Thursday, June 14, 2012

“I think we will just relax today”…..NOT!!

We were both tired after our people-intensive time in Kars and had decided that, since we had four extra days in Istanbul, we would just spend the first day relaxing around the hotel.  However, by 9:00am we both felt that we couldn’t waste a single day in Istanbul so we headed out to the Blue Mosque.

We knew that it was close but weren’t sure if it was a straight walk or whether we had to navigate several small streets.  So, to be sure, we asked the man at the reception desk.  He looked at us and dryly said (put on your best Basil Fawlty impression when you read this) … “Turn right out of the hotel and keep walking"!”  ALL of the other hotel employees have been extremely fun and very helpful!!!

We followed his instructions to the letter and quickly arrived at the outer wall of the magnificent Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii).….._6106618

Unfortunately, every tour group and cruise ship group had the same idea!!  We stood in line to get a bag to hold our shoes, waited for the attendant to fix my scarf so that it covered my shoulders too and then entered this beautiful Mosque…._6106630_6106631

It was hard to take many photos so we didn’t stay long but we are planning to return early one morning before anyone else is up and about.  That is one of the perks of having a hotel so close!!!

Instead we headed down a “side street”, not really caring where we ended up.  We stopped to take a photo of this interesting house and it has now become our benchmark for where we are!!!

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We next entered the Underground Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi).  Rick Steves describes it as “an underground rainforest of pillars” and that is a very good description….. _6106659

It was built in the 6th century and held 27 million gallons of water.  There are two stone Medusa heads that were recycled from earlier Roman structures.  One was on it’s side and the other was upside down….not sure why….._6106676We loved this sign….._6106688

and decided that they should give tickets for some of the outfits that the tourists wear!!!!!

However, you could never fault this guy’s sense of style……

 

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Not a bad shot considering that I was holding the camera at my waist and clicking away!!

 

I loved the interior of this restaurant……_6106694

We ended up in a fairly deserted area but quickly realized that this was actually the Grand Bazaar which was closed on Sundays.   A "Shoe-shine” person walked passed and dropped his brush.  Michael kindly told him that it had fallen out of his box.  He then thanked Michael and “offered” to brush his shoes for free.  Now, we knew that this was probably a ploy, but as he wanted them done anyway, we let ourselves be suckered!!!!  And, as he related the story of his children’s upcoming eye surgery, Michael made the appropriate commiserating noises.

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At one point he turned and spoke to me in Turkish.  When I didn’t answer he looked back at Michael  and said “not Turkish???”   That is the second time that I have been mistaken for being Turkish!!!!

There are tons of cats in Istanbul, most slinking around the table legs of outdoor diners, but there are also a lot of cute kittens.  This one obviously wanted his paws shined……

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We looked up and realized that we were standing in the shadow of yet another Mosque.  As we walked up to it we found that we were at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar as well.   We heard one tour guide talking to his group and he said “Oh no, I just remembered that it is Sunday and the Bazaar is closed”.  I don’t know about you, but I would be a little frustrated if my guide “forgot” such an important detail.   We have now heard that he probably did this so that he could guide them to “his brother’s  place” who has good prices!!

The Nuruosmaniye Mosque sits at the gate to the Bazaar and is a hidden prize…..

_6106696We were greeted at the front door and invited inside.  At each of the Mosque’s you are given wraps if you are not dressed appropriately….ie head, shoulders and knees covered!!!

The greeter also told another family about the proper etiquette for taking off your shoes.   You slip out of your shoes before you step onto the carpet, but then you do not let your feet touch the ground after they are out of the shoes.  This can be a bit difficult if you are trying to step UP with the unclad foot while trying to get the shoe off of the other foot!!!!

The thing that was wonderful about this Mosque is that it was mostly empty so that we could enjoy it’s beauty and serenity!!_6106718

I love these large chandeliers.  Apparently they originally used candles in these and they were lowered to the ground for the candles to be lit.DSC03529Michael took a photo for one family and they kindly reciprocated….

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I had read stories about the “pulpits” that were used by the Imam’s to preach their sermons.  They first were used when Muhammed  the prophet would preach to the masses of people and he needed to be up higher so that he could be heard.  Today, in deference to Muhammed, the Imam preaches from a position on the stairs rather than at the top.  Notice where the microphone is placed….DSC03536

I very much liked this embroidered tapestry piece….._6106729

and thought that this scene was very serene……DSC03538

As we were leaving the compound, we saw this washing area where the men will sit and wash their feet and hands before the go in to pray…..

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We were feeling a bit “peckish” as we were walking back toward the hotel so decided to stop in at a small Doner Kebab joint and see what we could find to eat.  Fortunately, the menu had photos and English subtitles……DSC03545

….however we are a bit concerned about what “Return Chicken Portions” really are!!!!

The small shop had four tables and was just the right size for us.   We each ordered something different.   I had the Doner in half bread……..DSC03546

…which was spicy beef served with lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, pickle slice and, of course, cold French Fries.   Michael had the Chicken Wrap which was basically the same thing, but with chicken and a different type of bread.DSC03547

Doner Kebabs are a specialty in Turkey.  They are cooked on a spit over a vertical grill and the cooked meat is cut off so that the next layer can cook.  These are different from the ones in the US because the meat is not processed into a paste before it is skewered.  Instead, fresh slices of meat and peppers are layered together and then spitted.  The proprietor allowed me a wonderful photo op…..DSC03549

In the afternoon, we did some heavy duty Terrace Time, enjoying the sights of a Catamaran regatta off of the coast….._6106751

…..and, of course, the Blue Mosque in the near distance……_6106753

Even though we were not particularly hungry, we decided that it was time to eat.  This time we visited a restaurant that was suggested by the hotel.  It obviously catered to tourists so was not a true Turkish meal, however, the event was enjoyable.   We sat next to a young Australian couple and spent much of the evening talking with them.

One of the things that we had wanted to try was a Turkish whiskey called Raki.  It is served with a glass of ice water and when you pour the water into the Raki it becomes cloudy.  It was OK, but had a strong licorice flavor.  I am glad to say that I tried it…..

DSC03557As we were walking back to the hotel, we decided to drop in on the Blue Mosque again.  This time it was not nearly as crowded, but they were getting ready for the sunset prayer so we were not allowed inside.  Instead we sat on one of the side steps and just watched….

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The Mosque is beautiful in the twilight……_6106777_6106781

And so ended the day of “let’s jus sit around the hotel and relax!!!!”

1 comment:

Maggi said...

Lovely photos. Thanks for this trip around Istanbul.

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