Published: April 23rd 2012April 23rd 2012
Well, we haven’t been too diligent about blogging – far too busy with every day and night action packed and mainly full of fun.Kelly is the writer in the family and he’s sent a few, but mainly we’ve been posting Facebook photos – I hope you’ve followed the link and been checking them out (I think there’s over 150 of them)
Anyway, ten days in Istanbul turns out to be about the right amount of time. We’ve had lots to do each day and have just about run out – tomorrow is nothing scheduled except shopping and maybe a little more shopping.
The hotel we’re in – the Sultanhan is charming in a funny way – vary pretty but the elevator is to scary to use (the first four days they were working on it on and off – a couple of extremely short fat guys – one with a finger splinted out to the side periodically work on it with what sounds like a jackhammer and one of the two elevators has a gap between the floor and the elevator part where you can look all the way down. But we’re on the third of five floors. The restaurant – that doesn’t actually have food service unless you ask at the front desk and is mostly the breakfast room with a reliable breakfast buffet is on the fifth floor roof terrace with a gorgeous view of the Marmara Sea and tanker boats waiting for their turn to enter the Bosphorus. So since we’re halfway in between we’ve been using the stairs. The AC works but only in the summer, so its open windows for those of us used to cool nights. The first night was hard to sleep because they ring a loud Islamist song out about 4am and it goes on and on – but by the second night we were used to it and didn’t even wake up.
That song is the Islamic call to prayer and they do it five times a day – in the olden days before amplified speakers it was probably just right to have so many of them going all at once but they’re all slightly different now and really makes a cacophonus noise especially right here in the middle of the old mosques – but again we quit even noticing it after a couple of days. Not too many burkas here – just tourists from Saudi Arabia wear them I think but many of the women wear headscarves and trenchcoats all the time all buttoned up even when its hot out.
Most memorable sights have been the inside of the domes in the mosques. The Hagia Sophia is truly an amazing place, said to be the eighth wonder of the world and I could believe it. The dome inside is 90 meters high and enormous with no support columns – just four angels painted on the top to hold it up and used ho have a picture of Christ in the very center of the done – earthquake took that out. It was originally built as a Christian church by Constantine and then made into the wonder it is now by the roman Emperor Justinian. It is adorned with huge beautiful mosaics of Jesus made of gold and precious stones. After that it got turned into a mosque but the Muslims of the day left many of the Christian images in place – just added their own in the way of giant Arabic names of Allah, Mohammed and various caliphates. Now it’s a museum.
Blue Mosque still functions as a mosque and is right next door – pretty impressive but not like Hagia Sophia. Also there is the ancient underground cistern built also by Constantine – with rows of underground columns and two giant heads of Medusa.
We’ve had a great time dining in rooftop terraces for lunch and outdoor street restaurants for dinner. Turks like their appetizers and expect you’ll have several mezas before the main course. As Kelly mentioned we made friends with one of the restaurateurs and while we’ve wanted to try different spots we often end up at his place for drinks (Raki – a form of Arak) and sometimes a Narbile (otherwise known as a hookhah). It’s got tobacco in it but you’d never know it. Just tastes like sweet vapor– we had rose mint one night and strawberry another - and it was really good.
We’ve stayed on the European side (unless the Princes Islands where we went today are considered Asian). All the old things are on this side but the Asian side is where 90% of the city is and its enormous when seen by boat.
Be sure to check out the Facebook pictures. – you’ll see almost everything we did.