Weekend Sketching and Bomonti Market Finds

Paint store in Karakoy

This weekend I wandered through Karaköy and across the Galata Bridge to go back to one of my favorite spots for sketching. It is part of the Büyük Valide Han, but one of its other entrances- not the main one. I'm not sure how the two connect. Sometimes when I'm trying to reach one place, I'll get to the other instead. Both have incredible rooftop views and make for nice and peaceful places to draw or just sit and soak up the calm above the city.

This part of the han has atölye facing out towards the view and every time I've been, the artisans there have been very friendly and up for a chat, always offering up a pillow for me to sit on or a cold drink. The atmosphere there is always very carefree and I feel like I could sit for hours and put more time into a drawing. This time around, I enjoyed drawing the plump, rolling domes from the han's roof and the city rooftops growing behind them- humble red tiles rubbing elbows with grandiose mosque domes. The sun was starting to set as I drew, transforming the the minaret of the mosque I was drawing into a sun dial- its shadow slowly making its way across the dome.

The light that evening was incredible, with a honey, golden glow. Walking back home towards Galata the sun shone in my eyes, bathing the ordinary in the heavenly. It outlined the edges of people walking towards me, making them look like they were topped with halos.

Sunday turned out to be one of those days where I let things twist in whatever way they happened to go. It started out at the flea market. I am in the midst of packing my apartment and really don't need to accumulate anymore things, but I figured that one more jaunt through the market's tables of old artifacts and treasures would be a relaxing start to the day. As I made my way up and down the rows of tables, one of the vendors called out to me and we started to chat. Before I knew it, he was having me try on an olive-colored kaftan with small pink flowers, something I would never have picked out for myself, but was cozy and stylish in a quirky sort of way. "It fits you well... it's yours!" the vendor, whose name I later would find out was Ali, declared. I thanked him for the unexpected gift.

We introduced ourselves and I ended up hanging out at his table for a while, meeting several interesting people also working at the market or just stopping by for a chat. Ali deals in rugs and textiles and had several beautiful kilims on display. I sat and had coffee, chatting with a gentle man from Syria, who used to deal in antiques in Damascus, but who had to abandon his shop due to the war. As the hours passed, I chatted with Ali and a young woman next to him with a sweet doberman she had rescued from the streets. She sold rugs, was getting a PhD in history, and studied Ottoman Turkish. Some French tourists came with a relative who knew Ali and we all had gözleme together. Hours later, I finally decided drag myself away from the comfy seat, countless cups of çay, and fun conversation to go and take care of some of the errands I had. The interaction from that morning made my day and I remembered how much I enjoy these chance encounters with interesting people- much like finding that special unexpected item that catches your eye on a dusty table of knick-knacks, that morning had highlighted how much delight there is in randomly connecting with other people.

Han sketch

Karaköy waterfront

Süleymaniye Camii, Karaköy waterfront

View from Karaköy sketch
The afternoon ended with another long sketch on the Karaköy waterfront at the çay bahçesi I always seem to drift to. I spent a while on the buildings on the other shore. What I enjoy most about sketching the city is the careful observation that it inevitably pushes you to do- getting me to take a closer and longer look at this beautiful place and really absorbing its details in the process.

Finally, the weekend ended by bidding farewell to Suzanne- a dear friend and partner-in-crime for many adventures during my time in Turkey. We spent the evening on a gorgeous rooftop, in great company... no better way to say, "Goodbye for now."

Rosy Hagia Sophia in the evening light


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