The Arts Society The Arts Society
Chester

A Member Society of THE ARTS SOCIETY

 

Treasures of Istanbul

Twenty five members and some partners of members embarked on a five day visit to Istanbul from the 17th October. We were hosted by Linda Hill who had organised the venture through Heritage Travel. For most, if not all the party, this was their first visit to what is a magical and amazing city of some 16 million people. Istanbul can fairly be described as the cross roads of cultures, the meeting point of Europe and Asia and representative of the current stresses of a marriage of a young and apparently secular society with a traditional Islamic one.

Following an excellent flight on Turkish Airlines from Manchester we were based in the very comfortable, Armada Hotel in Sultanamet with magnificent views of the Bosphorus from the terrace facing East and the Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia in the West. The wonderful breakfasts overlooking the Bosphorus were truly memorable. The trip entailed a comprehensive programme of visits lead by an enthusiastic, female guide, Elgis, who after our initial morning visits recognised our party was not her usual, traditional tourist clientele! From then on she contributed greatly to our visit through her inside knowledge of history, current affairs and Turkish cuisine.

After the first day of rather depressing rain which clearly followed us from Manchester the following days were blessed with clear blue skies. Our first sight in the rain was somewhat disconcerting- a scaffold and tarpaulin covered Fountain donated to the people of Turkey by Bismark ! However, thereafter the cultural dimension of the trip rapidly improved toward the spectacular. The list of visits was both comprehensive and representative of the different eras that have made Istanbul and Turkey the “melting pot” for its diverse cultural influences. This was represented through the well preserved underground cisterns of pre-Roman times used as a water source to the later Byzantine era to the Haghia Sophia built by Justinian but transformed by the Ottomans into a mosque, through to the extensive and palatial extravagances of the Ottoman Empire. The Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and the more recent staggeringly opulent constructions of the later Ottomans such as the Beyleri and and Dolmabahce Palaces, both fronting the Bosphorus, were later examples of this enduring dynasty. During our visit to the Dolmabahce Palace we were privileged to see room where Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey died; the difference in his taste compared with the surrounding opulence was a significant contrast.

The visit went extremely smoothly for which we thank the organisational skills of Linda Hill ensuring both smooth organisation and a diverse and comprehensive programme.  It was an “action packed” four days and its success can be measured by the many members of the party who expressed a wish to return to what is a magical, diverse and friendly city despite the number Cruise Ships who challenged the more discerning NADFAS tourists in some attractions !!     

Report by Mr & Mrs Molyneux