Published: July 27th 2010June 16th 2010
The Blue Mosque
Not so "blue" but quite magnificent
The whole time in Turkey we were thinking we were pretty clever because we would always buy two adult bus tickets, and then be offered the free back row of seats by some obliging steward on the bus. The back row of seats, it seemed, were always unoccupied, and the three of us would comfortably spread out and relax. Not so this time on our way to Istanbul! It was a full bus and our luck had run out. For the first time since we began this trip, we did a long haul bus ride with Phoebe (who is getting bigger by the day) sitting on our laps.
We knew accommodation in Istanbul was expensive, and while we were hunting around trying to find something suitable, a man who ran a hostel offered us two dorm beds (ie. one bunk) for a bargain price! Having never slept in dorms so far, we were dubious, but Phoebe was ultra keen, so we thought why not? We can always move if we didn't like it. As it turned out, it was great. The large room held 12 bunks, and for company we only had about five other, surprisingly considerate guests. Phoebe and
Inside the Hagia Sophia
The two plaques are Islamic and the rest are uncovered mosaics
I made the bottom bunk into a cubby house by hanging up some blankets, and as this let in no sun at all, we slept incredibly well. Each morning we had breakfast on the rooftop which had views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus (the strait that runs through Istanbul and separates Asia from Europe).
Much to the annoyance of Nick, I couldn't help singing the song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants, which I have to admit, is a really annoying song, with a boppy beat that's kind of hard to get out of your head. I would make sure to sing it every day and as you can see it was the inspiration for the blog title. The lyrics for the chorus go something like:
“Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks”
…...a seriously good way to really get on someone's nerves.
As Istanbul is HUGE (17 million people) we definitely got the feeling that we didn't see that much of it. We ventured out of Sultanahmet a bit but were also feeling a
Hagi Sophia Mosaic
This is done with gold and precious stones. It shows the Emperor and his wife giving gifts to Mary and Jesus
bit exhausted and there was also the start of the Soccer World Cup to distract us (yes, we're a bit behind on the blogs!). One day we took a boat ride up the Bosphorus and saw a lot of old stately Ottoman houses and government buildings, as well as some ancient forts. We of course went to see inside the Hagia Sofia (or Sancta Sophia), which was a grand church built 1500 years ago by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. During the Ottoman period it was converted for use as a mosque. When Ataturk came to power he had features of the original church as well as the mosque additions restored and opened it for use as a museum. The remaining mosaics were just beautiful, many jewelled and stunning. The architecture really was quite unique, and it was fun exploring the place and picking out which parts were the additions for the mosque. Across the road is the equally impressive Blue Mosque. From the outside the Blue Mosque is incredibly grand and as Nick and I looked on in awe Phoebe piped up in a slightly put out voice “Well, it's not very blue....not very blue at all”. It was
We got these from a man that walks around Istanbul selling puddings from a cart. The one on the left is called "Noah's Ark Pudding" and is made from white beans, but is very nice!
true, the Blue Mosque was probably more grey than it was blue, but standing there looking on I wasn't about to complain.
As Phoebe had mentioned in her last blog, she was very much looking forward to experiencing a Turkish bath in Turkey. Various opportunities presented themselves, however I had heard a few horror stories involving gruff bath attendants scrubbing five layers of skin off and the experience feeling more like a torture chamber than a relaxation spa. But I wasn't prepared to leave Turkey without having the Turkish bath experience and neither was Phoebe. We found a beautiful old bath house that advertised a 'females only' area and worked up some courage. Phoebe was allowed to accompany me in and Nick decided that he would opt out and would instead wait for us in the cafe. Having changed into a “pestemal” (traditional towel) we entered the main steaming room. In the centre was a huge (6 m diameter) marble stone that was heated. Off the the side were little alcoves with three washbasins each. The ceiling was a big, beautiful dome with about 100 holes cut in to let in light and let steam out. Old Turkish ladies
Inside the Turkish Bath or "Hamam"
and no, this is not me, and unsurprisingly photos cannot be taken inside. I shall not reveal my sources!
wearing nothing but their underwear were the bath attendants and we had one that spoke no other English except for “move” but made up for it with friendly smiles. I was vigorously scrubbed down (pleasant though - only two layers of skin scrubbed off) and then piles upon piles of sudsy soapy stuff poured all over me. Phoebe thought it was heaps of fun. Afterwards we were led over to a marble basin where she rinsed us down and then washed our hair. After that we were left to our own devices, so we went into one of the alcoves and splashed each other with the refreshingly cool water from the basins.
Having earned our stripes in the dorm room for three nights we decided an upgrade was in order for our last night. This time...oh luxury!!....our own bathroom. We used the time to prepare for our big journey the next day....our flight to Edinburgh in the UK to meet my Mum!