Turkish Delight.

A few weeks ago Ville and I had a few hours alone to wander around his home city of Turku (Åbo if you are a Swedish speaking Finn) in Finland. After beer at Koulu, and tea and cakes along the riverbank, we went and sat in the cathedral. The interior has to be one of the ugliest I have ever seen, but there is just something about these big spaces designed with the elevation of the soul in mind that draws you in. I was not surprised when Ville (from a Marxist atheist family) told me that he sometimes used to just come and sit after school. Growing up in the new town of Crawley I too found a cathedral in which to sit and dreamer of a higher life: Gatwick Airport! I whiled away many hours people-watching and picturing life on the other side of the departure gates. I was also lucky that Dad's interests in archaeology (especially industrial) and history meant that he found every location within driving distance that could help us kids situate themselves in English history and legend.

Since moving to Istanbul there has been no difficulty finding places of immense size that draw your imagination up just as they have you plunge roots amongst the stones of history. Last week I had the privilege of taking our Godson Oskar for a couple of days sightseeing in the city. In planning what to do I said to Ruskin 'Shall we take him to see Prophet Muhammad's beard and tooth, the staff of Moses and the Sultan's Harem?' Hurrah for Istanbul! These are just some of the things to see at Topkapi Palace, perfect for an age before magic and mystery have been firmly put in their place. The children I have taken to the palace have asked questions about provenance, human frailty and the search for meaning, justice and physical violence (there are swords here that Tolkien would have swooned at) and so much more. Oskar, bright and deep, did not disappoint. What a pleasure it is to witness the internal working of a mind in which the cogs have not yet settled, where thoughts still jar and surprise. I should throw some more grit on mine so I run a little less predictably! Oskar's world, still populated by possibilities, is exhilarating.

One Topkapi favourite is a recess just big enough to squeeze a body in. Climbing into this marble gap is irresistible. Of course for Anton (see the photos below) this is just another place to drive cars.

From Topkapi we went to the Basilica Cistern. Under the ground, 336 columns hold up a cathedral to human ingenuity (and the work of a reported 7,000 slaves) in the provision of water to an often besieged city. One of the many things that makes this space such a great experience is that some of the columns are from earlier constructions. Most famously two Medusa heads have been used for column bases. Its was fantastic to see Oskar discover them in the dripping gloom. The dull grey gleam of carp swimming in the shallow water that remains also adds to the atmosphere.

When we were walking towards the Egyptian Bazaar in search of Turkish delight made with pomegranates and roses, I overheard a wonderful conversation between Oskar and Ruskin. Oskar expressed frustration that the government won't just remove a sliver of stone from the Medusa heads to see which one contains petrified skull and brains. He wants to know which of the two is the 'real' Gorgons head. 'But could the other one belong to one of her sisters?', he asks.

I am determined that all of us be expanded by the big places we are lucky enough to raise our eyes in. Thank you Istanbul.

Neve in a white sun hat.

Neve in a white sun hat.

Driving cars in the space at Topkapi Palace.

Anton looking at me at Topkapi Palace.

Dried suncream on first day hair growth.

Oskar in the space at Topkapi Palace.

Turkish Delight.

Oskar and Pepi in a hammock.

Three hammocks.

Oskar making Neve and Pepi laugh.

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3 thoughts on “Turkish Delight.

  1. Wonderful pics Julia... the children are so beautiful! And this little girl´s tongue is so funny!

  2. I continue to be amazed by your experience and the beauty of your surroundings. Beautiful pictures of your kiddos! I love the first one, upside down. It draws all of the attention to those beautiful blue eyes.

  3. Gorgeous and amazing. All in one. Love your stories and your photos, so beautiful.


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