Gavin Stamp's Orient Express

gavin stamp’s orient express(5/5)

Architectural historian Gavin Stamp continues his journey across Europe along the route of the old Orient Express. It is a trek of 2,000 miles across ten countries, from London to Istanbul. In this last episode in the series, Gavin reaches his journey’s end – the city of Istanbul at the end of Europe and the beginning of Asia, where the old Orient Express service terminated.

Istanbul is an ancient city, full of curious sights andremarkable architecture. During his whistle-stop tour, Gavin marvels at the Hagia Sofia, which he proclaims to be one of the greatest buildings in theworld. It was built as a church by the Roman emperor Justinian when the city was still called Constantinople. The Ottoman Turks turned it into a mosque when they conquered the city, and theyadmired its design so much that it became the inspiration for all subsequent Turkish mosques – something Gavin demonstrates with a quick visit to the Suleyman mosque designed by the great Turkish architect Sinan.

But Gavin’s visit is not all about architecture: he pays a visit to the city’s famous markets where he is tempted by free Turkish sweets and the offer of Turkish Viagra. Loaded up with sweets he takes apeak at the relics of the Ottoman Empire with a tour of the Topkapi Palace. He then examines the beautifully tiled harem where the Ottoman sultanskept themselves busy when not working on the management of the empire.

Next stop on the tour is a visit to the Whirling Dervishes –a religious Islamic order who spin on the spot to music in order to connect with Allah. On witnessing the spectacle, Gavin wonders if what was once a religious ceremony has now been reduced to just a tourist attraction.

Gavin later wangles an invite to a posh do at theBritish Embassy hosted by the Lord Mayor of London. After a few glasses of wine, he manages to be rude about the windows before falling asleep during the speeches.

Finally, Gavin crosses the Bosphorous river, which divides Turkey-in-Europe with Turkey-inAsia –the perfect setting to contemplate his long journey, as the sun sets over Istanbul.

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