Sunday, October 4, 2015

Wonderful things

Of course, a downside of visiting a place for the second time (er, this year) is that you have to look harder for your photo angles, otherwise you get sucked into taking the same shots all over again. Which I couldn't resist, in the Blue Mosque, because of all those owls...

But I did go somewhere different today - to the DolmahbaƧe Palace, which my guide last time described as "Istanbul's Versailles". That's a big call - but he was right. Smaller scale, but right on the money for the quality. It starts quietly and then just gets better and better, astonishingly ornate and opulent: the first big crystal chandelier weighs one tonne, and was impressive enough - but the last one, in the Blue Hall, is composed of 4.5 tonnes of English crystal, under a domed trompe-l'oeuil ceiling. There was a crystal staircase, too. It was all just fabulous, and all the more tragic that photography was forbidden (not that that stopped some people). You can only go through with a guide, too, and it's a bit rushed, so that was all rather a shame - but it's still very worth while seeing.

Outside there are fish ponds with weirdly blue water, and an aviary with fancy chickens, crazy guinea fowl and, of course, stray cats everywhere including one heart-warmingly affectionate character.
The Big Bus then took us around and about, and we heard rather more than I would have chosen of the plinky filler music thanks to the traffic that kept us crawling between the noteworthy places described in the commentary (which was delivered in a BBC accent, which made the references to Mohammed-Peace-be-upon-him sound a bit weird). Sitting in traffic is nobody's favourite thing - but really I didn't mind. There is just so much to look at here: truly ancient constructions like the city wall and aqueduct, mosques and even some churches, palaces, lighthouses, the sea, people, cats...
Back in Sultanahmet, the light was golden over the complicated form of the Aya Sofya, the fountain was playing, people were sitting around, strolling, relaxing, the cats and dogs were doing the same, and the only ones being really active were the restaurant touts on the footpaths, who were all eye-contact and friendly greetings. We ate on a rooftop terrace, looking over the untidy tiles where crows and gulls sat safe from the cats, while swallows swooped and out beyond on the sea, the Queen Victoria set sail, gliding behind the Blue Mosque, and away towards the Aegean. That'll be us, on Wednesday...



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