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                                ISTANBUL, TURKEY

May 14

Istanbul

Our bus arrived in Istanbul around 10 am and travelled by Metro, transferring to Tram, then walked past the stunning Blue Mosque to check into our room at the Moonlight Pensiyon. Our hotel was clean, inexpensive and situated right in the heart of all the sights in Sultanahmet. We quickly deposited our backpacks and hopped back on the tram to head for the airport to meet Chris' plane.

The airport was packed with people as all the flights from the connection in Frankfort were late. Finally after over 2 hours of waiting, Chris appeared through the gate beginning a wondrous 3 weeks of touring all of the Western half of Turkey. He had just purchased a new camera so thanks to his emerging talent for photography, we have great pictures of our trip.

Sultanahmet Square

Istanbul is a magical city, its skyline studded with domes and minarets. So full of history, today it still maintains much of its cultural heart.

The first evening we walked around the Sultanahemet Square, the heart of Old Istanbul's sightseeing. We wondered through the gardens and fountains, admiring the city's most significant monuments, the Blue MosqueHaghia Sophia, and the Hippodrome. We strolled down a jumble of alleyways bordered by traditional style Ottoman houses and dozens of restaurants.

The hilly labyrinth of cobblestone sidewalks and streets were alive with the ambiance of friendly Turks selling their wares or offering tea.

 

 

 

The Park is bordered by Blue Mosque & Aya Sofya.

 

Vendors sell corn, doughnuts, ice cream, wraps and more...

 

The park was always a source of entertainment as Flag Man shows off.

Tulips originated in Turkey

The square was buzzing with the cries of hawkers while local women sat quietly on the walkway sewing  their crafts on the street.  Never pushy or aggressive, the Turks were friendly and interested in just chatting.


Domed Fountain

The Hippodrome

was the heart of Constantinople's political and sporting life, and was the site of the chariot racing stadium built by the Romans in about 200 AD. A rival between chariot racers in 532 resulted in the massacre of 30,000 people trapped in the Hippodrome.

Serpentine Column Brick minaret 3500-year-old Egyptian
Obelisk
was brought to Turkey from Luxor. We saw its mate at Karnak.

Turkish Carpets

Synonymous with Turkey is the traditional hand woven carpets and kilims. We saw lots of shops carrying a wide assortment, all pretty pricey! It was really interesting watching the process of weaving a carpet with silk, a process that can take 3 years! No wonder they cost so much!

Turkish Coffee and Tea

Drinking copious cups of tea is a way of life in Turkey and wherever you go you are offered a tiny tulip-shaped demitasse cup of sweet tea.

The Coffee Man is a common sight on the streets, hauling his urn on his back and offering the strong thick liquid that you really can stand your spoon up in! The trick is to wait until the grounds settle, then make sure you don't drink the "mud" in the bottom of the glass.

Nargiles -Turkish Water pipes

Almost every restaurant offers a smoke with your Turkish coffee. Sometimes called a hookah or hubble-bubble  and sheesha in the Arab world, the nargile was very popular during the the 17th to the 19th centuries and remains a popular social Turkish pastime throughout the country.

The nargile consists of a glass bottle into which a metal pipe device is placed. The bottle is half filled with water, and a long flexible hose  is attached to the pipe. Atop the pipe are a small metal tray to catch cinders and above it a small cup-shaped bowl  to hold the tobacco, which is flavoured with fruity essences, mint, and even chocolate.

We all had a go at it. The fruit flavoured tobacco is very cool and smooth.
Part of the fun is the pleasant bubbling sounds in the water as the smoke passes through the bowl.

Nargiles are available for sale everywhere and we helped Chris shop for one to take home as a souvenir of Turkey.

What could have been a better introduction to Turkey than lazing on Turkish carpeted seats, smoking a traditional Nargile over Turkish coffee in Istanbul, a Whirling Dervish on stage spinning to the music of a Turkish band, with the Blue Mosque lit up in the background and the intermittent Call to Prayer wailing from the speakers!


  Around Town

Ice Cream Man

Shopping

Interesting spires and minarets

Gord is accosted by 2 young boys, all in good fun

Fresh squeezed OJ for lunch

As night approaches, Istanbul turns into a dazzling display of colour as many of the fountains and mosques are lit up.

We watched the Blue Mosque Light Show several times, with a story narrated each evening in a different language.

Nightlife

Istanbul does not really come alive until very late. Shops are open until well after midnight.

Crowds gather at a street party with Modern rock music

The cooler evenings bring people into the streets to socialize and eat.

Spice Bazaar

We took a tram down the hill to the Bosphorous River to visit one of the oldest bazaars in the city. Spice trade used to be a major industry during the time of the Ottoman Empire. The bazaar is like a huge cavernous arcade with high ceilings and lines of shops on either end.

 

We slithered our way through narrow crowded lanes, filled with the fragrance of the exotic East. Particularly colourful spices, nuts, and dried fruit gave way to other goods. We sampled Turkish Delight and I bought some Turkish Saffron, not nearly as potent a spice as Asian saffron.

In constricted streets beyond the bazaar, were shops selling  clothing and rustic house wares, the things that regular Turks buy - The real thing. And the coiled hose was a home for the cats!

Adjacent to the Spice Bazaar is the big Square facing the ferry dock on the Golden Horn with the huge New Mosque, where pigeons gather amidst the women selling their crafts


From the chaotic transportation hub of the Eminonu shore, we walked across the Galata Bridge and took the underground railway to the district of Beyoglu. Fishermen occupied every inch of the bridge railings.


Bosphorus River Cruise
A boat ride up the river unfolded a great view of the city's landmarks including mosques, palaces and fortresses. One side of the river is Asia, the other Europe.
There was lots of traffic on the river; ferries, cruise boats, sailboats, power yachts, fishing boats and gullets. The boat went past many old monuments interspersed with hillsides cascading with white Mediterranean style homes.

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