ISTANBUL CONTINUED

Let’s start today with the small boy mentioned yesterday and pictured here with his proud parents. I understand that he was dressed like this in keeping with Turkish tradition for a boy about to be circumcised – although it appeared that in his case the circumcision had already taken place. Often it is done by the age of two, although sometimes the procedure is left until just before the child’s sixth birthday.

Moving swiftly on to the Golden Horn – when I went there on Sunday morning I expected, in my ignorance, to see a magnificent golden edifice rising on the horizon, rather like mosques dominating Istanbul’s skyline. However, instead, after being suspended in a cable car taking me to the Pierre Loti Café, I learned that ‘Golden Horn’ is actually the romanticised Western name for the horn-shaped Bay of Istanbul. This (its Turkish name is Halic) is the freshwater estuary, separating the ‘old’ and ‘new’ parts of European Istanbul.

Despite slight disappointment over the nature of the Horn, I thoroughly enjoyed the café’s hospitality as I sat in the glorious sunshine loving the beautiful view spread out below me.

During my stay in the city, not long after hearing the early morning call to prayer, I looked out of my bedroom window on a couple of occasions and saw a woman with a torch shaking the chestnut tree just below – and, of course, gathering up her harvest as the nuts dropped off! She was presumably supplying one of the ubiquitous stalls selling roasted chestnuts that had had the top half of their skins removed, making them easy to eat walking along the street. Her pre-dawn assaults on the tree seemed rather enterprising to me!

Finally, at least for the timebeing, on the subject of Istanbul, I said I’d tell you about my visit to watch the way genuine hand-knotted carpets and rugs are made. It was quite extraordinary to see this demonstration from a woman who sits for hours (though, to protect her eyesight, fingers and back, strict time-limits are imposed on how long each sitting lasts) at her loom double-knotting each coloured strand in its appointed place. The double knots are so that the strands are guaranteed there to stay!

There was then a very professional display of the fabulous variety of carpets and rugs for sale. I must admit to having succumbed to temptation – bringing home with me one of the smallest rugs, accompanied by its Certificate Of Origin & Authenticity.

Every time I look at it I’ll be reminded of a most memorable Turkish journey!

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