Museum of Innocence

“It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.”

I first read the Orhan Pamuk’s novel the Museum of Innocence in 2011.  It is the tale of Kemal, the son of one of Istanbul’s richest families and his bordering on creepy love of Furun, who is, of course, from the wrong side of the tracks.  I admit it’s not my favourite Pamuk novel, I mean Kemal is nothing short of a stalker (and a thief) as pathetically mopes around collecting (thieving) Furun’s used cigarette butts but Furun is no better with her desperation and sulking throughout most of the novel but regardless Pamuk’s writing is still a poetic, hypnotic story which draws you in (even if, like me, you had to put the book aside for a while).  I’m moving on for those who have not yet read it so no spoilers here people.

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While I was recently in Istanbul I wandered into the antique district of Çukurcuma where I inadvertently happened onto the actual “Museum of Innocence”.  This interesting museum was conceived by Pamuk who collected items over the period of writing his novel to go hand in hand with his story.

Entering the three-storey building is like seeing fiction turned into reality.  From the mesmerising installation of Furun’s cigarette butts to clothes and pieces of daily life from the 1950’s through to modern Istanbul it was an interesting reminder of a period that has been left behind.

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It was a fascinating stop on my meandering through Çukurcuma but it was also a stop that made me feel infinitely sad.  Sad for Kemal and I guess in some way sad for myself as well.  We all have that lost love (well maybe not everyone) but for many of us, we had a Mr (or Miss) Big.  I called mine Mr Mediocre (it took me years to realise that he wasn’t all that) and somewhere in the back of my wardrobe I do in fact still have a movie ticket from the first movie we went to (Dirty Dancing) and hidden in a book somewhere on my bookshelf (and no I don’t remember which book) is my only photo of him and I, circa 1993.  A total of 12 years of my life for a love that is only a memory now.  I don’t regret the way my life turned out but I do in some small way understand how the pathetic Kemal became so infatuated and destroyed his life over his love for Furun.

To anyone who is a fan of Orhun Pamuk and gets the opportunity to visit his museum, do yourself a favour.  It is only small but it is truly charming and well worth getting lost in Çukurcuma with the intention of finding yourself here.

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Çukurcuma also has so many tiny antique shops which, although out of my price range, were still fascinating to rummage through (and the Turkish tea that is offered as soon as you walk through the door was a blessing on that freezing January morning that I visited the area).

The future of museums is inside our own houses.

And if you haven’t read The Museum of Innocence grab a copy now from Amazon

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Istanbul or Bust

Like most of us, I have a love affair with Istanbul, and I try and visit this beautiful city at least once a year.  I always take a list of things I want to see and when in the city, I walk around and tick off the tasks that I’ve completed.  Daughter can’t cope with my method and now that she is a little older (but perhaps not any wiser) I let her go off and do her own thing (which usually involves around sitting in coffee shops with her friends, flirting with boys and melting my credit card with her spending).

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I’m just now back from a week in this gorgeous city, staying in a fab apartment on Istiklal Caddesi.  I racked up over 100,000 steps (or 82 km), predominantly getting my tourist on, but also spending time meandering through tiny alleyways and cobbled backstreets looking for that hidden gem that I hadn’t found before.  One of my friends gave me a pretty thorough list of places I should visit but with my god-awful sense of direction, I got lost every single time although having gotten lost, I often found somewhere new that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

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Walking through Istanbul’s busy streets is a visual feast, with so much life going on around every corner that you never know what you will find from an overflowing mosque filling onto the street on a Friday afternoon, ladies gossiping to their neighbours (probably about other neighbours) or a street party to welcome a young man home from his army conscription, life is everywhere.  Istanbul is also made for those of us who are cat-obsessed and as a self-proclaimed cat-whisperer I  always kept an eye out for my four-legged furry friends as I go.   Did they follow me back to my apartment?  I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no but I will say that when we left there was a little calico kitty sitting on the step next to our doorman when we left for the airport.

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The thing with Istanbul is that it really is a city that you can just walk around in.  No need to do tours or pay exorbitant fees (150TL for 1 day or 180TL for two days) to bus companies.  Instead, you grab an Istanbulkart and hop on the trams and buses that are so easily accessible and just as easy to use.  I also downloaded a couple of apps including Voice Map and Street Art Istanbul which gave me the opportunity of also seeing things from a different perspective.

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Of course, I ate way too much during my week in Istanbul but I expect that all that walking won’t translate to kilos lost thanks to my indulging in everything I saw with tempting stacks of baklava, simits and lokma on every street corner and juicy kebabs, overloaded kumpir and thanks to Macro Centre (why oh why won’t they open one in Mersin) even a little bacon thrown in to enjoy.  Yes I know I can eat all of this just as easily in Mersin (well maybe not the bacon) but when in Rome (or Istanbul).

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On a serious note, I will mention how safe I felt during my time in Istanbul.  There was a significant security presence with police and soldiers patrolling at tourist attractions as well as security guards doing bag checks and security gates to pass through before entering shopping centres or bazaars.  At no time did I feel nervous or intimidated.  I was not harassed while out by myself and Daughter, who travelled on the metro by herself to Kadikoy and back, did so without incident.  Yes, you should be vigilant and follow the advice of local security authorities as well as monitor media reports and keep up to date with the travel advice issued by your own Government, but I personally felt very comfortable visiting this beautiful city, and I hope to come and visit again very soon.

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I will do a few posts over the coming weeks about our time in Istanbul, but I just thought for now I would put up a few photos.  They are, of course, not great as I am no photographer, but they are little memories for me to keep.

If you are thinking of visiting Istanbul why not grab one of these books –

 

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Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like-minded people who, like you, love Istanbul – oh and you love Turkey. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.