Tuesday, February 4, 2014


This city never ceases to surprise me. Today I was staring at a forge. Sometimes I head over to the small streets that skirt the Golden Horn in the Karakoy district of Istanbul. It's a fascinating area where ancient Ottoman 'hans' (sort of trading centres for craftsmen of all types) nestle amongst fish markets or hardware markets. It's a great place to go to buy drills, scales, large chain saws, ball bearings, rope and chains (you never know when a 30kg coil of chains is going to come in handy).  

Yesterday I found a mouldering two storey brick edifice that was another one of these old Ottoman structures that I'd overlooked before. It had a long path running down between workshops that was partially covered by the second storey. Everything was black and sooty, at one end in a darkened cave-like room was a forge with flames blasting out of the gaps in the cover. There were a few men scurrying back and forth with various items to be melted down. They were very patient and endured my questions and our 'oohs' and 'aaahs' as they tried to go about earning a crust. 

We didn't out stay our welcome and continued to roam around the less travelled parts of the old city. It is fascinating to see so many diverse lifestyles, trades, occupations, social classes and religious identities live and work so close to one another. As we were admiring a particularly interesting doorway in the han I mentioned above, one of the workers passed by and with an ironic smile yelled out 'Harika!' (meaning 'fantastic!!'). 
He was apparently fairly at home with the presence of foreigners finding remarkable what he no doubt sees everyday, live and let live.

Watercolour on paper: '39'

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