with Roger Red Hat and Billy Blue Hat in their red and blue houses. In the balcony some vines and leaves trail a little, windows shut with nets peeping through. I’m intrigued.

I knock on the door to see who lives there. It’s a small hotel, and they want to know if I have a reservation. I don’t, so I leave again, not before looking at their white and blue wallpaper and their plain carpet.

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Serenity is…

...standing by the the colour blue, looking for fishies, enjoying the salty breeze on your face and looking at ships glowing as they sail by.

I’ve been completely unable to switch on my computer this past week, either because I’ve finished work late, only to rush home and have to do some house chores, or end up shopping for lipsticks and chocolate cake groceries and milk and stuff. Which usually means that I have around an hour before bed and not much time to switch a computer on.

So I’m making the most of a lazy weekend (which consisted a marathon watch of season 1 of Broadchurch, home-made popcorn and some geeky online gaming – that one’s my husband, not me) and making sure I managed to sit down with my computer and catch up on reading, browsing and photos!

Here’s one of my favourites, my husband and I managed to get a free spot on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, where the fishing trade is a popular one, and makes for a beautiful view as well. We tried our hand at it for a few minutes before giving up, but it was worth stopping for just to see the boats sailing by, the smell of freshly-caught-and-cooked fish along the pier, and the amazing stillness when you sit for a while and watch the blue ripples.

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Honeymoon Travels: The Grand Bazaar

I have always loved going to markets of all types, and I always seek them out when I’m in new places – so naturally I wanted to visit the famous (and biggest) market in Istanbul, which was the Grand Bazaar.

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It was certainly nothing like I expected, which was something like an open bazaar with people flogging their wares on stalls. The Grand Bazaar is just that, grand and diverse. Most of the market is inside an old building with several winding hallways and corridors, each one packed on both sides with sellers and shops. Below are just a few of the things which caught my eye, lanterns, carpets, scarves, lamps, spices and sweets, but there’s so much more. I caught sight of fake Louboutins, gold jewellery, ice creams, jewellery, paintings and hundreds more things which are available on display.

We ended up spending a few hours here looking for souvenirs, haggling and comparing, and came away a little dazed and overwhelmed, not to mention the fact that we had entered from one of the Market and exited half a mile in another direction!

 

Weekend Pretty…Ripe Red Pomegranates

One of the best things about Turkey was the fresh pomegranate, lemon and orange juices available on almost every corner, which was made from bursting full pomegranates and fresh citrus fruit that tasted amazing. I haven’t seen as ripe fruit like this in London (maybe not til summer at least!) but it’s something I already miss, because the taste when we’ve tried making our own is just not as fresh or sweet.

On the bright side, we bought back some spiced pomegranate tea, so that’s something for the winter evenings!

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Honeymoon Travels: The Basilica Cistern

Once of the landmarks we visited while in Turkey was the Basicila Cistern, which is one of the biggest ancient storage units underground the city of Istanbul which was designed to hold water. It was surprisingly busy going in, but once we got in, we could see a huge underground cavern which would have plenty of space to hold visitors.

It was quite dim in the cistern, so I wasn’t able to take clear pictures with my camera and had to use my mobile camera, but the view was pretty spectacular and there was a very eerie, mysterious atmosphere to the place.

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The most striking part of the cistern and its pillars were two Medusa heads which were carved into the bottom of two pillars – one was upside down, and one was placed on its side, apparently, deliberately so. There’s a lot of ideas why this was done, but no one really knows for certain. I noticed a lot of Medusa motifs around this city; restaurants, shops, artwork and symbols in a lot of discreet places, which I thought was an interesting link to Greek mythology, and probably points to the diverse history of traders and inhabitants of Istanbul over the  last few centuries.

It was fun to see another side to Istanbul, the quiet, atmospheric and mysterious caverns which gave tourists a chance to wander around and enjoy some peace. There was also an opportunity to dress up in traditional Turkish costumes and take photographs in a photo booth on the side, which looked fun, although we didn’t do this because it was busy and I was a little embarassed!

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Harlequin Oddities Found About Town: The Hidden Rainbow Stairs in Istanbul

One of the highlights of our visit in Istanbul was the discovery of the rainbow stairs, which were hidden away on the streets between the Old City and the New City. I’d read about these stairs months ago but had forgotten about them until my husband and I went past them while on the Istanbul trams, which went by in a flash of colour.

We managed to find our way back to the stairs (and there’s more than one!) after winding alleys and sloping streets which we cut through to get to the main roads, and finally saw bright rainbow colours (and some other avid photographers!) I’ll let the pictures do the talking, the colours were as bright as they look, the stairs went up really high (I couldn’t reach the top) and there were plenty of hidden corners and graffiti art on the walls and side alleys.

There’s stairs like these all over Turkey – have you seen any?

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