Exotic Istanbul: A Bridge Between East & West

Trip Start Jan 11, 2007
Trip End Jan 15, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Empress Zoe

Flag of Turkey  , Istanbul,
Monday, April 7, 2008

Istanbul is a magical city, and my new favorite city of all time. We stayed for five days and I wasn't ready to leave when it was time to board our cruise ship and begin the second part of our vacation. There were so many beautiful and fascinating places to explore, including the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hayia Sofia, Spice Bazaar, Rustem Pasa Mosque, Roman water cistern, and the Bosphorus Straights.

The call to prayer happened 5 times a day, beginning around 5am. Spiritual, haunting, & beautiful. Maybe I could become a morning person if I heard this every morning. We jokingly called it "the dueling banjos" because prayer leaders from different mosques would call out over the loudspeaker, inviting worshipers inside for prayer. Yet they had the verses timed perfectly, and never sang at the exact same moment. We could hear them in stereo sound.

Random thoughts on Istanbul:
1. The Blue Mosque was so huge that it was impossible to get a single shot of the interior with a normal digital camera. The dome must have been 200 ft. high, and the walls were covered with thousands of handpainted blue & white Isnik tiles.
2. Common greetings from the carpet sellers: "Would you like some apple tea? My shop is right over there" and "Where are you from? I have a cousin who lives there too"
3. It took only a small stretch of the imagination to look at the Bazaars and think of Istanbul/Constantinople as one of history's most important trading cities, and a link between Europe and the east.

We wound our way thru the maze of streets near the Eminoumou market & the Spice Bazaar. The market was a great spot for seeing what the locals buy. Every kind of olive, date, & fig you can imagine was available, and the next stand had almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and more. Tiny 8 ft. wide hardware stores were bursting at the seams with tools, brushes, mops, & mailboxes. Items were spilling out the door into the alley, and it was a fascinating place to stroll and take in the sights. We walked by a group of elderly men in a tiny alley. They were trading goods, sipping tea & socializing. I was the only woman around, and suddenly even my ankles felt naked and exposed (the local women were covered from head to toe, literally). I thought I was conservatively dressed, but next time I'll bring kneesocks to Istanbul.
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