Monday, April 30, 2012

Kate + Will's First Anniversary

We spent Kate and Will's first anniversary paying a visit to Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace before pints at the pub. It was a soggy weekend, so we tried to stay indoors, which lead us to the Borough Market, The British Museum, The Tate Modern, and Harrods.
The city was gearing up for the Diamond Jubilee with nearly everything kitted out to celebrate the Queen's 60 year reign. Harrods had cakes and cookies with her likeness, teas to commemorate the big day, and there were dishware and decor with the union jack at nearly every store we visited.
At the Borough Market, as always, there was such an array of produce including things that were new to me, "tomberries" which were the tiniest tomatoes I've ever seen, and purple broccoli, too. It's a test of restraint to walk through the variety of food stalls before deciding what to eat. There are so many incredible options and all along the way people are handing out samples, which only make decision time that much more difficult. I loved the Spice Mountain, which had some of the more unique things I've been unable to find in Munich, including beet powder for natural coloring.
Every time I've visited the British Museum there are plenty of school children in their uniforms. I love seeing them sprawled out on the floors drawing what they see and eavesdropping on their thoughts. They are so fortunate to have such a cultural institution at their doorstep. 
The Tate Modern had their usual collection as well as special exhibits from Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hirst.

There was a particularly unsympathetic letter from Georgia O'Keefe to Kusama that still sticks in my mind. I got the feeling O'Keefe thought of Kusama as a bit of an annoyance, although Kusama remains to be very much an eccentric woman (she currently lives in a mental institution on her own free will). I have to admire her tenacity.

The Hirst retrospective was thought provoking, at times disturbing, but generally fascinating. As the wealthiest living artist it's difficult not to step back and think about how art has evolved and it's commentary on modern life. He also challenges the idea of artists actually creating the art work, since he often has his ideas put into production as opposed to doing things traditionally seen as artisan.

Both special exhibits were very interactive, which provided an interesting element that I appreciated. The last two interactive instillation rooms of Kusama's work were my favorite of hers.

Hirst's diamond skull is on exhibit free of charge on the ground floor of the museum for some of the shock, awe, and those who don't want to part with the 14£ entry.
After the rain let up there was that beautiful after the rain glow of the sun when everything just looks radiant and the colors are more vibrant than ever. I love that. 
I stocked up on books, added a few cook books to my wish list, and look forward to the next time we'll be back to this great city. We're thinking about going back for lunch/dinner at The Cube, which is similar to the Electrolux cooking course, lunch, and New Year's, except with a great view over the Thames and London Eye.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

İstanbul mosques + churches

While I'm not very religious, I always appreciate hearing the call to prayer (adhan) in Islamic countries.
It's something that echos through the streets 5 times a day and is a reminder to take a moment for things other than rushing through day to day life.
It's also a good way of telling approximately what time it is, although the first call of the morning shortly before sunrise never fails to wake me a bit too early for my liking.
Since Istanbul has so much history as a cross roads city of civilization, seeing places like the Hagia Sophia are really incredible experiences.
In the Hagia Sophia there were small details, like the well worn doorways and steps inside the museum that gave me reason to pause and think about just how old it is (it was first dedicated in 360!).
Over time so many people traversed through and fought over this very place in the name of religion, which ironically is now a secular museum that unites all faiths. 
Many of the beautiful details of the Hagia Sophia were covered when the Ottoman's over took Constantinople and turned it into a mosque in the 1400's, so some mosaics are damaged, others are being restored, and still there are hidden treasures beneath the layers of history.
The Deësis Mosaic is particularly striking, because it has such a sense of realism. I'm so curious what artisan had the patience and dedication to intricately place those tiny tiles.
Other mosaics, like the Comnenus mosaic feature the Byzantine blue. 
The lack of iconography in the mosques is also quite interesting and the subtle glow from the windows and lights is very beautiful. I like the use of light and color without relying on imagery. 
Some of the mosques we visited smelled like feet since the tourists don't go through ablution before entering.
Also, be prepared if you want to visit the mosques to have a head covering and conservative clothing. 

There's also St. Anthony of Padua Church in Beyoğlu tucked away on İstiklal Avenue. 

I had no idea there was such a strong Italian presence, but it does make sense considering both Rome and Istanbul were such great powerhouses for religion and trading.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

merhaba, İstanbul

During the Easter holiday we went to Istanbul. It's fascinating to see a metropolitan area of Turkey, because there is a sizable population of Turks here in Munich from the Gastarbeiter days. It was nice to experience such an historically rich area with incredible hospitality and to better understand why Turkish pride shines through here. The people were so kind and seemed genuinely happy. I'd be happy to live near the water and have delicious food, too.
(As a side note: I love exploring the grocery stores and shops around the Hauptbahnhof area here in Munich. I affectionately call it 'Little Istanbul' around Landwehrstraße. There are always incredible products and it is hands down the best place to get some really great baklava.)

Here are some of the places and things we saw during our visit...
Istanbul panorama

protection from the evil eye

balık ekmek at the Galata Bridge

Sunday at the Bosphorus

Iznik tiles

Crossing two continents

Colors of the Golden Horn

Galata tackle shop

Galata catch

Simit Sesame Rings + Salgam drink

Istanbul Street Foods

Grand Bazaar Lights

Egyptian Spice Market + Pul Biber


Galata Tower view

Basilica Cistern

şiş kebap + Turkish coffee

Taksim Tünel

Orient Express Train Station

Topkapı Palace

Turkish Delight

If you are planning a trip, these links may be helpful:
Spotted by Locals
The Guide Istanbul
Hacı Bekir
Karaköy Güllüoğlu
Hafız Mustafa
Istanbul Eats
Meze by Lemon Tree

(If you're an American you'll also need a visa upon arrival, which costs $20. I only had £ in my wallet, so I attempted to pay the 15£, but that was declined, although the window said it was accepted. We had to go to a nearby ATM that dispensed dollars, euros, and turkish lira so I could pay. As I returned to pay with dollars the man behind the window was counting money including £, so you probably want to bring the cash that is associated with your country to avoid that hassle.)

On our next visit to Turkey I'd like to visit:
The Şakirin Mosque

The next post will be about Mosques + Churches of Istanbul.