With time in Istanbul winding down, I am out drawing as much as possible. The day Trici and I visited Buyuk Valide Han was cold, overcast and wet but we were both anxious to get some work done and haven’t drawn together in months.
Buyuk Valide Han is a hidden Istanbul treasure. Its was built in the 17th century by Kösem Sultan, the mother of Murat IV. The han contains a number of workshops and once served as a caravansarai or settlement area. I met Trici in the morning and we made our way by tram to the Grand Bazaar. We first wondered through a strip of the Bazaar, stopping at occasional shops to say hello to Trici’s many friends. We then headed out the other end and down the street to the entrance of Buyuk Valide Han. Our first hour in the building was spent walking the corridors, taking pictures of friendly workers and the crumbling architecture. Buyuk Valide Han to this day holds many workshops and the dark hallways are often filled with men carrying boxes or bags of mysterious objects. Behind doorways you can hear hammers and gears, and there is a smell of burnt rubber and hot metal.
After visiting one workshop where a group of cheerful men were making nargiles, we decided on eating before continuing our tour. Trici recommended a small Turkish pizza place right outside. Sitting there, we could not resist drawing the two men making our lunch. One from Konya and the other from the Black Sea. The man from Konya prepared the Pide and took orders on the phone while his companion from the Black Sea scooped them in and out of the hot oven. When we asked, they said they had been working together for over 30 years. We ate everything, finished our drawings and drank a cay. This was real Istanbul, and my heart ached at the thought of leaving, but then I remembered how many moments like this I experienced in the past 8 months and I felt grateful and fortunate. After lunch we climbed onto the roof of the han where we decided to draw after seeing the view of Suleymaniye. Trici asked the first two men we saw if it was possible to sit there and draw. They were of course accommodating, curious and hospitable, and brought us two plastic chairs while apologizing that their cay machine was not working that day. Oh it felt good to draw, I forgot the cold, the smoky smell, the grinding gears and sat in total meditation only to be broken my the occasional worker stopping to ask questions. By 4:30 we were blocks of ice and quite ready to leave, but with both of our drawings unfinished, we will have to return. The end of the day was spent in the Nargile Cafe off the Grand Bazaar where we continued drawing, talking and sipping cay while the rain came down outside. It was truly a wonderful day. Finished drawings coming soon!