Happy New Year from Istanbul

Mutlu Yillar means Happy New Year in Turkish

New Year celebrations here in Istanbul are over, and the decorations are coming down; although some shops, restaurants, and private houses are still festooned with typical decorations. To celebrate New Year, there are ornamental Christmas trees, street lights, and even Santa Claus, to be found all over the city. This is because Turkey uses all the trappings of Christmas to celebrate the New Year. ...even down to a turkey dinner, and presents from Noel Baba (Father Noel).

Noel Baba waves to passers-by on Bagdat Caddesi where I live

The presence of Santa Claus is not that surprising, considering he was born here, in Turkey. Saint Nicholas was born in Patara on Turkey's Mediterranean coast during the 3rd century, and became Bishop of Myra. He gained a reputation for secret gift-giving, and it was rumoured he had extra pockets sewn into his cloak that he filled with fruit and candy to give to children. This gave rise to the story of the kind Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus), who secretly leaves presents on Christmas Eve.

Many shops were beautifully decorated like this one...

...and this one

Christmas trees were everywhere...

...in different guises

...my local hairdresser had one in their salon.

All along the street were installations reminiscent of Christmas - like presents...

...and baubles...

...although I wasn't sure about the bear...

...or the elephant!

According to numerologists, 2015 is going to be a year of abundance and happiness, so here is wishing you everything you wish yourselves, and may this be the happiest of Happy New Years!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Christmas in Italy

The view from Clare's apartment is stunning!

We had a wonderful Christmas in Italy with our daughter, Clare and family. It was such fun, although the time flew by so quickly that it seemed no time before we were back in Istanbul again!

We all wore Venetian masks while we opened our presents.
Clare and Jessica looked particularly fetching!

Reg kept us amused with his party popper...

...which Hugo found quite fascinating/

David wore his cashmere scarf (a present from Santa)...

...while Clare poured the champagne.

We had Christmas day lunch at Laguna Blu, our favourite restaurant,
where Santa was waiting to greet us.

As we entered the restaurant, we came across this Nativity Scene,
made entirely form pizza dough.

Our table was by the window...

,,,and this was the view outside. How wonderful was that?
It makes me smile just to see it again.

David and Jessica poured over the menu to see what delights we had in store.

The meal began with an aperitivo (non alcoholic for the young people)...

...and finished (after 5 more courses) with traditional pandoro and panettone with cream

There was definitely no room for supper that evening after such a gargantuan meal!

We have always enjoyed eating at Bistrot Laguna Blu, every time we visit Clare. Here is a video I made last summer, which shows the restaurant and its surroundings. Enjoy!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Mary and Annette visit Istanbul

Mary and Annette next to the stunning view from the Topkapi Palace

It's very easy to show visitors a good time in Istanbul, as Mary and Annette discovered. Fortunately they were blessed with good weather, and were able to see the city at its best. Of course, we just had to do the tourist bit and see the major sights, like Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and so on, but we managed to get in a fair bit of shopping too!

Scarves are a must-buy when you visit the Grand Bazaar. Mary and Annette also had a lesson
there in how to drape a scarf to the best effect

They took lots of photos of their trip. Here, Mary is photographing the Bosphorus
from the roof of the Buyuk Valide Han

Mary and Annette comparing photos as they ride in a ferry

We visited the Sali Pazar (Tuesday Bazaar), which is always a fun thing to do,
especially if you love shopping!

We just couldn't believe the size of these cabbages this man was selling!

One of our outings was to Buyukada (the Big Island). Annette loved these
typically Turkish covered benches in this cafe...

...and we thought Mary should have her picture taken here, too!

We took a drive in a carriage....

...and walked through the forest 

But Mary thought she needed an extra workout!

I had lots of fun showing Mary and Annette around Istanbul, and I am sure they had fun too! I do hope they get to visit again!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


The Museum of Innocence, Çukurcuma, Istanbul

Some of our group in the museum, listening intently to the narrative

The Museum of Innocence in the Çukurcuma district of Istanbul, is the result of an extraordinary concept by the writer Orhan Pamuk. The museum contains items from upper-class Istanbul life from the 1970s to the early 2000s, which Pamuk began collecting, before he wrote his novel, "The Museum of Innocence", around them.

The story is about Kemal Basmaci, and his 40-year obsession with his distant cousin, Fusun, beginning in 1975, even though he was already engaged to Sybel. The museum is fascinating, whether one has read the novel or not. Although, when visiting, it is wise to hire the audio, to give more meaning to the exhibits.

The numbers on the cases, indicate the chapter number in the book that mentions the objects inside.

This is a picture of the old Istanbul streets, that Kemal wandered, tormented by his love of Fusun. 
And the room key, and reception bell from the hotel he stayed in, when running away from Sybel. (Chapter 44)

Here is a tin spoon that Fusun had toyed with in her mouth... Fusun's half eaten cone, that Kemal pocketed when she dropped it on the ground... one of his dear departed father's shoes... a stuffed mussle, like the ones they ate together, next to some cinnamon that the chef told them was an essential ingredient... a salt shaker Fusun had picked up... and an invitation to a party
(Chapter 51)

Chapter 73, Fusun's Driving Licence
Here Kemal remembers teaching Fusun to drive, and everything about her from that time
 ...what she wore ...what she touched ...how she looked.

Kemal's bedroom, where he supposedly ended his days, narrating his story to Orhan Pamuk

Is this all pure fiction, or is there some semblance of truth? Who knows, except Pamuk himself? But there is one enigmatic notice on the bedroom wall.

Although you need to visit Istanbul to see the Museum of Innocence, you can, at least, read the story of this obsessive, compulsive relationship, as conceived by Orhan Pamuk.

by Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!