A day with the novelists in timeless Istanbul

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A day with the novelists in timeless Istanbul

Istanbul has always inspired travel writers. Armed with their books, follow in the footsteps of writers who fell for the charms of the Orient in this fascinating world city.

A day with the novelists in timeless Istanbul

In the footsteps of French writer Pierre Loti

“Oh Stamboul! Your name is the most magical of all the names that still enchant me!” Re-reading the pages of Constantinople by Pierre Loti, there is only one thing you will want to do: set off for the mythical Turkish city as soon as possible. A proven orientalist, the travel writer was deeply in love with the city and he waxed lyrical about its cafés, scenery, way of life and grandeur. The old Constantinople imbibed with the Orient mysteries may be long gone, but Istanbul still seduces with its timeless charm. Set off in the footsteps of Pierre Loti in a city where history is everywhere you look. Wander through the alleys of the old town where the remains of three empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman, can still be seen.

Take a morning visit to Topkapı Palace, the sultans' enchanting residence, and walk straight into the pages of One Thousand and One Nights. As you wander through the harem, the story of Aziyadé, a young woman Loti met in Istanbul, comes back to mind. This character gave her name to the French author's first great literary success.

Then, take a boat trip up the Golden Horn, the estuary that runs into the Bosphorus, and get off at Eyüp. Lose yourself amongst the little shops and colourful wooden houses of this working district. The writer lived in this neighbourhood during one of his many stays in Istanbul. Make sure you take the cable car to the top of the hill. Your literary pilgrimage will take you to the Pierre Loti café, overlooking the cemetery of Eyüp. Pull up a chair and join the families on its famous terrace. Sit back, sip your tea and admire the view over the Golden Horn and the monuments of Sultanahmet. It is one of the most stunning vistas of the city.

Topkapı Palace
Cankurtaran Mh.
34122 Fatih Istanbul
+90 212 512 04 80
topkapisarayi.gov.tr/en

Pierre Loti café
Eyüp Merkez Mahallesi
Karyağdı Sk. No. 16
34050 Eyüp Istanbul
+90 212 497 13 13
www.facebook.com/P.L.KAHVEHANESI

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A day with the novelists in timeless Istanbul

Eastern melancholy with Orhan Pamuk

With one foot in the East and the other in the West, Istanbul carves out an identity between tradition and modernity. Symbolising this dual personality, the Bosphorus Strait features widely in the novels of Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. In his best-seller, Istanbul: Memories and the City, Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, evokes the sloping alleys and gardens on the shores of the Bosphorus backed by tumble-down villas, drawing a picture of a once-glorious city in decline.

In the afternoon, head over to the shore by Dolmabahçe mosque and take a trip on one of the cruise ships that zig-zag their way across the Strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Take in the heritage of the civilisations that flourished here over the centuries. Taking a step back from the city gives you a better understanding of hüzün, the melancholic feeling associated with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, so faithfully described by the native Istanbul writer.

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A day with the novelists in timeless Istanbul

Michelangelo at the Hagia Sophia

As the sun starts to set, immerse yourself in Constantinople's golden age by visiting Hagia Sophia, the former basilica built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian I. A millennium later in the Renaissance, this jewel of Byzantine art welcomed an illustrious adventurer, invited by Sultan Bayezid II to design a bridge across the Golden Horn, and that visitor was Michelangelo. Mathias Enard, another French writer besotted by Istanbul, borrowed this historic event as the setting for his novel Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d'éléphants (Tell them about battles, kings and elephants). The story tells how this building, and especially its cupola, inspired the Florentine genius when he designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Standing beneath this magnificent piece of art which rises to 56 metres in height, you will be overwhelmed by the magical effect of the soft light as it floods onto the walls of marble and mosaic. Istanbul has never been so fascinating.

Hagia Sophia
Sultanahmet Mh.
Ayasofya Meydanı
34122 Fatih Istanbul
+90 212 522 17 50
ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en