Friday, June 22, 2012

Museums of Turkey

Life comes before literature, as the material always comes before the work. The hills are full of marble before the world blooms with statues.
-Phillips Brooks 

Statues and pictures and verse may be grand, 
But they are not the Life for which they stand.
-James Thomson

The monuments of the nations are all protests against nothingness after death; so are statues and inscriptions; so is history.
-Lew Wallace


Your work is carved out of agony as a statue is carved out of marble.
-Louise Bogan

"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you."

-from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

History is representational, while time is abstract; both of these artifices maybe found in museums, where they span everybody's own vacancy.
-Robert Smithson

If I'm remembering correctly, this is a statue that used to reside in the ancient city of Ephesus. Legend has it that it stood (or lay?) outside a brothel in the city. Young men were supposed to compare their foot size to the statue's; if it was smaller than the statue's, they were too young to be going to a brothel.

A skeleton in the floor of the archaeological museum in Istanbul. There was no description, no placard indicating why it was there or who it was. There was only a two rather morbid lights shining on it: blue and yellow.

One of the few pre-iconoclastic mosaics still intact. 

One of the many representations of the Mother Goddess, though this one is perhaps the most famous.

                                      Another representation of the mother goddess.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Or is it Constantinople? Walking through the streets of the old city, it can be difficult to tell, honestly. Layers upon layers of history, culture, and conflict define the historical monuments. It is rare to find one that still serves its original purpose. That is to say, I challenge anyone to find a church that is still used as a church today and has not been converted to a mosque. I harbor no bitterness in this statement; do not misunderstand me. It's simply that, at least for me, when originally approaching the city, I never expected it to be quite sooh, what's the right word?full. Again, please don't misunderstand me. Just looking around the city, absorbing all of its richness, I can't help but physically picture piles upon piles of history, all fighting to remain at the top. In the end, who will win, really? Old battles new, and, quite frankly, the struggle seems futile: a floundering stalemate that has endured for centuries. People try to make a profit from the ancient, but can they leave it unadulterated, untainted? 

A building on what used to be the Roman hippodrome. 

Nothing, however, can compete with this culture's colors: both physical (as evident in the architecture) and in its people. 

But really, nothing compares to the food. Baklava: need I say any more?

And, of course, how could I go to Turkey and not try Turkish delight? Now I understand Edmund Pevensie's temptation and inherent downfall. After tasting a morsel of pomegranate and pistachio Turkish delight, it all became clearer than the finest crystal. 

Oh, my heart. So many precious animals (cats and dogs, specifically, but there was one baby bunny vendor in Izmir who was particularly memorable) everywhere. This wee, little hung around the door of our hotel every morning, eager to greet us. We, however, were not so eager to get fleas. 

Of course, her (or his?) mother was always lounging nearby, keeping a careful and watchful eye on all of us.

The underground cisterns of Istanbul, also known as the "Basilica Cistern", and I can see why. It's beautifully haunting, especially with the classical music echoing eerily through the columns, creating an aura of mystery and suppressing history.

Here's one of the famous Medusa heads of the cisterns, turned on its side to symbolize the conquering of paganism.

These were taken outside of Aya Irene, or "The Church of Holy Peace," which sadly wasn't open to the visitors (or "wisitors" as our guide would say). It stands right next to the Aya Sofya, unjustly in the famous church's shadows.

Anyone want some leeches?

The spice market in all its glory

And a boat ride along the Bosphorus 

The beauty and extravagance of the Topkapı Palace (or Topkapı Sarayı in Turkish)

While palaces are beautiful and the architecture is stunning, nothing compares to experiencing the excitement these people over a soccer game. Galatasarayı versus Fenerbahçe: the two sides of Istanbul (European and Asian) competing for glory. (Now, of course, all I can imagine is Michael Gambon presiding over all of Hogwarts, his hand resting on the goblet of fire as he declares that "eternal  glory" awaits the winner of the Triwizard Tournament.) Few experiences in my life match the thrill and the passion I encountered in this moment: uninhibited, carefree, and completely ridiculous.

...Well, except maybe when we crashed the gypsy wedding.