Published: June 1st 2012May 23rd 2012
I am sure mass workshops in friendliness and extending feelings of welcome have been used to instruct all and any citizen of Istanbul in making 'the tourist' feel comfortable. Most intensive programmes seem to have been extended to the carpet sellers.
These guys have it down to a fine art. Unsuspecting easily swayed 'tourists' enter at your own risk!
It always begins can I give you my card and you have to go into the shop to get the card. Then comes the glass of tea and they are on a roll. Prices go down; 600-545-475-375 shipping is included; of course we take VISA!
I listened to two intensive spiels... engaged in three short conversations without going into a shop and point blank refused many others. I have my silk carpet from Kashmir, apparently not as good as a double knot Turkish one. But when told the price I paid, all agreed it was good ... for me or the seller was not ascertained.
During the second visit to the train station I once again encountered .. I swear ...the only two people in Istanbul not overly friendly. Could be because they were Tourist Info and had
Curtains Go Up for Dinner
This cistern had water only in a tiny square that was surrounded by tables for snacks. Cistern used as entertainment venue.
to answer a) the same question over and over again, b) there were scores of people in and out of the place all day long or c) too many inane questions were posed them and it had become b-o-r-i-n-g. Probably a bit of all three.
As it turned out all workers in Turkey were holding a one day protest so no ticket again. I took the tram to the Sultanahmet stop originally to look for the Roman Cisterns. Did not find the #1's but did find the #2's. This cistern boasts 226 column. When I visited there were very few people ... five .... maybe three ... and workers inside the complex. The workers were setting up tables to seat 250 at a gala dinner.
Wandering down towards Hippodrome Square, where can be seen the Egyptian Obelisk and the remains of the coiled serpent, I bought a roasted corn and sat on a park bench beside an elderly man. He had just recently been retired from teaching and we chatted for a bit. While munching on my corn an altercation erupted between two shoeshine 'men'. Others intervened. I videoed.
Next stop Sultanahmet Mosque more commonly known as
Kernels for Sale
This woman was selling food for the birds in Hippodrome Square.
The Blue Mosque because of the colour of the tiles used. As luck should have it and it was a good stroke, the mosque was closed to visitors because of mid-day prayers. Wandering around the garden and viewing all of the fabulous roses I spied a sign “Free Event”. Off I went. The power point presentation explained Islam and the parts of the mosque. It was well worth the ¾ of an hour and by the time refreshments had been enjoyed and questions answered it was time to go inside Sultanahmet Mosque. ... scarf and long skirts for women; no shorts for men; shoes off and into the provided plastic bag (dispensed like at the veggie section of your local grocery store) and after inspection by two persons the mosque was attained.
It is stupendous.
I sat against the back wall on the rich red carpet. I did not invade the screened off space for devout women. I only once went into a WC that was also a cleansing area for women before going to prayer. The men cleanse at a fountain inside the courtyard of the grounds of the mosque or in the case of Sultanahmet they
sat along the walls on the north and south side of the mosque – feet, hands up to elbow and face are to be washed and the hair patted down with water. Five times a day the call to prayer goes out over the city from the minarets. Never did hear the first or last call to prayer ... one too early and the other too late. Five into twenty four... must be around every five hours.
After contemplating my little life and watching the variety of people here on a visit it was time to visit Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), built one thousand years ago and still the fourth largest dome in the world..
A presentation of contemporary calligraphy interpreting classical methods was displayed for the first time in Ayasofya. Having gone thru this exhibit I approached the main body of Ayasofya from the side and encountered a wall of people, the large majority of whom were part of some group or other. The area outside Ayasofya was totally covered in tour busses.
The search for a WC is always imperative and always costs one Turkish lira. Some WC are super clean. Did not find any dispicable.
North Wall of Ayasofya
Hagia Sophia ....simply stupendous
The plant your two feet and crouch over the hole are the most hygienic and the ones I prefer. It seems one can count on finding a WC near a mosque. This info did not disappoint while on the long Bosporus trip ... there was no way I was going on the ship and I ... HAD to go when the ship stopped. I found the mosque in the tiny seaside town and sure enough there was the WC ... tanksbetogod ...am always desperate.
Inside Ayaofya the tiles, the calligraphy, the floors, the lights, the gallery, ... all were breathtaking. Staying there long enough I was able to enjoy the space without the hoards of tour groups because they were back on their respective buses. Seems by five they have to dine ... again en mass?
Ayasofya was built as a a christian church and in 1453 was converted into a mosque. In 1935 Atatuk declared it a museum. The mosaics from christian times are being restored and the plaster that had been put over the mosaics is being removed. Some five mosaics have been slowly uncovered.
On this day ...only three sites were visited ... Ayasofya
Calligraphy - Shades of Heron
If any one can tell me what is being quoted please let me know.
was so overwhelming it took a lot of energy out of this conscientious traveller. Also today I had to find some real food. Found a place with prepared food for eat in and take out. Because I had been at it all day long: lounging on the gallery balustrade, visited numerous WC's and rubbing shoulder with literally thousands ... apparently 250,000 per day is not an outrages figure at some of the attractions in Istanbul; remind me to go in the off season next time ...and having had the exhaust of scores of tour buses, the dust of construction sites and the general air of a city of over 20 million hit my body I needed to shower before eating and once showered there was no way I was stepping out again.
So take out it was. Of course my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Ordering a portion of salad and a portion of cooked meat I overdid it just a bit. It was delicious and went down very well with Turkish beer. Rest in the horizontal position, reading a book found in the foyer of the hotel and watching BBC, the day came to a satisfying end. The stress about coming alone to Istanbul has been put to rest. Now I just have to wonder about the rest of Turkey.
OK at tourist spots ... no problem ... but who want to stick to those? Of the beaten path is where to find the true picture of life and the extraordinaire ... that's what its all about!