48th Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey

It's impossible for us to miss the Presidential Tour of Turkey, unless we go away for the day, as it passes our building no less than eight times in the closing laps of this gruelling race. We can also watch the progress of the race on television at the same time, so we know just when to go out on to the balcony to cheer them on, or in my case to take photos.

Our road is closed for the race, so here is an unusual view of
our usually traffic congested road, Bağdat Caddesi.

We had a great view of the race from our balcony

There are eight stages of the tour in various parts of western Turkey, and the final 120 kilometre lap is in Istanbul. This last leg began in Sultanahmet, by the Aya Sofya, crossed both the Galata and Bosphorus Bridges, and ended in the Bostanci Coastal Highway, close to where we live.

I rushed down to the finishing line, just in time to see the
beginning of the last lap. The ultimate winner, Ivailo Grabovski,
can be seen in the green strip here

This is the sprint to the finish from the 300 metre mark

Both the first and last stages were won by the Dutch rider, Theo Bos, riding in the Rabobank team. But the overall winner was Ivailo Grabovski from Bulgaria, riding for the Turkish team Konya Torku Seker Spor, so you can imagine the excitement of the crowds when that was announced.

The Dutch cyclist, Theo Bos, being congratulated by Abdullah Gül, the President of Turkey. On the lright is Andrew Fenn (GBR) second,
and on the left Stefan van Dijk (Ned) third.

The leader jerseys were awarded as follows: Turquoise Jersey (Overall Winner) was presented to Ivailo Gabrovski (Bulgaria); Red Jersey (King of the Mountains, or best climber) was presented to Marco Bandiera (Italy); Green Jersey (Points) was presented to Matthew Goss (Australia); and White Jersey (Sprints) was presented to Maxim Belkov (Russia); and the best team effort was won by Astana from Kazakhstan.

The winners!

There's never a dull moment here in Istanbul!


Walking the Walls of Constantinople

The ancient walls of Constantinople
David and I joined a tour for "A walk along the Land Walls of Constantinople - from the Marmara Sea to the Golden Horn", organised by the Friends of ARIT (the American Research Institute in Turkey). Even though rain was promised, the day was glorious, the rain only arriving at the end of the day as we were going home.

The siege of Constantinople in 1453

Our tour began at the Panorama museum in the Topkapi Culture Park. This museum is dedicated to the fall of Constantinople, when Fatih Sultan Mehmed II laid seige to the city in 1453. It is called the Panorama museum because in the domed roof, there is a 360 degree painting, depicting the breaching of the walls of Contantinople. While circling around the dome, looking at the paintings, there is the constant sound of battle. It is an amazing experience!

The original wall was guarded by 96 towers.

From there, we went to walk along the very same walls, much of them still standing as they were left after the seige, while others have been renovated to show how they originally looked. The walls run for six-and-a-half kilometres from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn, along the coast. This stretch was the focus of our walk.

The moat is being used for urban gardens, producing vegetables

The building of the walls began in the 5th century, with a deep moat surrounding them, and provided a formidable fortification for the city's protection. They held fast for hundreds of years until the invention of gunpowder, and cannons that could fire huge cannon balls.

We even found some old cannon balls!

We stopped off at this pigeon market along the way

Apparently, pigeon fancying is huge in Turkey

This was the site of the last Byzantine palace

The waterfountain of the sacred spring

We visited the Church of St Mary of Blachernae, which is famous for its sacred spring, and a major Marian shrine in the city. The present church was built in 1867, on the site of the original one, built in 450, and destroyed by fire in 1434.

The Golden Horn Walls

Houses due for demolition

A huge amount of development is going on in Istanbul, and there are many areas selected for renewal. This settlement next to the walls is due for demolition, to make way for more modern housing. We were standing on the walls when I took this photo.

Cock-a doodle-doo!

There were chickens running about under the ancient walls. I managed to catch this cock just as he was crowing. It was obviously time to go home! What a rich history this city has. We are so privileged to be living here.


The 7th International Istanbul Tulip Festival 2012

Traditional Turkish music in Ermigan park

It's tulip time again in Istanbul, and the city's parks and open spaces are a blaze of colour. The Istanbul Municipality planted eleven and a half million bulbs this year to celebrate the 7th International Istanbul Tulip Festival. Most people associate tulips with the Netherlands, but the cultivation of tulips there only began in the 16th century, with bulbs brought from the Ottoman Empire. The tulip has long been a national symbol of Turkey, and has been represented in Turkish art and culture over many centuries. This festival is a way of restoring the tulip to its ancient home.

Ladies of our IWI neighbourhood coffee morning

The 117 acre Ermigan Park is the centre for activities involved with the festival, so I went with a group of friends, organised by Lynn and Jan, to see the tulips of every variety and hue, in beautifully laid out beds.

Tulips of every variety and hue

We all admired the tulips...

...and took lots of photos

The grape hyacinths made a river, surrounded by tulips.
They had even added ducks!


I loved these delicate pink tulips

There's always a rogue tulip somewhere!

An Ottoman tulip. The symbol of the festival!


Gary Visits from Saratoga Camera Club

While I waited to meet the group, I noticed the people setting up their 
booths to sell seed, to feed the pigeons outside the Yeni Camii

Our photography club was pleased to welcome Gary, who was visiting Istanbul with his wife, Ann. Gary belongs to Los Gatos - Saratoga Camera Club, and had contacted Jennifer, our leader, to see if he could join us on a trek. This was a great idea, as we were able to show Gary parts of Istanbul that most tourists never get to see.

We set off across the Galata Bridge to shoot the fishermen there

We came across this man selling live worms and shrimp for bait

This woman was selling buns, called poaça, to the hungry fishermen

Once on the other side of the bridge in Karaköy, I took a photo of
Farzana taking a photo of this simit seller

We visited a baklava bakery, and this waiter was eager to show us a 
tray of baklava, decorated to show Barak Obama.

Here is a close-up, so you can see the work 
that went into the decoration

We visited a Russian Othodox Church on the 5th floor of a building.
From the window, we could see other churches on the tops of buildings

We were surprised to see a Turkish Orthodox church. 
I hadn't realised they existed until now.

In one narrow street, we came across this street dog that had 
made itself comfortable on an armchair in the street

Ieva was good enough to model for us, so we could practise portrait shots...

...and jumping shots

We ended by walking along Istiklal, and back down to Karaköy

This musician was very accommodating, 
and didn't mind us taking photgraphs of him

I certainly enjoyed my day, and I hope Gary did too. I think he had an excellent idea in contacting our group. It's something to consider when I am in foreign parts myself!

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I couldn't resist this one!