Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Beauty of Wooden Spoons

There 's something I love about wooden utensils especially spoons. Its durability, versatility and beautiful texture. Wooden spoons do not scratch non-stick cooking pans, do not give a chemical reaction to food with high acidity and make stirring lemon curd or kaya such a joy despite the heat. Spoons made of beechwood and olive wood are especially nice to the touch. Bought a set of small wooden spoons at the Izmir bazaar and for some strange reasons, I love it more than my beautiful Turkish hand painted bowls. Ah...the simple joys in life.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hissy, Fizzy and Bitchy

Once upon a time, there lived 3 magic gnomes - Hissy, Fizzy and Bitchy.
Each had its own special power. Hissy had an iron gut. He could clear an entire banquet at one go. No food was inedible. He just didn't believe in wasting food. He was pleasant to be around with except for the occasional hissy fit.If his favorite restaurant was closed, he would stomp his foot, roll his eyes and behave most unreasonably till he spotted another restaurant.His favorite body accessory - a food guide which he carried around like Brother John from the Seven Day Adventist Church. Food was his holy communion.

Fizzy was the wise one. His special gift - storage. He does not believe in taking chances and if there ever was a thunderstorm, snowstorm  or even an earthquake, he had emergency supplies all packed in a 50-ton bag, slung over his shoulder effortlessly. It had everything he wanted and even more and they came mostly in twos - two blankets, two hot water bottles etc etc. Most of all, Fizzy loved to make deposits, not the money kind and took the greatest pleasure describing the details . His most precious body parts - his thumbs.  He would offer his body and soul but request that you leave the thumbs behind.

Bitchy was the whiny one. He bitched when asked to bend over for 25 Turkish liras and whined if Hissy insisted that everyone gets down the bus way before the scheduled stop. Bitchy had a special power too. He could sleep through most occasions, even earthquakes caused by Hissy's fits. Nothing could ever disturb his sleep, not even Hissy's meltdowns.

One day, Hissy, Fizzy and Bitchy decided to take a trip to Turkey. An elf named Dizzy wanted to come along. Her special gift - the ability to hurl when she became dizzy, making deposits of her own kind.  Despite being the odd one out, she was sure they would get along on this journey........

Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The interior of the Topkapi Palace shows a lavish use of Iznik tiles of blue, green and coral red on the walls and ceilings. Other features include marble and wood panelling, stained glass windows and beautiful mother of pearl and tortoise shell inlay for doors and windows. These are fine examples of Ottoman, classical, palace architecture. 

Beautiful domed ceilings are characteristic of the Topkapi Palace


Mother of pearl, tortoise-shell decorated cupboard and window panels 

The Baghdad kiosk, built in 1638 to commemorate the Baghdad campaign of Murat IV

A silver "mangal" (charcoal stove), a present from King Loius XIV of France

One country across 2 continents

Our lovely lady host at Safran Cave Hotel with a golden heart of A-SI-DE

With her charming sons who help run the business

The boy is the one who is really in charge (Cappadocia)

A sweet guy from a local Turkish neighbourhood 

One country across 2 continents. A country which inherited a rich culture and civilization from both  Christianity and Islam. A country which had a visionary leader, Ataturk who paved the way for a modern Turkey.

The people of Turkey were warm and hospitable. Like the lady who ran the Safran Cave Hotel in Cappadocia who cooked us a nice dinner of lentil soup, pottery kebab (a meat stew cooked in clay) and a special Turkish dessert called aside (pronounced as A-SI-DE).

We were also impressed by a little kid in Cappadocia who ran a shop like a pro while his dad was out on a short break, a charming Turkish salesman who called out to us "Can I help you to spend your money ? " (should have taken his picture) and a local confectionery shop guy from an un-touristy part of Istanbul, who was very friendly to 4 pandas from Singapore, even though he couldn't speak a word of English.

The Harem at Topkapi Palace - Istanbul, Turkey

The Harem at Topkapi Palace was the private living quarters of the Sultan's family and concubines during the time of the Ottoman Empire.

It was divided into many parts - the courtyard of the Queen Mother, the Courtyard of the Sultan's consorts and concubines, the Queen's apartments, the privy chambers of the Sultan, the apartments of the Crown prince , the Courtyard of Favourites and more. Didn't take as many pictures as I wanted to as the SD card in my camera was full and I was struggling to erase old pics. But I was thinking as I went along that with so many consorts and concubines under the same roof, it must be a living hell to be in the Harem. One day you're the flavour of the week and the next , you're not.

Courtyard of the Apartments of the Queen Mother 

The fountain of the Privy Chamber of Murat III

Süleymaniye Mosque

It is the largest mosque in Istanbul, built on the order of Sultan Suleyman and drawing on the architectural genius of Mimar Sinan, Turkey's most famous architect of that time. Combining Islamic and Byzantine elements, it features  4 slender minarets with domes. It is indeed an impressive piece of work known to be Sinan's best. For support of the main dome, Sinan designed buttresses into the walls of the building, with half projecting inside and half outside, then hid the projections by building galleries. Sinan has always been inspired by the Aga Sofia and its apparent supportless dome and what he has done at Suleymaniye mosque was his answer.

The interior design is simply elegant - marble and mother of pearl with highlights of the colour fuchsia and most of all, a very restrained use of Iznik tiles. Though it took us a lot of effort to walk to the Suleyman mosque from the pier - climbing steep slopes, walking on cobbled stone streets and passing many many toy shops, it was worth it. And unlike the Blue Mosque, the Suleyman Mosque is off the tracks frequented by tourists. I was happy to be among the locals. 


Chora Museum

We bought a 72 hour museum pass during our visit to Istanbul which gave access to the Aya Sofia, the Topkapi Palace, the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic arts, the Islamic mosaic museum and the Chora Museum. Most of these places are within the Sultanahmet area except for Chora Museum which was far out in the outskirts of the city.

We trotted down to the pier , pier 6 to be precise as pointed out by many Turkish people along the way but we couldn't see any beyond pier 5. So we trotted down to the bus station which had Bus 90 leaving in 30 minutes. We then sat in the sun and waited . After a whole morning of being quite lost, we finally took the bus but came down way too early (just one of those days). Eventually we walked, for around 4 kilometres till we saw a small church. Unimpressive from the outside but what a beautiful sight within -  unparalleled in Turkey and some say the world for its frescoes and mosaics which illustrates stories about Jesus and the old testament. When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the Chora Church was converted into the mosque Kariye Camii and the frescoes painted over. This probably saved them from further deterioration and with restoration, the beauty within has been revived.  It was definitely worth the trip !