The joy of spontaneity is in the word itself. An unpredictable surprise at an unknown point in time. In a life of routines, spontaneity is often thrown aside for an easier, predictable life. I prefer to go home and spend time watching reruns of the same shows instead of going outside and doing or trying something different.
Last week however, in a burst of spontaneity, I decided on a last minute trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and Amsterdam. I met with some friends in Edinburgh, spent 2 days touring the city and on the way back I toured Amsterdam alone. What a great way to have spent the weekend and I certainly encourage every person to be spontaneous in their lives. It changes things, one meets new people, tries new things (like hiking a dormant volcano); all in all it fosters change in a generously sheltered life such as mine.
The rest of the city (and country) is very green. A dormant volcano called Arthur's seat lies in the city limits and we hiked up its 800 ft summit to enjoy spectacular view of the city.
There are many streets closely packed together, alleys called "closes" that have very interesting historic stories and were, essentially, tenement apartment dwellings without proper ventilation. Plagues festered and destroyed the lives of thousands in those closes. Walking along the royal mile in the old town feels as if one has stepped back in time. It is stunningly well kept, the closes are in great structural condition, too. One can easily imagine how life must have been in those days, in small cramped rooms beneath towering steeples and grey skies.
Two weeks ago I never would have thought that I would be standing on the summit of Arthur's seat, looking over the city of Edinburgh, with volcanic ridges and moors around me. Absolutely love spontaneity...the idea of not knowing tomorrow has become quite a romantic idea indeed.
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 love to travel. I've had the pleasure to travel to Europe, South America, and Asia. I'll be putting up some pictures as soon as I can. Here, I begin with Dublin, Ireland.
Dublin - June 2009
We had great weather when visiting Dublin, it was sunny, warm, and inviting. I stayed at a hotel in downtown Dublin and for the most part we were able to walk around the city to see it. We were able to rent a car to go out to visit Trim Castle and the mountains. The landscape changed so suddenly in Ireland. From the coast, one was able to see the mountains in the distance. The landscapes were beautiful, the buildings were too. The churches were gothic like and had scary dungeon-like basements. The buildings that lined the river were all rectangular in shape and in an assortment of colors.I like celtic designs and try to incorporate them into henna patterns. The swirly patters in this image below are particularly cool, this passage tomb at Newgrange is dated back to 3,200 B.C. You can find out more about Newgrange here at their website, http://www.newgrange.com/.
Grand Central station recently celebrated its centennial. With the new LIRR expansion, it will be one of the largest transit hubs in the world. The beauty of it remains unchanged however, the high ceilings which remind one of a church, the windows that let in an extraordinary amount of light even on the dullest and greyest of days and the constant stream of motion on the ground, these facets will always remain.
I've lived in New York City for most of my life. Nevertheless, I'm not ashamed to admit that this train station is a source of inspiration for design and for happiness on a dreary day.
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.