Two years ago we decided to spend Christmas in Istanbul, and I was thinking about it earlier today. Of course, I also went back to Istanbul with my good friend Sarah this past September, so I have more recent memories as well. I really love Istanbul. No, I mean I REALLY LOVE Istanbul. If I wasn’t living in London, I could very easily be convinced that the Bosphorus was the place for me. 🙂
So here are a few pictures from the Aya Sofia, (follow the link for all the information about the site). It was built as a Christian church in the year 537 during the Byzantine Empire. It was a Greek Orthodox Basilica until the year 1453, when Byzantium was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and the city became known as Constantinople. At that time, the Aya Sofia was converted into a mosque. Many of the religious icons in the church were destroyed, but some of the most beautiful mosaics were simply plastered over, which actually protected them quite well. The building served as a mosque until 1931, when it was closed for four years. In 1935 it was reopened as a museum, although it is the building and it’s history that is being preserved, not any collections inside. (There are some snarky comments on TripAdvisor about people who are expecting a traditional museum experience – clearly they didn’t do their homework!)
Luckily for me, Alex has a work trip to Istanbul next fall, so I’ll definitely be going back again!
Our trip to Croatia over the Christmas holidays was incredibly special – it’s definitely in the top 3 of my “list of favourite places”. (So far the others are Japan and Istanbul.) Walking along the city walls was without a doubt the highlight of the trip, which is why I’m going to post these pictures from our jaunt around the town. First of all, it’s not a short jaunt. We’ve walked the city walls in places like York and Winchester, so we thought we knew what to expect. Even in Istanbul, the short sections that you can actually access are not very extensive. But we weren’t prepared for Dubrovnik. There are only 2 or 3 access points, and once you are ON the wall, you can’t get OFF.
Wikipedia says that the wall runs for 1,940 metres, but I could easily believe it was double that, simply for the amount of stairs! Dubrovnik is perched on the side of a mountain, and the amount of ups and downs makes for a strenuous “jaunt!”
But it was gorgeous. Absolutely, stunningly, jaw-droppingly perfect.
- Take water. In the summer months there is one café, approximately halfway around, that sells snacks and drinks, but in the winter you are on your own. And because the sun can be quite bright (even in December), you’ll be thirsty before you get to the first tower.
- But not too much water. There is only one set of toilets on the wall – about halfway around (conveniently near the café), and they charge for admittance. So don’t drink too much, or you’ll find yourself hurrying around the last bits just to get down again!
- Wear comfy shoes. I already mentioned the steps, but I re-iterate. There are a lot of steps. We probably went up and down the equivalent of 8-10 storeys on well-worn stone steps, some with handrails, but some without.
- Ask if you can leave at the halfway point and come back. The signage is very confusing, particularly during the off-season. It seemed to use that once you enter the walls, you have to complete the full circuit before you can leave, and your ticket is only good for one entry. However, I’ve found reference in various guidebooks that you can leave the wall and come back later – although there are only 2 or 3 places you can do this, it would have been nice to break the day.
- Don’t stop too often. In the beginning we stopped every 20 feet to take pictures because it’s JUST SO BEAUTIFUL, before realising that we would be on the wall for days if we didn’t pick up the pace. Don’t worry – it just gets better and better – you won’t miss anything.
- Don’t forget that people live next to the walls. It was fairly empty during our circumnavigation, but I can only imagine that in the summer months it’s crawling with tourists. And there were people hanging out on their balconies, doing laundry, washing the dog … all the regular activities of life, mere metres from where we were being obnoxiously touristy.
So, all that being said, here are some of our snaps. Enjoy!
I am not an architect. I have never studied architecture. (Although I snogged an architect once, which surely gives me some credentials.) This post might come off quite badly, and I might look like a pretentious twerp because of it, but I’m going to persevere. Not because I think I’m better than I am, but because I think that good architecture should speak to everyone, not just the intellectually informed or highly-educated.
I am going to write a bit of an architectural review of MALBA, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. The building was designed by AFT Architects, an Argentinian firm that Wikipedia claims is “renowned”, although I would argue that point. It houses a collection of modern work by artists across South America, which is a great idea. The collection itself is nice, though a bit small, but I can certainly appreciate the goals of the organization.
What I have mixed feelings about is the building.