Amazing Travels: Istanbul

I have just been on a one in a lifetime trip. Thank you Mom and Dad. Now, I know people out there are thinking, “Sure, tell us about your sponsored vacation, Little Rich Girl.” Totally not the case. The last time I was in Europe I went with a girl friend, low budget backpaking. We stayed in hostels to save money, would eat the provided rolls and Tang for breakfast, sneak a couple of rolls in our pockets for lunch and for dinner eat whatever was cheapest, that we didn’t think would kill us. It was winter, so we would go to the grocery store, buy cheese and bread, and hang it in a plastic bag out the hostel window at night to stay fresh. Back to the current vacation.
I got engaged in February and have been with Bulent for almost 5 years. We thought it was time for “Meet the Parents” Transcontinental style. Since my parents were planning on flying all the way to Turkey, they thought it would be fun to visit several places in Turkey and Greece. Bulent and I drove up from Marmaris to join them in Istanbul, a city I have not yet visited.

We stayed in a charming apartment with a view of the Bosphorous very close to Taksim Square, Istanbul’s version of Times Square. Lively with pazars, and bars and pedestrian streets, it was a blast.
The view from the apartment was lovely

We visited Dolmabahce Sarayi (“Doll-ma-bah-che Saw-rye-i”). Dolmabahce was an opulent seafront Ottoman palace used during the empire’s last 80 years. It had a tremendous amount of European artistic influence. The palace was incredible and boasts 14 tons of gold in decoration. Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish republic spent his last days there.

Later we went to Kapalicarsi (“Cup-uli-chur-shi”). It is an Ottoman-style covered tunnel with carpet, jewelry and leather shops. It was a maze of shops, ranging from swords and shoes to jewley and carpets. The vareity was truly amazing as were the negotionations. I speak a little Turkish now, and it was suprising how much it counted when haggling about the price. All the shopkeepers would bust out smiling when they heard it, and knock down the price right away. The beggining price offered to me was usually less than my mother could bargain down to on the same item.

The third day we had a packed schedule, the problem with Istanbul is that it is such an amazing city with so much beauty and history. I think that you could live in Istanbul your whole life and not be able to see all it has to offer. On the day of the championship sight seeing we hit up three amazing places, Topkapi Sarayi, Sultanahmet Cami and the Ayasofya.

Topkapi Sarayi (“Top-cup-i Sorr-I-i”): An Ottoman palace from 1400s used as the Ottomans’ adminstration building for 400 yrs. It was filled with artifacts and riches from the Ottomans’ reign.

Photo by sl4mmy

Sultanahmet Cami (“Sull-ton-uh-met Jum-ee”): An Ottoman mosque built in 1600s. It is also known as “Blue Mosque” because of the beautiful hand painted tiles that adorn its walls. It is still a mosque currently, and so you can only visit during non prayer times of the day. Even then, speaking is restricted as people do pray during those times as well.

Ayasofya (“I-yah-sophia”)or Hagia Sophia, a church-turned-mosque-turned-museum. It was built as a cathedral between the years 532 AD and 537 AD(Hagia Sophia). When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in the 1450’s the cathedral was converted into a mosque(Ayasofya). This building was truly amazing in its beauty and sheer size.

To give you an idea of the immensness, this is the stone stair case to reach the top.
It is at least a 10 minute walk.

Origionally, when it was a church the ceilings were covered with mosaics, but when it was converted into a mosque the mosacis were plastered over. It has been under renovations for many years, as you can see there is alot of resortation needed. Slowly the plaster is being removed to reveal the underlaying mosaics. However, the issue is, that in reomving the plaster to unover the mosaics, important and historic Islamic art would have to be reoved or destoryed. For example the Islamic calligraphy below.

The next day we left for Efes the ancient Greek city. After all the sightseeing we were a little tired. However, we knew Efes was going to be amazing. So we hopped in the van, and started our roadtrip south. This is my brother. I had just told him how long the trip would be, you can tell he is thrilled.

Tomorrow: Efes

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