Words and pictures


The Blue Mosque seen from a window at the Hagia Sophia

Thanks to the brilliant Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings, I recently started reading David Whyte’s gorgeous book Consolations: the Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. Whyte, an English poet, has selected 52 words, from ambition to courage to procrastination, and offers brief but profound reflections on each. And there, in the middle of the table of contents, among virtues and vices, I see this word: Istanbul.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to make my first visit to Istanbul, meeting up with a dear friend at the start of her 6-week travel adventure (hi, Ellen!). It is a fascinating place, unlike anywhere I’d ever been before. The mix of secular and religious, the astounding history, the sounds of the call to prayer, the ancientness of it all – these combine to create a sensory experience that requires your full attention. It threatens to overwhelm but can also be sheer delight, (especially if you wander into a hamam).


Istanbul from the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul is a place that is hard to describe, hard to summarize or explain to others. But Whyte manages to do it beautifully:


Galata Tower (in the distance) and the changing Istanbul skyline.

“The piles of pomegranates, the heaps of turmeric and the wafted scent of saffron from the stalls remind us we are never just one thing, never just one set of senses, that we are no one name, we are Constantinople and Istanbul and even Stanboul and we have carried the frontier between the past and the present with us all our lives…we live now but all our history and even our future is already occurring even as we walk the street, fading into the jubilant evening light of a day, strangely and even reluctantly, already beginning to end.”

2 thoughts on “Words and pictures

  1. Another great one and love the photos and remembrances. Still trying to process all the delights that continue. Istanbul with you was a definite highlight but there are others. I’m at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao awaiting a dance performance. This city is amazing. After non-stop thrills (and no Turkish baths 😦 I took my first siesta yesterday and planning another tomorrow.

    Italy 2 Ellen 0

    Second trip to Italy and robbed twice. First was camera stolen on Vatican bound bus (1993). This time car window smashed and handbag stolen from car while hiking in the Dolomites. Passport replaced but missing my kindle and eyeglasses. No 1 hour replaced glasses here. Loved Bologna (thanks to Ian Warrhin tips), loved Dolomites (despite incident), and even enjoyed marathon day of Milan sights and Expo. Not sure if I’ll muster the balls to tackle Italy again. Too bad. I’ve had no incidents in PIH countries. Luck?

    Bruce arrives on Saturday. So psyched.


  2. Pingback: “Everything is Waiting for You” | Terrifically Lost

Leave a Reply to ellenball Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s