Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back Blog: Istanbul - did I love it or not? I can't decide

It feels like ages ago, but here are a few photos from our winter trip to Istanbul.

Every Muslim I know is obsessed with Turkey. I thought it was O-kay. Yup. Just ok. It didn't blow me away like Kenya or Andalusia or....Cairo for that matter. I personally find their identity crisis a bit of a bore. Are you Asian? Are you European? Are we going to get in to the EU if we do this? What about this?

The different elements of Turkey -- conservative, liberal, religious, secular, Eastern, Western -- coexist in relative discomfort. Like an elevator filled with people who all want to be in there -- just not with each other. All shuffling about and jabbing each other with their elbows. Such a weird atmosphere against the backdrop of magnificent architecture and monuments to a glorious past.

But I cannot poop on the whole trip because, as tourist experiences go, we had a superb time: transportation was easy, modern and efficient. We ate delicious food all the time. We cleansed a year's worth a traditional Turkish Hammam, drank fresh pomegranate juice, Turkish coffee and apple tea. Shopped in the incredible Grand Bazaar, wandered the colourful streets of Sultan Ahmet and the alleys behind the Blue Mosque (where we heard the most beautiful call to prayer as the rain danced on the stone pavement and we shivered in the shelter of the ancient, ivy covered gate to the Arasta Bazaar), visited Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, stopping often to enjoy the modern restaurants and cafes that dot the city.

My husband, of course, bought a carpet. I don't think they let you leave the country with out one. Ours is a stunning dowry piece from Konya, bought after hours of viewing luxurious colours and styles, storytelling, tea drinking, negotiating and wrangling. It was one of the best spent rainy afternoons in recent memory.

I wish I had taken photos of the carpets and pottery -- the Turkish aesthetic is incomparable. The colours and composition, attention to detail and dedication to beauty are out of this world.

Istanbul's monuments are spectacular, as are the many views of the brooding and romantic Bosphorous. If you go, go to enjoy the natural beauty and glory of it's past. I am not sure I am so convinced about the attraction of it's present. If I could figure out what that is, of course.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How we roll

"Training wheels? That's so last year!"

I am happy to report that my nephew just learned to ride his big bike without training wheels! Watching the smile nearly bust off his face as he managed to teeter and totter on his bright black and yellow bike (with handbrakes, a couple of speeds and dirt bike wheels) was the most thrilling thing I've seen in ages.

When my nephew was born, my brother had a theory about celebrations. He said, why should I make a big deal about his birthday? "Hey little man, congratulations on living to see another year." My brother wanted to make a big deal out of the milestones his kids achieved. I can still picture my brother telling me this as he held my little new-born nephew in his hands. And I remember him specifically saying he was going to make a huge deal out of the day he learned to ride his bike. It seemed like such a far off concept but here we are today, with a video of the big event and a huge ice cream cake.

Way to go, kid.