26 June 2012

Getting the lay of this awesome city...

So, Istanbul is awesome. Truly.  I might love this city.

Quick rundown of the day. I got up at 6 (well, 6.15) to run so that S and I could breakfast at 8 and be out by 9. That didn't happen. We were out the door closer to 11.30.  From there, we went to the Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Square, Basilica Cistern, the Hippodrome, Hagia Sofia, the park next to Topiki Palace, the train station (where the Orient Express arrived), the Spice Market (Egyptian Market), Galata Bridge, Rustem Pasha Mosque, and then a long walk home, passing a baklava vendor as we went. Along the way, I learned a whole lot.  Here's a sampling:

  • Beds are hard in Istanbul.
  • The craziness of traffic is somewhere between Paris and Rome.
  • The Blue Mosque is beautiful, but the blueness is a bit overrated.
  • Mosques smell like feet. They may be a feast for the eyes, ears, and soul, but they're no good for the nose.
  • Mosques in general would be more beautiful if they didn't have to suspend huge ugly chandeliers from the upper dome down to a 9' trim. All those cables get in the way.
  • City parks are great to watch the world go by.
  • Vendors will do anything to get you into their shop/restaurant, including reaching out to shake your hand, and then leading you over to the proprietor by the hand, never letting go (true story). If you refuse, they ask harder. If you refuse some more, they call you an ugly American.
  • There is a cistern underneath a block of Istanbul that used to hold water but now holds tourists. It's well-lit with warm uplight and populated with fish.
  • Hagia Sofia started out as a church, then became a mosque, and is now a museum. There are a lot of elements from the church era that only lasted through the years because the Muslims whitewashed over them during the mosque era. Moral: sometimes, the best thing to preserve a thing is an opposing thing (I learned this in Mexico too...).
  • Small mosques are just as lovely as big mosques.
  • There's something magical about hearing so many languages spoken aloud. Today I counted English (American, Australian, and British), Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and a few I didn't recognize. And American likes to say that IT'S the melting pot of the world!  Hah!
  • S doesn't like fried calamari. Combining that with her distaste for shrimp in-shell, most shell-fish, and whole fish, and eating seafood with her while abroad is a great challenge (one which we failed at tonight).

Here's a little selection of photos for your enjoyment...

Entering the Blue Mosque.
Inside the Blue Mosque.

The Basilica Cistern is lovely, but kind of a one-note gimmick.

Hagia Sofia is friggin' awesome.

If I told you this was NYC, you'd believe me.

We bought spices and tea at this market stall.

The interior of Rustem Pasha Mosque is filled with beautiful blue tile.

The view from the hotel terrace.

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