Saturday, October 27, 2007

Istanbul!!!

A blog after a really loong loong time. Nothing much happening to be frank, and some of the funny things that i know i rather not blog about and get into trouble.
Nevertheless, Last week I was in Istanbul, (a place where I long wanted to go) on a business trip, and I spent the weekend there doing touristy stuff.
I have read a lot about the city, especially from Orhan Pamuk's (2006 Nobel laurete for literature) memoirs Istanbul Memories of a city, where he describes his childhood in the city of Istanbul, and his historical murder mystery My Name is Red, where he describes the world about the Ottoman Empire, during its peak, and the cabal of the miniature painters (who painted like the masters of the old) and their jealousies and rivalries.

But unlike the melancholy Istanbul I read about in Pamuk's memoirs, I found Istanbul to be a bustling and a thriving city. though the book describes the city in 1950s, 60s and the 70s, and says that the people of Istanbul were living under the shadow of the past glories of the Ottoman empire, and describes the burning yalis (villas) of the Pashas who could no longer maintain them, right now the city looks absolutely magnificent, and my colleagues in the Istanbul Office complaining about the sky high property prices and a similar villa by the Bosphorous (narrow strait of water connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea) would be costing upwards of a few million USD.
Definitely looking at the streets of Istanbul, it appears to be more of a Western European city than a East European or a Asian city. The country had undergone a wave of modernization under Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) the founding father of Modern day Turkey
The glitzy shopping malls in Levent, where prices are as high as in Knightsbridge in London (I couldnt afford to shop there) and the Night clubs in Beyoglu, the Restaurants around Taksim all was screaming a booming economy. And surely the Turkish Economy is booming, from the late 1990s where triple digit inflation was the norm, the currency was revalued and 6 zeros were cut off (1 New Turkish Lira = 1,000,000 old Turkish Lira) in 2001. Since then the Turkish Lira has strenghtened and turkey has been lobbying for joining the European Union.
Though I didnt go out anywhere during the week, on the weekend I managed to do all the touristy things, such as visit the Historical parts around Sultanahmet, The Hagia Sophia (a church built in 532 AD during the Byzantine empire when it was called Byzantium) and later converted to a church in 1453 (Rise of the Ottoman Empire or the Fall of Constantinopole, depends from which side do you view history) , the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern, and underground water storage tank, which was also a hide out for the army during seige.

(hagia sofia)






Blue Mosque

I also visited the old-fashioned covered bazar (similar to many indian bazars that I have seen but always feels great to buy trinkets in such a place), the Galata light house, the Topkapi Palace and the modern Dolmabahce palace. (tick marked all the touristy places)

Istanbul, is a classic place where east meets west. Lying on the edge of Europe and Asia (Istanbul itself has 2 sides, the European and the Asian side, divided by the strait of Bosphourous) and it was the Capital of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, (and previously capital of the Byzantine Empire when it was called Byzantium) and was a key point in the silk route where indian and chinese goods passed through to Europe. (The decline as mentioned by Orhan Pamuk in his memoirs also has a lot to do with the Suez Canal and improved shipping routes which eliminated the cargo to travel by land and thus reduced the importance of Istanbul.

Also it has seen the rise and fall of many empires right from the Persian Emporer Darius invading Europe, and the Byzantine Empire, Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire and also one of the holy crusades have been fought here. Even today one can see the clash of the civilizations to some extent between the majority pro-western secular majority and the slowly rising pro-islamic powers.

Apart from all of this something that is fantastic in Turkey is the Turkish sweets, (Turkish Delights and the absolutely fabulous Baklava) though I didnt really like the Turkish Local Alcohol (Raki) and sampled the Mezze (being vegetarian i didnt eat much of the local food)
Anyways I guess I will go there again, (the night life in Beyoglu being the most attractive point of it all)

5 comments:

Teri maa said...

stop leaving comments on dilbertblog...dildo....

Nirav Kanodra said...

Well you stop commenting here my friend. :)
and to all my readers dilbertblog is a fantastic place for entertainment the comments as well as the blog posts

Anonymous said...

hello
used to check ur blog but that was like really long ago ice to see u blogging again . got this link of ur blog from orkut sometime ago maybe 2 yrs interesting pics. i am from mumbaai cudnt read much of ur blog now but shud be able 2 read it sumtime later
gud luck nirav
PS. Just 2 add the verification stuff here is a pain and waste of time to post my comment here cud do without it

Gypsy said...

nice pics!
not a regular blog-updater eh?

Nirav Kanodra said...

@ Gypsy

Now have started updating a bit