2nd full day Istanbul

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July 10th 2007
Published: October 22nd 2017
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Alex with Blue MosqueAlex with Blue MosqueAlex with Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is just gorgeous from the outside. It is also very nice inside, but we enjoyed it more from the gardens. Also, the light is much better for pictures. It has 6 minarets which was enough to make it a really big deal, until some joker built one with seven. What do you call parboiled rice in Turkey? Minaret rice! I must be tired or spending too much time with Josh.
Geo: 39.9439, 32.856

Mike: We decided to take a break today and get a guide for Istanbul. The thought was to get the lay of the town, see some sights and be prepared for our next few free days. Yusef met us at 9am and we toured the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Yusef knew a few facts and stories but was short of details and depth and spent much time on his cell phone. The Hippodrome used to be large oval for horse and chariot races and dates back many centuries. Now it is a paved oval surrounded by buildings with two ancient obelisks and one serpentine column at one end as the last vestiges of its former glory. The previous day I actually spent 10 minutes walking around the Hippodrome searching for it. I felt kind of silly but I was expecting it to look more like a colliseum with walls and seats. Despite that, it was still pretty cool to be standing on the spot of so much history, but there was not much to look at. Both the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia were spectacular from the outside. The architecture was clearly the star of
Another Henricus!Another Henricus!Another Henricus!

This is the grave of Henricus who was an important enough guy to merit having his grave on the second level of the Blue Mosque. We found this interesting because we live in Henrico county. Of course, "Henry" is a pretty common name and they have nothing to do with one another, but it was a link to home.
these sites, out shining the art and mosaics found inside.
Our next stop was a variety of vendors with Yusef extolling the virtues of Turkish leather at a friend's shop, the honesty of his friend the gift shop owner, the beauty of Turkish tiles at a friend's shop... you may be seeing a trend. We finally made it clear that we were no longer interested in shopping and I think Yusef's interest in us dimished. This suspicion was validated when he offered to guide us to downtown Istanbul and then offered to let us find our way back. All in all it was for the best as the kids found a mini putt-putt game that had been temporarily erected in the middle of Taksim Square and took a much needed break.
During the course of the day we did learn how to navigate the tram and subway system and learned the best shuttles and ferries to use to get to Princes' Islands which is our game plan for tomorrow.

Bridget: One ongoing joke with us has been how popular Alex has been with the Turks. They are all absolutely delighted when they hear him speak Turkish. Even walking down the street he
Art in the mosqueArt in the mosqueArt in the mosque

Due to a prohibition against images in the mosque, it's traditional to use beautifully written words as a form of ornamentation.
can barely go a few steps withoug having some passerby ruffle his hair or pat his cheek. At one point I was asking him what he thought about being so popular and he was in the middle of telling me that it was "weirding me out a little bit" when another person patted him on the head. The then exploded with, "See!? I can't even finish a sentence without someone patting me!" He's taking it all in stride though. Mostly it only bothers him when he is getting tired.

Also, I think we may be hitting the beginning of the weight-loss portion of our trip. We all have found plenty of food that we love in Turkey, but we are starting to miss both home-cooked meals and regular, old American food. As a result, we really are starting to eat only when we are actually hungry. This has generally been 2 meals a day, not 3 and we have been walking a lot. We may be making up a few calories with juice and soda. Milk is not very available in restaurants and the hot, dry weather and exercise have been demanding that we consume huge amounts of water. We need
Blue mosque areal viewBlue mosque areal viewBlue mosque areal view

I didn't take this one, but wanted to include it.
the occasional soda (usually Orange Fanta or Schweppes Limon) as a change of pace. Fresh-squeezed orange juice is also so widely available that the kids are getting tired of it. A glass of fresh-squeezed juice can run anywhere from $.75-$5.00, generally it is about $2. Small water bottles on the street are usually about $.35 and big ones (1.5L) are about $.60. I just noticed today that, unlike where we were staying in Ankara, this section of Istanbul has no grocery stores. In Ankara we were able to pop in and just buy a few items to snack on. That's harder to find here--at least in this district, obviously there are grocery stores in Istanbul, the population is 15million.

One other thing that made me shake my head today was that after we found out how to use the light rail system, I realized that we could have gotten to our hotel very easily for about $3, if only we'd known where it was and how to do it. I guess that means we are moving along the learning curve.

We'll get more photos posted soon; it's just a little time consuming.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Interior Hagia SophiaInterior Hagia Sophia
Interior Hagia Sophia

We'll probably buy postcards for pictures of interiors of some of these big buildings. You just can't get a good picture without lighting assistance.
Like an altar (for the Christians in the audience)Like an altar (for the Christians in the audience)
Like an altar (for the Christians in the audience)

Homilies are given from this raised structure. No one is allowed to ascend to the top because it is reserved for the Prophet Mohammed.
Mosaic at Hagia SophiaMosaic at Hagia Sophia
Mosaic at Hagia Sophia

This building was a great church, then a mosque and is now a museum. Some of the mosaics were essentially paved over when it was made into a church. They were then recovered and restored in the mid-1900s and part of the transformation to museum.
Not the Washington MonumentNot the Washington Monument
Not the Washington Monument

This obelisk is one of the few visible parts of the Hippodrome. The rest of it has been buried/destroyed. Of course, despite the fact that the Turks would like their looted relics back, there is no rush to return this Egyptian artifact that was looted in 300 or 400 BC (give or take a thousand years--our heads are spinning with all the dates we've heard at this point).
Serpentine!  Serpentine!Serpentine!  Serpentine!
Serpentine! Serpentine!

This serpentine column was made from melted weapons and is near the big obelisk. Since the top is broken off, it's not terribly impressive to look at.
St. Anthony'sSt. Anthony's
St. Anthony's

We found our first church of the visit today. It is St. Anthony's near Taksim Square.
Statue at Taksim SquareStatue at Taksim Square
Statue at Taksim Square

I thought Taksim would be more interesting. There is lots of upscale shopping nearby, but that's not something we need to do.
Sultan's worship spaceSultan's worship space
Sultan's worship space

Supposedly, there was a secret passage that the sultan could use to get from his palace to his mosque and back and he could pray inside this enclosed area without danger of being assassinated--always a bonus when you are trying to pray.
The Blue MosqueThe Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

We had to remove shoes and cover heads and shoulders to enter the mosque. Blue sheets are provided if you need to cover something. I find it interesting that in the mosques you cover your head, in the churches you remove your head covering.
Washing areaWashing area
Washing area

One must wash before entering a mosque for prayer, so there are washing areas outside of each mosque. For the elaborate mosques, these ares are very beautiful, as well as functional. Also in the picture is a heavily bearded stranger in an alarming shade of mint green--no, wait, that's Mike. He's stopped shaving.

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