Istanbul Day Two

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TRAVEL

Even though V. and me are very serious about our sightseeing, there’s always enough time to sleep in. After all we’re here for five days! A juicy fruit breakfast from the local shop followed by a quick espresso and we were good to go. First, a visit to the Museum for Turkish & Islamic Art. It’s a really well made museum: its architecture, the lighting and writing, the way of exhibiting plus the selection of exhibits – something I learned to notice when interning at a Zurich based architectural firm that specialises in scenography.

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Then, the Basilika Cistern. An Istanbul Classic I’ve always wanted to visit ever since my parents told me about it.

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And, finally, one of the most impressive buildings I have ever been to. Also one of the most impressive and oldest buildings of human history, dating back to the 6th century: the Hagia Sophia. I was really excited to go, but immediately put off by the crowds of people queuing to get in. Well, that’s what you get for traveling during the main season. We had no other choice but to join the masses. Both my sister and me are not really keen on people. Ever. On top of that, we share the conviction that the more people there are, the worse their behaviour gets. And the more they piss us off. Oh boy, visiting the Hagia Sophia was a prime example of why I don’t like people.

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I realised that people don’t look anymore. I mean properly. They don’t look at what surrounds them, they don’t take it in, they’re not bothered. Not a single person in the Hagia Sophia was walking around without a screen in front of their nose. We’ve come to a point where people don’t stop to take a picture and then carry on staring at the breathtaking art. No, we’ve come to a point where people walk with their hands held high to take iPhone videos, but no one actually looks. I don’t get it – you return home with hour long videos of footage which no one will ever look at. Especially cause they’re crap and blurry. Even the best cameras don’t manage to capture an atmosphere like the Hagia Sophia’s. People fixed to the screen run into you or you they slap you with their selfie sticks. Fucking selfie sticks. I don’t know what happened to this world that people feel the need to constantly take photos of themselves but all generations do it. Selfie sticks in Istanbul are cheaper than water.

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It makes me sad to see how little people are actually interested in the world around us. But the thing is that kids these days aren’t raised to be interested. Parents sit them down in the corner of the Hagia Sophia and give them an iPad, the size of their head, to play with to shut them up. Or they hand them a plate of French fries and some youtube videos so they’re not annoying during dinner. In a way it’s sad, yes, but it also pisses me off how stupid people can be. That they don’t realise what amazing things they have in front of their eyes. What they’re missing out on. In case you haven’t noticed, even thinking about it makes me angry again. During my visit in the Hagia Sophia, I quickly put my camera away cause I didn’t wanna be part of this brainwashed photo taking cult. I just wanted to look.

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The Hagia Sophie transported me back to this one time when my family traveled to India. I was about 12 years old and we visited the Udaipur City Palace, where I remember how caught up I was between the breathtaking beauty of this place and my fear that I would forget what it looked like. I tried to stay for as long as I could and just stare at one particular thing, like  a ceiling or a door. The colours, the details, the handcrafting – I was so fascinated and I wanted to remember it all. My eyes followed the lines, observed the light on the wood. At the Hagia Sophia, I had the same kind of alarming feeling that I would never be able to see it all or remember it all. So I stood and tried to soak it all in (while trying to not get hit by an iPhone zombie).

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At night my sister and me headed over to Galata Tower and Taksim Square. We discovered this little antique bookshop, which immediately put a spell on my sister – I don’t know anyone who reads as much or as fast as her. The old owner of the place, an Istanbul local, quickly approached us when he realised that he could practice his rusty German with us. He had spent several years living in Germany, very close to where my dad grew up. But even after all these years his German wasn’t rusty at all and you could tell by the way he spoke to us that he was a smart sharp guy with worldly wisdom. He told us stories about Istanbul in the 1920s or the Istanbul of the 1950s while showing us some amazing photographs. He told us about the artists and the writers that he has met during his life and everything he loves to collect in his shop. The very special stuff such as antique books from the 17th century were hidden upstairs and not for everyone’s eyes to see. But he asked us if we wanted some whiskey and maybe have a look at the valuable upper floor. I know my sister would’ve loved to but we politely declined and said our goodbyes. About 200 metres down the road we regretted leaving and we made a promise to ourselves that we would come back the day after tomorrow.
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