Friday, 10 July 2015

Hagia Sofia

The Hagia Sofia is currently a museum - well, I say currently, I mean since the days of Ataturk, in 1935.   Ataturk is credited for bringing the various regions of this area together and creating the state we know today as Turkey - a secular state, no less.  Before that it was a mosque for over 900 years and before that a church, so to say it has a bit of history behind it is an understatement.

The Hagia Sofia, 1993

A beautiful patina on the walls - very Venice-like.  It was, apparently, the world's largest cathedral for 1000 years and is considered one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. The educated reader will of course know the name comes from the Greek word sophos, meaning wisdom, so the name means 'Holy Wisdom', or if you prefer the longer Greek version, 'Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God'.
So that about wraps up this little tour of Turkey and Istanbul.  We also visited the Grand Bazaar, which was an amazing adventure - over 91 million annual visitors these days, so I'm told.  I seem to remember that you could buy almost anything there.  In 1993 the Turkish Lira was in dire straights and the exchange rate was changing daily - in our favour.  The sellers were very astute - we had been advised to bring both US dollars and German Marks and the sellers would give you an instant price in all 3 currencies - TL, USD and DM.  Very impressive.  I did buy a fake Rolex when I was there, and to be fair it did last a lot of years before the glass face fell off and got lost and that was the end of the Rolex.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Istanbul University

As we ambled around Turkey in 1993 we came across a gathering of people near the University - which looked like an impressively old institution, albeit in need of a bit of a clean,  Actually I don't mind a bit of dirt - it all adds to the olde worlde charm.

Seat of learning, Istanbul
I'm not sure what the gathering was about but it looked like some sort of demonstration.  Although it was very low-key - no placards or shouting.  Mind you, there were a fair number of police about...

A demonstration outside Istanbul University, 1993

As we got closer we got the impression that the main reason for the 'low-keyness' were the presence of a number of very heavily armed special police, on big chunky BMW motorbikes and the old boiler-suits on.  Machine guns were in evidence.  Not that I pointed the camera anywhere near them, of course - like the demonstrators, I wasn't keen on getting on the wrong side of them and spending a couple of nights in a Turkish prison.  I mean, we'd all seen Midnight Express, capice?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Blue Mosque

It's hard to know where to start in Istanbul - everywhere you look there seems to be a photograph.  It's very different to Ireland (Ed: naturally enough) - and of course it is the city where East meets West.  Asia on the east bank of the Bosphorus, Europe on the west bank.

This was the view from our hotel window - well, I call it a hotel, it was small, cheap and OK for a day or two but not a place you'd want to take anyone you cared about.

Blue Mosque, 1993
In the morning we were woken up at some ungodly hour by the call to prayer.  It's a tough life, being a follower of Islam.  Dreamy colours in the old Kodachrome, though, wouldn't you agree?

This is my colleague Martin posing in front of the Blue Mosque, which gives a better view of the scale and general splendour of the building.  Note the yellow 'Taksi' which is just creeping in there in the foreground - it seemed like there were millions of them in this city.

Lovely architecture

And this is yours truly standing at the entrance:

Moi, at the entrance to the Blue Mosque
You may notice I actually had some hair in 1993.  We did go inside - taking our shoes off of course.  In those days I could actually get my shoes off, and more importantly back on again without help.  Nowadays I'm not sure I'd bother...

Friday, 3 July 2015


We stopped off in Istanbul on the way home.  If you've been there, you'll know what I mean when I say Istanbul is one amazing city.  Very populous.  I dread to think what it's like now - this was how it looked one day in early November in 1993:

Busy Istanbul street, 1993

We had a couple of days exploring Istanbul - not enough to do it justice, but enough to see the main attractions such as the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia and the Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans for about 400 years.   I've no photographs of the Palace itself (none allowed I suspect) but I do remember an awful lot of gold artefacts inside - not surprising since they do love their gold in this part of the world.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Base Camp

Our conference venue was a tourist hotel on the Med - it was November, so very much out-of-season, although as I have said the climate was perfect for me.  It was pretty swanky (Ed: swanky, eh?) as you can see.

The pool area
There was only a handful of tourists around - mostly Russians as I recall.  We could avail of the amenities of the hotel, although I think the pool was closed.  No matter - the beach was nearby:

Not a tourist in sight
The backdrop of The Med and mountains was just perfect - and not a sinner about.  November, southern Turkey...perfect.  Although I did get food poisoning on the last day there and spent a pretty awful 24 hours in bed before catching my flight home, so, nearly perfect, OK?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Alan Turing link

It was hard to go anywhere in Southern Turkey without coming across an old ruin of some sort.  This was a very fine example of an amphitheater - in very good condition.  In those days of course I was fit to climb up high, which is always a good idea when taking photographs...

Did I really climb up that high?

What I do remember is the amazing acoustics in this outdoor theatre.  This is one of my favourite photographs of this trip, with my old Prof Dick Grimsdale standing in the centre spot:

View from above

I can recall being astounded that I could hear Dick speaking in a normal voice from the very top of the amphitheater - the acoustics were just incredible.  They clearly knew what they were doing, those old Turks.  

Dick Grimsdale was a bit of a legend - he had studied Computing at Manchester University in the 1950s.  Manchester was at the forefront of computing in those days, and Dick was there when Alan Turing died from cyanide poisoning.  He had been prosecuted 2 years earlier for homosexual acts and had accepted oestrogen injections (chemical castration) instead of a prison term.   As a society we've come a long way since then, thank goodness, but what an awful end to a brilliant man's life.