Originally published 1 September 2011.
Marahaba! (Hey y’all!)
I hope everyone’s doing well. I can’t believe how much I miss folks–there are so many cool things here! Dan, Andrea and I have already had quite the adventure!
Background info: I know Andrea from church, and she knows Dan from law school at Emory University in Atlanta. So that’s the low-down. I’ve known Andrea all of 2 1/2 months, and I met Dan about 30 hours ago. So here we are in Turkey! We’ve already been mistaken for brother and sisters at least twice, and much teasing and torment has commenced. We’re great travel mates! =)
So, Dan got to the hotel around 6-ish last night, and we met in person for the first time. We went to the metro station to pick up Andrea around 10:00 or so, and now we’re all just seeing how long we can last together. =) We stayed up till about 12:30 making our plan of attack for Istanbul: Day 1, and then I was out for the count! Dan fell asleep shortly after, and Andrea said she got to enjoy our night time noise-making habits before she went to sleep. It’s going to be a fun couple of weeks, we can already tell!
Breakfast was salad, olives, cheese, bread, jelly, honey, yogurt, fruit, scrambled creamy eggs, meat, and a few other assorted things. I like the bread, yogurt, fruit , jellies, and honey myself. I’m not a savory person, so I like to load up on sugar in the mornings. Life is sweet for me. 😉 I was looking forward to having Turkish coffee this morning, but they didn’t offer any! I guess because breakfast is a buffet. I’ll get some before the trip is done, though. Don’t you worry! 😉
First stop, the Obelisk! It was built in 1600 BC–BEFORE CHRIST! As in, 3600 years ago. Um, wow. It’s got hieroglyphics on it, and it was re-erected in Istanbul in the 4th century AD. Amazing to see! We also saw several mosques. Honestly, they all kind of look the same to me (even the Blue Mosque, which is one of only two that I’ve actually heard of before–and it’s not blue!). The line for the Blue Mosque was super long, so we decided to go one over to the Aya Sophia, which is the only other mosque I’d heard of. It’s the one with the ancient mosaics in it. We got to walking from Blue to Aya, and along the way we saw people selling various breads, fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, trinkets, popcorn, and most interestingly–cord on the cob! Yes, folks, just like at a US fair. =) There were several gardens around to walk through, and lots of people dressed in all different ways. No, not every woman wears full burka or even has her head covered. I think it’s a bit different the further east you go, but at least in Istanbul there are people from everywhere, dressed EVERY WAY!
So, stop number 2 was the Aya Sophia! It is absolutely impressive, and it has an amazing history! It was an orthodox patriarchal basilica from 360 AD (WOW!) until it was converted into a mosque in 1453. Then in 1931, it was designated to be a secular museum by Ataturk (the man who is the Turkish equivalent of George Washington), which opened in 1934. History lesson concluded!
At any rate, it was really amazing to see all the marble columns and doors and all the paintings and mosaic tile artwork. There was a long, winding tunnel that led from the ground floor to the balcony of the upper floor, and walking up I couldn’t help but think about how many people had walked the stone floors for various purposes in the last 1640 years–sultans, emperors and empresses, various religious officials, good, bad, prisoners, soldiers, Vikings (yes, Vikings! They left graffiti), construction workers, restoration people, tourists, political officials… the list could go on and on! There were several depictions of Jesus, Mary, John the Baptist, Gabriel, Empresses, etc., etc., etc. Some of it had been too damaged to repair, but the parts that were still there were VERY well-preserved! I have absolutely never seen anything this old. I can’t wait to get to Ephesus and see WAY more!
We spent quite a bit of time in there, then went in search of food! By the time we got to a restaurant, I’ll just be honest with you, I was fading fast! As is typical when going to an authentic restaurant in another country, what we got was not what we expected, but it sure was good! Pictures to follow soon. Sorry for the delay! There are only so many hours in a day. =)
Next up, the Cisterns! Nope! It’s a Turkish holiday and all Turkish folks are off work–and they can get into the Cisterns for free today, so it was quite impossibly crowded! So we decided to try out the Grand Bazaar. Nope! It was closed! Maybe for the holiday? We’re not sure. So we decided to take a boat ride on the Bosphorus Strait between the European and Asian sides of the city! It connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, so we got to see both of those, too! Super cool, folks, especially since we got to watch the sunset from the water! It was a bit of an adventure getting there that involved meeting someone on the crowded docks, quickly weaving our way through street vendors to a bus, riding a short (but way too long and smelly!) way to another dock, following another man and some tourists to the boat, and happily sitting on a bench and resting on the water. I promise it wasn’t as shady as it may seem! 😉
And then we needed to find our way back to the hotel, which we did, and we discovered an interesting aqueduct along the way! And now we’re pooped! Tomorrow’s agenda involves the Topkapi Palace and Harem (yep, first stop involves a Harem!), Cisterns, Grand Bazaar and Sprice Bazaar–trying again! Glad our hotel is walking distance to everything we wanted to do! =)
For pictures, click here!