To Asia and back to Europe

Trip Start Feb 17, 2012
Trip End Feb 26, 2012

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Istanbul is a great city. It's not like your typical capital city where you just want to leave as soon as possible, like Guatemala City or Lima, Peru. Istanbul has some beautiful Masques, great cafes, and beautiful Palaces. 

I'm on day two in Istanbul and I feel exhausted after seeing so much. 

Yesterday I headed to Topkapi Palace which was the home to Selim the Sot, who drowned after drinking to much champagne; Ibrahim the Mad, who lost his reason after being imprisoned for 22 years by his brother Murat IV; and the malevolent Roxelana, a former concubine who became the powerful consort of Suleyman the Magnificent between 1453-1839. 

The palace is huge an was the home to hundreds of people. Something really interesting was the Harem which was a place where the sultan could engage in debauchery at will (and Murat III did, after all, having 112 children). These were the imperial family quarters, and every detail of Harem life was governed by tradition, obligation and ceremony. The word harem means private. Girls would be often from foreign land and we bought as slaves. These girls would be schooled in Islam and Turkish culture and language, as well as the arts of makeup, dress, comportment, music, reading, and writing, embroidery, and dancing. Then they would enter meritocracy, first as ladies-in-waiting to the sultan's concubines and children then to the sultan's mother and finally if they showed sufficient aptitude and were beautiful enough-to the sultan himself. 

The sultan was allowed by Islamic law to have 4 legitimate wives and could have as many concubines as he could support. Some had up to 300. 

Other parts of the palace included gifts and price possessions of the sultan. This included the fifth largest diamond in the world a 86 carat rock surrounded by several dozen smaller stones, a foot print of Muhammed, the rod of prophet Moses and the sword of the prophet David. 

From their I walked through back streets and stumbled up the New mosque. Only in Turkey will something be 400 years old be called New, haha. This mosque begun in 1597 and was completed in 1663. This mosque is right near the spice market. At the spice market they sold a lot of Turkish delights (sweets), sells loose teas, and some odds and ends. The spice market was constructed in 1660 as part of the New Mosque complex which rents shops going to support the upkeep of the mosque and it's charitable activities. 

From their I decided to take a ferry ride over to Asia. Yep, call me miss international women. I traveled from Europe to Asia in 15 minutes flat. Turkey happens to fall on two continents and it's easy to travel between the two. I tried going to take sunset pictures unfortunitely there are a slew of pigeons in all my photos because some people were feeding the birds the whole ride over. 

At night the two big mosques (Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya), 2 minutes from where I'm staying, are lit up and look absolutely beautiful. I visited those mosques the following day. 

 The Aya Sofya Mosque is huge. It's also one of Istanbul's most famous monument. Emperor Justinian had the Aya Sofya built as a part of his efforts to restore the greatness of the Roman Empire. It was completed in 537 and reigned as the greatest church in Christendom until the Conquest in 1453. What's crazy about this mosque is the amount of Christ citing or Christian themes throughout the mosque. Don't get me wrong the majority of the 1st floor is dedicated to being a mosque however when you head upstairs there are many beautiful pictures depicting Christ, Mary, and John the baptist. 

The blue mosque was built in 1606-1616 more than 1000 years after Aya Sofya and is not even as beautiful. This is still used today as a mosque for prayer. 

After seeing the beautiful mosques I headed just 40 meters down the road to the Baslica Cistern. This was built by Justinian in 532. It was used to store water for the Great Palace and surrounding buildings. The cistern is 65 meters wide and 143 meters long and it's roof is supported with 336 columns arranged in 12 rows. It once held 80,000 cubic meters of water, pumped and delivered through aqueducts. 

From their I got lost in back streets, again and made my way to the grand bazaar. This bazaar isn't like a market it's actually shop owners selling items. Not what I expected at all. Most items sold are items used within a home. Supposedly there's an area to buy silver jewelry. I just cannot find it, this place is HUGE!! 

So now here I am taking a break back at my hotel. I'm going to head back out now for a bit and see what else I stumble upon. :) 
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