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Thoughts reverent and irreverent from the road in Turkey

STROLLING DOWN ARMY STREET

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400 DSC05524It's been a while since I was in İstanbul so it was fun to take a turn along Ordu Caddesi (Army Street) and see what was cooking. Actually, I kicked off in Beyazıt with a quick look to see if there was any chance that the Calilgraphy Museum in the Beyazıt Medresesi had actually reopened. Last year when İstanbul was celebrating its status as European City of Culture the custodians at the museum swore blind that it would reopen by June at the latest. In July there was still no sign of movement and I can't say I was really surprised to rock up there again today and find the same old sign on the door telling me that the museum was closed "because of restoration".

Across the square the restored tomb of Reşit Paşa was looking very spruce; unfortunately though the entrance to the cemetery was closed making it impossible to inspect it more closely. A little down the road I was thrilled to see that work had begun again on the restoration of the Beyazıt Hamam, scene of the plotting that led to the Patrona Halil rebellion and the end of the glitzy early 18th-century Tulip Era. Restoration Phase One was not a success and ground to a halt leaving the bathhouse a giant patchwork of old and new stones. Since then, though, restored hamams have been going great guns as businesses. Hoardings now surround the entire site. Let's hope when they come down again the building will have been given a worthier facelift.

Across the road hoardings are also up around the Hasan Paşa and koca Ragıp Paşa Hans. They're so tall that it's impossible to know what's going on behind them. Personally I would have preferred to see work on one of them completed before they started on the second but since one (Hasan Paşa) was in a shocking state of dereliction and the other (Koca Ragıp Paşa) was inaccessible the end result can only be an improvement.

Restoration work on Laleli Cami has certainly left it looking a great deal perkier and it's a shame that so few visitors ever think to poke their head inside. Even here work remains to be done though and men were still hard at work today repairing the muvakkithane (timekeeper's cottage) in the autumn sun. Inside the mosque the same sun lit up the brilliant red, green and blue stained glass, more colourful here than in most other city mosques. Not so long ago one of the minarets consisted of a series of circular stones laid out on the raised terrace. Now it's back in one piece again although still curiously unbalanced, with a cap that looks as if it should be topping off a much smaller structure.

Last stop on my stroll was the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Cami, the large mosque that struggles so hard to attract attention in the mess of roads that is the Aksaray junction. This too has been given a complete makeover and I'm pleased to report that the interior now looks simply stunning with wall-to-wall grey carpet  creating the fleeting illusion of marble floor to match the mimber and mihrab as you stand in the main entrance. The dome has been painted in glorious rusts and golds, and the walls are covered with what look almost like ekat designs from a distance. It's a mosque that is too easily overlooked so it's sad to see its imposing fountain-flanked entrance covered with the tackiest of religious paraphernalia while the tomb of the Valide Sultan herself is almost hidden behind foliage. The mosque deserves better.

 

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