Sunday, August 19, 2018

Istanbul Kedisi - Cats of Istanbul

Istanbul is the city of cats - there are cats everywhere. Yes, they are stray cats, but everybody seem to love them. They are well fed, look good (most of them anyway) and as typical cats ignore all the people around them (except when they offer food to them). They're certainly not hop-on-your-lap-and-pet-me cats, but even though the city population loves them.

The Hagia Sophia is a popular hang-out spot; while I didn't see any cats in the Blue Mosque I have seen many photos of cats there and am convinced that they like to go there as well. Lots of shady spots during the hot sunny days.

We had so much fun watching this cat while we were sitting in our favorite street café, enjoying some ice coffee. This cat took interest in this moped, first hopped on it, inspected it until it jumped up onto the seat, trying its claws on it and finally settled down. It stayed there until the owner of the moped claimed it which the cat thought was rather impertinent. The moped driver was very gentle and kind with her.

A few days later when we were at the same café a cat (perhaps the same one?) was lying in the street, taking a nap. It wouldn't move and people would just drive around it - this is something we noticed all the time: drivers stop for cats and dogs or maneuver around them. I liked that.

Wherever we went we would find little piles of dried cat food, water bowls on a sidewalk. Some restaurants collect tips to pay for veterinary bills. It was heart warming to see how well these animals are looked after and how much they are loved.

There are also a lot of stray dogs that are just as well looked after and loved. And the really interesting thing was that we never saw any dog poop! (On a side note, we saw very little trash in the city anyway. Istanbul is a very clean city.)

The cats are simply everywhere - this one was taking a nap right in front of a shop window in the Arasta Bazaar.

They sit on the ticket counter in the train station...

... and hang out in the gardens of mosques.

While walking the streets we saw them everywhere, especially in the quieter neighborhoods.

 Of course they're in the parks as well.

Cats have been in Istanbul forever. There even is a movie about the cats of Istanbul called "Kedi" ("cat" in Turkish) that I have yet to watch. You can find Facebook groups about them and even yours truly has a Pinterest board about the Istanbul kedisi.

"While dogs think people are God, cats don't. They just know better." Quote from "Kedi".

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

From Basilica to Mosque to Museum

Without doubt the Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya in Turkish - is the most famous building in Istanbul. "Hagia Sophia" comes from the Greek and means "Holy Wisdom". Built in 537 AD during the Byzantine Empire it is also one of the oldest buildings in the city. It started out as a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, was later converted into an Ottoman mosque and has served as a museum since 1935 when it was secularized. (Warning: this is a very photo-heavy post)

We visited the Hagia Sophia on our second day in Istanbul, after we had seen the Blue Mosque - just across from the Ayasofya - the day before. I'm glad that we did it in this sequence, because this basilica converted mosque converted museum pretty much blew me away.

The interior with its famous dome and huge nave holds a serenity that couldn't even be disturbed by the many people who came here. I felt very small when I entered and was immediately fascinated by the many chandeliers that cast a warm light into the interior.

But before we ventured further we walked up the switchback ramp to the upstairs galleries. I loved the worn stone slabs shining with age.

Both the downstairs narthex and the galleries have beautiful ceilings, and everywhere you can notice the age of the building. Restoration work is continuously going on here. And look at those gorgeous columns!


But the crème de la crème are the mosaics.

They simply took my breath away. I will spare you my raving over them and just post pictures of them, leaving them to your own judgment. And if you're not into mosaics, just scroll down.

Let's look up one more time and then go down again at the end of the gallery.

While I loved the mosaics and spent a very long time on the galleries, my favorite feature of the Ayasofya was downstairs - the chandeliers. They were added during the Ottoman Empire. Pure eye candy and I was drooling over (well, under) them.

Eventually - reluctantly - we left; but there are so many beautiful things to discover outside as well.

Of course we can't forget the Ayasofya cats... this is just one of them.

It is beautiful at night as well, especially with the blue fountain in the foreground.

We just had to climb up to the roof terrace of our hotel to see the beauty of it.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

An Image and Its Story - July 2018

Even though I had taken so many pictures in July it was really easy to pick that one photo for this post. It reflects the friendliness and generosity we encountered with the Turkish people.

We had just spent the afternoon in Kaymakli Underground City in the Cappadocia area in central Anatolia. It was hot and we felt a light snack and some freshly pressed juice would be just the ticket. Then we saw this woman making gorgeous potato chip sticks. She cut an entire potato in a long spiral, then broiled it to turn it into a "potato spiral chip" on a stick. It was super delicious and just the right thing. She didn't speak much English, but was delighted that we had made the effort to learn a few words in Turkish.

I had forgotten to take a picture and came back when I saw her making one for another customer. I only wanted to photograph the display spiral chips, but she called at me and hold the stick up so that I could take a clear picture of it and her. It was such a lovely gesture - and so typical for the friendliness and generosity of this country's people. It has made this photo my very favorite one of our trip to Turkey.