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Published: April 7th 2016
Last night we ate in a restaurant on a street up hill from our apartment. It was full of young tourists from all over, but no Americans that we could see (or hear). This area is interesting: downhill from our apartment are many, many electrical supply shops. Most are very small. Up the hill from us, there are mainly guitar shops with young hipster clients. On streets adjacent to the guitar shops, there are trendy restaurants and boutiques. We seem to be right on the transition line!
This morning we walked down the hill to the tram station and traveled across the Golden Horn to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. The first terrorist attack was in the square there, so there are many police and security checks to get into the mosque and museum. There were few foreign tourists, but many groups of high school kids. Since we were there early, there were no lines yet at either site. People continue to be so helpful: Bill forgot to bring photo ID to buy the Museum Pass, so he had to use a machine to make the purchase. It wasn't working correctly, so one of the employees made a
call, and shortly a man with a computer keyboard showed up and fixed the problem and Bill got his card!
The Mosque and Hagia Sophia are both amazing, but the photos will tell more than words. The Mosque is most stunning from the outside, while the Hagia Sophia is much more impressive inside. The Blue Mosque was finished in 1616, taking only 7 years to complete. It emptied the coffers of the Ottoman empire, and lead to their decline.
Built by Emperor Justinian in 532-537 using over 5000 builders and artists working day and night, the Hagia Sophia was used as church for 916 years, until the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed in 1453, when it was converted into a mosque. It remained a mosque for 482 years, becoming a museum in 1935.
After these sights, we headed for the Basilica Cistern, an underground treasure complete with fish. My favorite story about it is this: the cistern complex was built in 532 by Justinian to provide water for the Great Palace. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the cistern was forgotten for a century, People found they could get fresh water and even fish by
lowering buckets through holes in their basements. At first they thought they were just especially lucky or blessed, but soon the cistern was rediscovered....
After the cistern visit (we did not pay up for the chance to dress as a sultan and harem girl...), we had a sad, yet hopeful conversation with a young man who has carpet shop that may have to close due to the lack of tourists. He thinks that ISIS can be destroyed if more countries get involved, and that Turkish security is now able to thwart new attacks. I so hope he's right...
After a lunch at a small Turkish-style restaurant, we dove back into the Grand Bazaar, and discovered some of the older parts... There are security police at each entrance with metal detectors so it feels quite safe inside. After about half an hour, we finally found our way to the gate out of the Bazaar that leads down the hill to the New Mosque and the Spice Market, through miles of textile shops of all kinds (clothing, fabric, curtains, wedding dresses...). We visited the Spice Market for a few minutes, but found we were tired of of being given the
hard sell by merchants, so headed home, walking across the Golden Horn on the Galata Bridge. We then had the steep hill to climb. followed by five flights up to our new penthouse studio with a terrace!
Time for a rest....and some reading in the warm on the terrace...
Tomorrow we take a boat up the Bosphorus....
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