• Shelley Dark

11. wabi sabi

Hello travelling buddies! It's Friday evening and today was a magical day.

We came to Hazz in Galatasaray, far too early for checkin, as four English guests were only just departing. Hazz has been created, is owned and run as a guest house at her discretion, by Asli Tunca an Istanbul-born interior designer. As soon as she walked out of the door to greet our taxi, I knew instinctively that this was where I was meant to be in Istanbul. Really, I knew I had to be here even earlier than today, from the day that Louise @gigglesandtonic posted a photo of Hazz. Hazz means enchantment which I felt even through Instagram. The entire house is imbued with the spirit of all those who have lived here, overlaid with the love poured into it by Asli Tunca. This house has aichaku, the Japanese word for a history, a patina of something that has been made with care, with lovely proportions, an indefinable simplicity and elegance. It's a symbiotic relationship between a person and an object which deepens over time and use.

Asli looks like Gayatri Devi. Whe she visited Jaipur and stayed at the Rambagh Palace, the staff were taken aback. They insisted she have Gayatri's room. Slim black pants, low-heeled black shoes, transparent flesh coloured chiffon shirt with dark embroidery across the bodice, dark hair, fresh face with little makeup, beautifully chiselled features and a radiating warmth. She greeted us as if she had been waiting for us especially.

Hazz has magic. Asli has designed and had manufactured everything in it. She has the soul of an artist and is guided by wabi sabi as if it is in her DNA.

She offered us freshly squeezed juice, apple and ginger, served in the most beautiful 1920’s art deco crystal stem glasses. She admitted she dies inside every time one of these glasses is broken. She uses them daily. We're in total accord. We sat chatting, looking out at an intimate green courtyard, through iron framed French doors (manufactured to her design). Muffin her dog immediately sensed an animal lover in Cally, and the photo below tells the story. More of Hazz later.

We left our suitcases and went immediately to the Istanbul Modern (art museum). I’m finding that the older I get, the more modern art is speaking to me. The Istanbul Biennale is on, which is similar to Venice. From the second we walked in the door I was transported. So many wonderful, original, delightful, exhilarating, challenging, fabulous art works. At every turn I was transfixed with admiration at the ingenuity (and craziness!) of the modern artist.

A group of pre-schoolers being told to hold each others shoulders so that they would not get lost. Adorable.

I loved so many of the works. Glass balls of varying sizes fixed to a wall in a random pattern picking up different colours according to where you stood. A black tripod with mirrors on top to reflect nearby artwork. A mural of a mosaic forest created with tiny pieces of paper stuck on board. A curtain of white feathers, then black feathers, behind which lay a dark space with an illuminated suspended model of the world. An amazing ball creation based on the atom, where a class of the most adorable pre-schoolers sat on the floor while their teacher explained, what, I have no idea. Textile art. Paint daub art. Intriguing installations which defied explanation.

I will let the photos speak for themselves. As with all art, they may or may not be to your taste. Tremor, Rumour, Hoover by Huseyin Bahri Alptekin 1957-2007 - sequins on plastic plates. Asli saw it once installed with a fan near it, so that the sequins were moving in the breeze.

Your Solar Nebula by Olafur Eliasson. 321 partially silvered crystal spheres, paint, stainless steel. These balls were fixed to the wall in a random pattern as you see.

BAD by Doug Aitken- high density foam, wood, bevelled mirrors and paitned glass

Deep by Seckin Pirim. Metallic paint on paper

I didn't take note of the maker of this wonderful piece of leadlighting

80SW/Flying Garden/Air-Port-City by Tomas Saraceno. 80 elliptical pillows, webbing, air, pump

Portrait of Alexandra Maria Lara'nin Portresi by Ramazan Bayrakoglu. Its described as mixed media on canvas - it was machine stiched patchwork.

Isimsiz by Murat Pulat. Oil on canvas - this paint was daubed on, each daub a blob of paint put on by a finger.

The Landscape of Silence by Azade Koker - paper collage on panel.

detail of Blue Haired Boy by Sahin Kaygun. mixed media.

Which one do I remember best? I know it’s ridiculous, but I have to say that it was a short film shown in a tiny darkened theatrette showing a transgender man in high heels and a beaded bikini bottom (I even forget what top he was wearing) doing a belly dance. He was enjoying himself. It was so funny and absurd it made me laugh out loud. Which is what I guess was supposed to happen.

Our next stop was the OTT Dolmabahche Palace, an easy stroll along the road bordering the waterfront.

It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I, between the years 1843 and 1856. He gave instructions that it was to be the finest palace in the world, and he spent one quarter of the tax revenue to do it, which eventually resulted in the bankruptcy of the caliphate. The figures are astounding. No fine mosaics here. Instead, gold and crystal. 35 tonnes of gold. 68 toilets. 285 rooms. Baroque rococo overload. Crystal chandeliers metres tall. A Baccarat crystal staircase. Alabaster baths. Queen Victoria gave a 4.5 tonne crystal chandelier and Tsar Nicholas I bearskin rugs. The much loved president of the newly created Turkish Republic, Ataturk, lived and died here. Our guided tour was quite a spectacle. No photography is allowed inside although few visitors were obeying. The first photo below is of the main gate. At the very end of the tour I succumbed and took the dome. The arched window effect inside it is trompe l'oeil. So clever that you would swear they were real windows.

The Ciragan Palace, now a hotel, was only another kilometre or so along the Bosporus so once again we strolled, enjoying the brisk air. It’s perfect weather - just ever so slightly chilly. Now and again, jackets off. When we saw the quietly elegant Four Seasons Hotel, we popped in and enjoyed the gardens on the water. Another kilometre or so and we arrived at the Ciragan Palace. Perfect place to sit in the late afternoon, over a cool drink and canapés.

Back to Hazz, where Asli was waiting with chilled wine. She is an engaging charismatic person. Then to our rooms. A non-functioning light switch in my room could not dull my euphoria. Asli was frantically on the phone, trying to get someone to fix it, or to stop someone coming so late, I'm not sure which. She has two staff, Sarah and Zair. Zair hauled a big ladder up two flights of stairs to look at it. I kept saying no, don’t worry, wait until tomorrow. It was a wonderful comedy to end the day.

early Sat morning: I am sitting in bed looking out through black iron French doors over greenery to a distant view of the Hagia Sophia, a tinge of pink in the sky. I’m in heaven. I have the Room with a View. Cally has The Terrace Room. I know you are waiting to see Hazz (me too!) but I haven’t yet had a chance to explore or photograph. Two photos I’ve taken just now. Hazz proper in another post.

a chair at the foot of my bed

Have a great weekend fellow travellers!



"I never travel without my diary.  

One should always have something

sensational to read on the train."  

                                - OSCAR WILDE

shelley dark 

email: shelleydarkwriter@gmail.com

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