Saturday, 29 January 2011

North of the Golden Horn

THE GALATA TOWER  was originally built in 1348 by the Genoese merchants who lived in the area north of the Golden Horn. From the top floor of the Tower there is a magnificent panorama of the whole city. Today you can enjoy this view while eating in the splendid restaurant there. For those Genoese merchants of old it was a look-out post and a way to know when their ships were arriving with the merchandise that made them wealthy.
Here is the view from the top of the Galata Tower. What a splendid vantage point.         
File:Golden Horn Panorama Istanbul.jpg

This part of Constantinople was outside the city, across the wide arm of water called the Golden Horn and was the designated place of residence for foreigners. The Greeks originally called this place "Pera", meaning the Fig Field. Then, when the Venetians became the majority group, the name Galata was added, and both names are still in use.
Traditionally, all foreign embassies were set up in Galata and all foreign visitors would expect to stay in this part of the city. Little by little wealthy Turks also moved northwards and the sultans and many members of the royal family established hunting lodges and palaces along the shores of the Bosphorus.

Here is Hatice Sultan's palace, designed in about 1800 by Antoine Ignace Melling, an Austrian artist. Hatice Sultan was the sister of Sultan Selim III.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Regency stories with an Ottoman element - First part

There is a new interest in Regency period stories set in Mediterranean lands or else in the Ottoman Empire. Harlequin Mills & Boon is actively encouraging Ottoman set stories but with a strong English link. And there are some good stories out there already. Among those I have read are Amanda McCabe's series, To Catch a Rogue, To Deceive A Duke and To Kiss A Count, which have an underlying theme of excavations in countries like Sicily, Italy and Greece. Before that there was the deliciously funny Mr Impossible by Loretta Chase, which takes place in 1820s Egypt. Then there is my own April and May, which is set half in Istanbul [when Istanbul was Constantinople] and half in London.

Constantinople is a splendid setting for a story. Where else is there a city that sits on two continents, and where so many different cultures mingled with a reasonable degree of tolerance. That was a typical feature of Ottoman society - and although Istanbul is still Mediterranean and multi-cultural, the best place left nowadays where there is still full evidence of this tolerance is in Lebanon.