With malice toward none, with charity for all...a mural dedicated to Lincoln in Philadelphia
Art, literature, and history are the biggest inspirations in my life. This week, Jack Kerouac's On The Road has helped rekindle my love for an adventure and it has reminded me of the importance of compassion. The monotony of the daily grind takes its toll in the worst possible way. Fatigue leads to indifference and the worst thing of all, complacency. I refuse to settle for that.
So began an impromptu road trip to Philadelphia. In less than three hours from Brooklyn we made it to the city where the colonists declared their independence from Britain, where the universities, churches and museums are rich in their exhibits and history, where open space was planned hundreds of years in advance, and where Rocky (a fictional character) is a celebrated hero.
There were many, many homeless and struggling people. It's hard to see someone struggle and not even offer a smile for support or a handful of change. May poverty be alleviated in all nations, may we strive for a better, more humane society.
I am an incredibly snooty Northeastern New Yorker. I turn up my nose at the idea of having to travel to "cities" outside of NYC or the northeast (unless its Seattle). To me, NYC is the greatest city in the world because of its diversity, culture, history, opportunity, transportation, etc, obviously I could go on forever.
This week, I have been humbled and brought down from my high Northeastern horse. The city of St. Louis has shown me a potential like no other city that I have traveled to and I've come to truly enjoy the time that I have spent here.
There is history in St. Louis that I never knew existed, mounds of civilization had been discovered here and dated back to 1150-1200 A.D. Lewis and Clark started their expedition through here, Dredd Scott was tried here, Mark Twain wrote much about life on the MIssissippi, and engineers developed careers here in trying to alleviate flooding issues.
This city will be up and coming, there are several neighborhoods that are very commercial, lined with restaurants, coffee shops and art galleries. Today, while standing near the Mississippi River, I could feel something spiritual about it, i understand why so many songs and poems and books were written about it. There is something bittersweet about this river and about the city that lives on it. I'm glad to have had the time to experience it and I hope to travel with a much more open mind.
Istanbul is the city that Europeans and westerners go to to feel like they've traveled somewhere in the "east". There are mosques on every corner and hundreds of years of Ottoman and Islamic history, the call to prayer is heard 5 times a day and many women have interesting head coverings and styles to their hijab.
The city is drenched in history- thousands of years of it. Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, for centuries it was the cross-roads of the world. This is evident in the markets, the architecture, Constantine's ancient wall around the city still stands, the relics of Christianity are everywhere as well as the dominance and seat of the Ottoman sultanate. It has also modernized, with a navigable transportation system - probably the best thing about the city. It is convenient, cheap, taking one everywhere he/she wants to go, from the Hagia Sophia to the Blue mosque, the spice market and the grand bazaar, even crossing over into the Asian side of the city over the Bosphorus Sea. Coming from New York City and seeing a system like that made me feel at home very quickly. The tram map was easy to understand even without speaking the language.
The dome of the Hagia Sophia
Sinan, the famous architect during the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s, was behind the enormous mosques that still dot the skyline of the city, most notably the Blue Mosque and the Suleymania (pictured below). My favorite piece of architecture was the Hagia Sophia, a marvel in the feat of engineering and design, built by the Byzantines during emperor Justinians time nearly 1500 years ago. A church it was then; it was converted to a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in the 1400-1500s. They added the 4 minarets to the building and put up huge medallions with Allah, Muhammad, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Hassan, Hussain (the names of God, the Prophet, and the successors to the Prophet according to Sunni ideology. The great thing about the Ottomans was that they left behind the original mosaics of crosses and the Virgin Mary and Jesus that had been installed in the building centuries before.
To see the history of empires past and feel like one has stepped back in time for a moment, Istanbul is the place to go.
The Hagia Sophia, exterior. The history and fascination of this building by the Ottomans can be seen with the many domed structures that are all over Istanbul.
The Blue Mosque, opposite of the Hagia Sophia. Almost as if Sinan was trying to mimic the Hagia Sophia hundreds of years later. It is still used as a mosque. The courtyard is majestic. Tune in for more pictures as soon as I can organize them!
I'll be adding pictures and commentary of the things I love. I am an ordinary person in an extraordinary place. There is no special purpose to this blog other than to project what I am thinking of at any given moment.
All the photos are mine (unless stated otherwise). Please do not use without permission. To learn more about me, check out my linked in profile below.