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THE COVERED FEAST: Drawing in the Grand Bazaar

SECURITY The Bazaar is not and never has been open at night for any reason. During the reign of Abdulhamid, police had to break in because of a fire. In 1913, poet Pierre Loti was locked inside and had to talk his way out. And in 2006, a friend left my birthday present in his shop and could not for love nor money get in any of the four entrances he tried.

Gulersöy Collection, In the Bazaar, 19thCentury by Trezio

Nowadays, you’re safer in the Grand Bazaar than most places. Merchants eager for happy tourists brook no thieves. A few years ago, a mob of men, women and children flailed and stomped a purse snatcher before the guards could do anything. The battered thief was lucky to escape with his manhood intact.

The Coca-Cola Kiosk ©2009 TriciVenola

THE AESTHETIC POLICE Here’s a concept: a group with total power which would enforce charm and good taste on benighted areas worldwide. You could call them in, and the hideous shopping center that’s replacing that fine old tree-hung neighborhood would be stopped in an instant. Ham-fisted restoration involving electric sandblasters would cease. Billboards would be obliterated. There would be a jail sentence for littering. Chainsaws would be outlawed. Amputating trees into bad sculpture, or cutting them down, would carry a death sentence.  Aesthetic Police: I always thought that this was just a dream. But then I encountered Celik Gulersöy. 

Gulersöy Collection: Presentation of Artisans for the Sultan at Ay Meydani, c1550

President of Turkey’s Auto Club for many years, he was a force in the community. He stood down an Istanbul governor (who was armed with bulldozers) and a prime minister, saving those 17th-century houses behind Hagia Sophia, attached to the Topkapi Wall. They were wooden and rotten, so he copied them exactly from the original blueprints and had them built again. They are now Konuk Hotel. He created the chandelier-hung Istanbul Library there in Soğukçeşme Street and found the Byzantine cistern that is now Sarniç Restaurant. He created Green House Hotel and its fountained garden. He longed for a generation of young people who would value and nurture trees, as the Ottomans did. He fought tree-butchers and asphalt-layers and excessive signage and all those who would uglify and kitsch up the Great Mysteries of this ancient place. I never got to meet Mr Gulersöy, but I wish he was King of the World. 

Gulersoy Collection: Antique French postcard

Celik Gulersoy loved the Grand Bazaar so much he wrote a book about it: The Story of the Grand Bazaar. A battered, copy provided much of the material shown here. Thanks to Gazanfer Bey, manager of Konuk Hotel, and the Staff of Istanbul Library, I now own the last copy in Istanbul. Many thanks to them for their help in researching this post. All the time I was writing it, I was hearing that song from Kismet:

Baubles, bangles, hear how they jing jingalinga / Baubles, bangles, bright shiny beads! /                          Sparkles, spangles, my heart will sing singalinga  /  Wearing baubles, bangles and beads! /                              I’ll glitter and gleam so, make somebody dream so….

–Robert Wright and George Forrest, 1953

Yasmin at Cafe Ist ©2003 TriciVenola


All Trici Venola’s drawings are Plein Air, drafting pens in sketchbooks 7 X 20″ / 18 X 52 cm. All drawings are part of The Drawing On Istanbul Project by Trici Venola. Thanks for reading this post. We love your comments.

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