Tuesday 4 September 2012

Stopover in Constantinople

I have been doing some housekeeping and you may have read this before at the end of my post on Zanzibar.

A pendant to my visit to Africa is ten hours between planes in Turkey.

I am on a sunny back street in Constantinople - which I have decided I love so long as I keep away from the tourist centre (all those Japanese) and the centre generally (all those Europeans). Take the metro from the airport to Aksaray at the end of the line and you are in the real Turkey of tea shops kebab houses and men meditatively reading the paper smoking hubble bubble pipes. Every Turk as a gentleman - a wonderful race.

There is something 1960s about Turkey - not the 1960s of free love but the real 60s of respectability and little shops and men in overalls carrying ladders.

When I visited Constantinople for the first time in 1990 I found it a huge disappointment because I was looking for something else which I had found in Bucharest and Budapest (Sofia was dullish even then). Now, after changing my mind several times since then, I finally decide I like the place, though not the centre too much. I mourn though the interesting wooden Constantinople which was demolished in the 60s and 70s - at the same time as they demolished England.

The Chorea church/mosque is a delightful refuge from the madding crowd. I was there last year and recommend it - exquisite mosaics and a peaceful garden just beyond the ancient city wall which still stands. It became a museum in 1945.

Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks'

I came across the 

blithe incuriosity of Jimmy Kennedy's marvelous couplet in his 1950s pop hit Istanbul(Not Constantinople):

thanks to the sainted Mark Steyn

1 comment:

  1. Come on down -- we'll leave the porch light on for you!