Journaling my trip to Las Vegas made me realise that I never really wrote a post about the most amazing (work) trip I went on in 2015 that turned into a photographer’s fantasy for me. So while I enjoy Sin City here’s a trip down memory lane.
I am a member of ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers. This society is the leading association for my industry, with a global membership of about 55000. Chapters in India belong the RAL region comprising of Chapters from the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Indian Subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Every September provides an opportunity to travel for the ASHRAE Region-at-Large Conference. I always look forward to this event as it offers up the chance to see new places, immerse yourself new cultures and sample varied cuisines besides meeting interesting people. A virtual melting pot, the RAL conference is a learning experience in many ways not necessarily technical. In 2015, the host city was Turkey.
I don’t like doing the touristy thing when I visit a new country, so as soon as I decided to attend the event, I looked up Turkey to get a sense of what to expect. I also spoke to my friend Dick D’souza, an old college mate, who is a frequent visitor. His inputs were crucial for me to formalise my schedule and decide what I wanted to see. I wanted to be able to spend enough time at each place so I could take as many photographs as I wanted and experience a bit of the culture. I also arranged for the services of a guide to translate and point me to local experiences Turkey had to offer. Tugrul Tolga Korkmaz – a school teacher who moonlighted as a guide, was the catalyst to a memorable trip.
I focused my time in two places – Istanbul and Cappadocia. Istanbul is uniquely located on the global map, being possibly the only city that is both Asian as well as European with a bridge connecting the two sides. There are ongoing debates as to which side if more beautiful. I think it’s a pointless discussion. During my few days in Istanbul, I could not find anything that qualified as less than beautiful including the local citizens.
While I don’t do touristy things, I did visit the Blue Mosque. How could I not? I also took a boat ride to the Buyukada Island. Buyuk means big in Turkish, and the island offers a panoramic view of the city of Istanbul. It is most famous for its ban on modern transportation. You have the choice of battery operated vehicles and horse carriages, or you could just use your legs. The island is pristine and captivating with single or two-story houses that are incredibly pleasing to the eye.
One early afternoon I set out to see most of the city by foot. My prize for the day was the Galata Tower. When it was built in the fourteenth century, the Galata Tower was the tallest structure in Istanbul. A medieval stone structure in the Galata quarter of the city it still stands tall at 67 metres. The observation deck and restaurant at the top of the tower offer a 360-degree view of Istanbul. I planned to be on the deck at sunset but was not sure how to time this. Typically one needs to stand in a queue, buy an entry ticket and make it to the top. Once at the top, you are not allowed to spend too much time so as to facilitate a continuous flow of tourists.
I could see the tower from a distance, but could not find the approach. As I was negotiating Google Maps, I joined forces with another tourist, Alicia Lee from Taiwan who was also navigating to the tower using Google. She spoke little English, I speak no Hokkien or Chinese, but both of us found a way to communicate. After negotiating many small alleys and steps, we stood at the foot of the tower.
We queued up as I nervously kept watch on the setting sun. Would I get my hero shot at the gallery? Or would I be just another tourist who makes it to the observation deck for a few glimpses of the city? That was the only thought on my mind as I bought my ticket and got into the elevator. The sun was fast setting; I was losing my light.
I reached the observation deck and found myself jostling for space just to get a view of the city. But, what I could see was nothing short of breathtaking; all of Istanbul bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. The clouds played truant for a moment, but I knew that this was my opportunity and I had to make the most of it.
The viewing gallery is a narrow balcony and can barely accommodate people in two rows, one behind another. If you’ve been to Galata or watched Dil Dhadakne Do you’ll know what I mean. Here I was with a DSLR trying to look for a place to stand still and rest my camera for a few brief moments. The outcome is here for you to see.
I spent the rest of my evening on Istiklal street. The place is a connoisseur’s delight with restaurants and shops that cater to many tastes. Street musicians add zest to the experience as to the many window displays of baklava. Istiklal street starts at Galata Tower and ends at Taksim Square and is surrounded by late Ottoman era buildings. I ended my evening with a ride on the tram. Soaked in a bit of history.
I’ll write about Cappadocia in my next post. So make yourself a cup of Turkish coffee and come right back.