Istanbul - East meets West, Old and Modern.

We just got back from a glorious nine days in the dynamic city of Istanbul. Our charming apartment in the old foreigner’s part of town called Beyoglu had a bank of windows overlooking the bustling Bosporus Strait which divides Europe and Asia and is teeming with cargo boats, yachts and ferries. From the terrace we were treated to gorgeous sunrises.

At over 15 million people Istanbul is the largest city in Europe.  Built over many centuries on seven hills it’s a walking city but not for the faint hearted. We walked over 40 miles in one week, mostly uphill! With an excellent, fast and cheap tram system it’s easy to get around. And there is so much to see. To start off our stay we arranged for two different experiences. First a young, hip, aspiring model took us on a walking tour called Unknown Istanbul. He took us to the Balat neighborhood, traditionally where the Jews and gypsies lived and treated us to a local delicacy of Turkish ravioli. Not a usual tourist destination.

The next night we went to visit the home of a liberal middle class Turkish family. They prepared us a lavish home- cooked meal and we chatted about life in Istanbul. (80% Inflation and Turkey absorbing 2 million Syrian refugees were just a couple of the topics).

Every morning we set off for the Old City. One of the most amazing sights were the underground Basilica Cisterns. An engineering marvel, they were built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century in Constantinople as a source of water and were unknown to anyone for a century after the Ottoman conquest. For the last five years they were closed for renovation, and they just reopened with walkways, modern sculpture and a spectacular light show. Lucky us! 

We enjoyed wandering the streets around the Sultanahmet District checking out the fancy boutiques of the neighborhoods. We sampled Turkish delight, bought spices and discovered a coffee house with 10 different coffee drinks. I bought a purse and shoes to match made out of a Turkish rug. We poked our nose into the Grand Bazaar but decided to skip it since it was so crowded. And with 9000 restaurants there was delicious fresh food available on every street.

One of the highlights of our trip was the deliciously sensual hammam, the traditional Turkish steam bath where they scrub you from head to toe, and then massage you with bubble bath. We loved it so much we went twice!

We had come to Istanbul looking for design inspiration, so we headed off to the Topkapi Palace.  One of the greatest glories of Ottoman art are the gorgeous tiles made to decorate mosques and palaces by the Turkish pottery at Iznik. The walls and ceilings of the Harem in the Topkapi palace are covered with Iznik tiles in brilliant combinations of cobalt blue, turquoise, olive green, magenta and red.

Here is the fabric we designed as our interpretation of a classic Iznik design. We call it Turkish Tile!

Then, on the street behind the Topkapi palace we came across this photo booth. Dress up as an Ottoman with numerous costumes to choose from!

Don't we look the part!