Three days in Istanbul
Easy to get to the Sophia Hagia. Just walk across the street. This is the oldest mosque and now deconsecrated and a museum. It dates from the 500's and probably the oldest building we have ever been in. It has a beautiful dome which was the biggest dome in the world for hundreds of years until the one in Florence. The walls are covered in gorgeous tiles and mosaics.
The Blue Mosque, more famous but younger in an old way and a working or should I say praying mosque is just across the other side of the square. Here we have to cover ourselves, legs shoulders and heads but don't worry they have the have the means to help us. Also we have to remove our shoes.The word blue becomes obvious inside as the whole interior is covered in beautiful patterned blue tiles. It has a lot of windows and therefore not as dark as I expected and with a lovely thick carpet, a rather comfortable place. Here we ran into two ladies from the Scenic Crystal (from Perth) so we went of to have coffee and compare notes with them. Walking through
the lanes to find a coffee shop other than Turkish coffee Grant caused envy amongst the locals with his "charlie's Angles". They have been out late at night smoking apple tea through those big pipes in the cafe's - they recond it made them sleep. There are no drugs here at all and very little alcohol (thats mostly for the tourists) Result - hardly any violence. 'Most crime is theft and pickpocketing. I feel very safe here and everybody is so friendly to Grant and his beautiful wife.
If there is a church on every corner in England or at home,there is a mosque on every corner here. You can't be expected to walk too far to pray 5 times a day. I really love the sound of the call to prayer as it sounds out over the whole city above all the hustle and bustle, tourists, trams and business being conducted on every square inch.. Grant enjoyed his visit to the Bazaar where a couple of purchases were made but he finally ordered me out. If only packing wasn't a problem. The overriding impression is the beautiful colours.
We visited the Roman underground cistern, a cool dark reprieve from the heat outside. Lovely Roman columns with very subdued lighting and hard to take a photos of. My impression of the Istanbul in 26 years is that it is sooo much more busy with larger crowds. When talking to a local about this he said"wait till the weekend, Sat and Sun even worse. Well that turned out to be true. We decided to catch the tram to the spice market yesterday, (sat) sort of like the Grand Bazaar but more spicy. Well the crowds - we had to wait for two trams to pass as they were full. Then the next one body to body squash. If that wasn't bad enough a lady with a pram and two kids decided to push on. I though she had no chance but she showed me how it's done........amazed I was. At the spice market we bought some lovely mixed nuts and a mixture of turkish delight. I have to say I'm developing a taste for it. It is much nicer that the packaged stuff we get and there are many many flavors... One thing I find difficult is the cats. The place is over run with cats. Desexing is something thats not done. They all live on the streets and although I see the cafe owners feeding them the leftovers etc they are obviously breeding like rabbits and they don't all look well and cared for. I think its survival of the fittest. Iknow this is the way in Greece also which makes me think if they can't afford to feed themselves in Greece at the moment I wonder how the cats a fairing. Today (Sun) we went to the 300 year old Turkish baths. Its a fun experience. When was the last time you were washed and rubbed down just like your mum used to do. Girls and boys separate of course. You wash yourself out of these gorgeous old marble tubs and then lie on a marble slab to be scrubbed all over with a loofa then rinsed off and them soaped up and massaged. You soon get over your shyness as everybody is in the same boat. Come out feeling like a new person........and a kilo lighter. Today is our last day here and tonight we are of to a dinner cruise on the Bospherous to see the lights of Istanbul and belly and folk dancing display. (Hoefully a whirleing Durvish also since we can't seem to stay up late enought to see one.) I hear its not everybody's cup of tea but I have loved Istanbul just a much as I did the first time. Its such a out there, busy happy and colourful place............ ...........cab at 10.30 for flight to Heathrow.
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