We arrived in Istanbul on Monday morning after an overnight train ride from Sofia, Bulgaria. I loved the rickety train ride but couldn’t help but think that it was an experience whose days are numbered. The train was delapidated, the bed a joke (lumpy wood with itchy fabric stretched over it??), and the food and drink… none! We came prepared with our favorite Hungarian drink Palinka, and bought some Black Ram Bulgarian whisky in the station, plus our usual bag of cheese and salami and bread and goodies, so we were fine. We got a good introduction to Turkish music along the way thanks to a host of weird electronic equipment we have with us. Ali has quite the collection, not surprisingly, and one band, Baba Zula really caught our ears. We even got to see them the first night in town! How’s that for good timing??

Here are some shots from the train first, then a lot of images in my pipeline for Istanbul. We got a beautiful sunset on Sunday night as we whizzed across the Bulgarian countryside…

Then we got stuck for a while in some godforsaken station, and while lounging around on the platform, Ali took this great, eerie shot:

We got into Istanbul not well rested, but very happy to be here. On arrival, and upon entering most stores and businesses, you are met by the glare of the Big Brother of Turkey, Attaturk, the founding father of modern Turkey. Here he was to greet us at the train station:

This is a world-class, front-line city in every respect. It’s thriving, dynamic, extremely wealthy, absolutely sprawling, 16 million inhabitants, hundreds of hills spreading over several land masses surrounded by water: to the far north, the Black Sea, cutting the urban area in half is the famous Bosphorous, and the Golden Horn is a smaller bay that drains a river and separates the old Byzantine Constantinople from the newer part of Istanbul to its north… Ali is an amazing host and our first task after dropping our stuff and showering was to head back to the Bosphorous for a hour and a half ferry ride to the northern end at Anadolu Kavagi where there is a centuries-old Genovese castle ruin overlooking the touristy village (it is still part of greater Istanbul though)… here are some shots of our trip there, starting with our gang sitting on the boat enjoying being here after an arduous night, then Francesca enjoying a much needed Turkish coffee:

The whole shoreline of the Bosphorous is full of Ottoman palaces and Roman and Byzantine fortifications that predate the Ottoman’s by centuries… and of course Turkey is quite modern and well developed, at least here in Istanbul, so this is a typical juxtaposition:

Here are some shots of the castle we visited and climbed around on, including one of me doing by Evita impersonation with the Black Sea in the distance behind me…(don’t cry for me Crimea??)…

And more shots from along the Bosphorous:

By pure coincidence and great luck we arrived in town the same day as the local lefty newspaper was celebrating its 4th birthday. It’s called Bir Gun (with diacritics) which means “One Day” and some of Ali’s friends and his father write for it. Several wonderful bands were scheduled to play at the new Bosphorous-side open-air amphitheater and we saw Aynura with the unforgettable Kurdish Voice, and the aforementioned Baba Zula, as well as some well-loved Turkish folk singers who led some rounds of singalongs, as well as one pretty awful rock band. Here are some photos of us waiting for the concert to start, and then some pics of the show:

Aynura in action.


This band also features a woman on a laptop drawing images for the background, which was vaguely reminiscent of a show we caught at the recent SF Film Festival that claimed to be the first ever “live cinema”….and clearly wasn’t. It didn’t knock my socks off, but here’s a glimpse:

Lastly the evening was so magical that we figured the Turkish military arranged to put this star next to the moon as it sank in the west, just to further their nationalist fervor… they only failed to paint the sky red behind it (check out the Turkish flag to get this joke):

1 comment to Istanbul!

  • Looks and Sounds fantastic! I haven’t been but high on my list of places is Büyükada — for car-free living — if you get a chance, take the ferry and check it out while in Turkey!

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