Ilkbahar, Hoşgeldiniz! Welcome, Spring!

Interior of Fethiye Camii
Winter has had a pitbull grip on Istanbul this year and has sending it thrashing this way and that like a slobbered chew toy, leaving it wet and cold. Everyone has been itching for it to just get warm already. After a week of rain, winter finally released its steel jaws and the skies opened up for a few sunny days this weekend.

I took advantage of the sunny weather by heading to Fatih's Çarşamba neighborhood, for a visit of Fethiye Camii, also known as Pammakaristos Church, with the intention of sketching it. Set atop of Istanbul's fifth hill, Fethiye Camii is a small island of tranquility with few visitors compared to other Istanbul attractions. Once a Byzantine church, Fethiye Camii boasts some spectacular and well-preserved mosaics that echo those found in Chora Church (Kariye Camii) and Hagia Sophia. After the fall of Constantinople, the church became the seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and was later converted into a mosque in 1591 and given the name Fethiye, or "conqueror", in commemoration of the Ottoman conquest of Azerbaijan and Georgia. On the day I visited, the lawn in front of the church was carpeted with daisies- their fresh faces an ode to spring time. It was the perfect spot to sit and sketch. After taking some time to gawk at the meticulous mosaic work inside, I sat outside in the sun to sketch its exterior.
Mosaics, Fethiye Camii

Double cat

Fethiye Camii and a daily field

Fethiye Camii sketch

Spring love

Aaaaaah, spring!
Sunday was an equally sunny day and I took a trip to the Prince's Islands with my friend Julie and another friend to sample some of her home brews and relax in her garden. Traveling the short journey to the islands always feels exciting. The ferry ride, where people cram into every possible nook and cranny in mass escape from the city, feels like a call from another era. Simit vendors weave through the crowds, balancing their perfectly stacked towers of sesame coated rings, at times precariously close to the boat's edge. There is the inevitable impromptu live informercial for the vegetable peeler and citrus juicer. The vendor shouts his voice hoarse as he demonstrates the multitude of ways the peeler can be used and the impressive amount of juice that can be squeezed from one lemon to the pleased 'oooh's and 'aaaah's of the crowd. Food is shared amongst strangers, kids' cheeks are pinched, stories are shared excitedly amongst friends, and the level of anticipation for a day where the pace of life is cranked to low is high.

Tsoureki!
Getting off at the second island, we gather the fixings of a Turkish breakfast and find that the local bakery has prepared tsoureki in honor of Orthodox Easter. I've never tasted it and am eager to try the holiday bread, topped with a blood red egg. The island is in bloom. We weave our way up and enjoy a breakfast in Julie's garden in great company, a breakfast that lasts for a good chunk of the day, and would have kept going had it not been for reality's tug and the need to catch the ferry home.

We take the ferry back and run into other friends. The sun is shedding its last golden glow for the day and passengers throw bread up at the trailing gulls who follow the ferry like a bridal train. It is an eased transition back to the bustle of city life. Spring is here, finally, and everything feels lighter.

Sunday view on Burgazada

Bloom

Ferry back to Istanbul. These two were clearly exhausted from their day on the island. It was fun to imagine these two as older men, catching up at the local çay evi. 

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