A New World

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Dec 13, 2005

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Monday, November 14, 2005

Today was filled with trying to see as much as we could in a short amount of time. We were able to go to the Blue Mosque and Agya Sofya, as well as the Grand Bazaar. We haggled for a few items and got the best price we could. It has been a nice short visit. We have one more day of seeing sights tomorrow and then we head to Kuala Lumpur. We will update when we can. Keep us in your prayers and we will do the same for you. Talk to you soon.

p.s. We did not mean to hurt anyone's feelings with the award for most comments posted on the web site. It was our way of trying to be funny and let everyone know how much we love to get emails and responses from those we love.


We got off the plane in Istanbul and headed down to the metro. It made good sense to us, it seemed like the easiest way to the city center. We had been told that they took the Euro as currency but the Metro ticket man told us differently. We tried to go back to the airport to find an ATM, but inside the front door we had to go through security again. So we weren't sure what to do. Some bus drivers saw us wandering and offered us a ride to the "City Center." They told us the price in Lira, we weren't sure how much that was so wouldn't get on the bus until we could get a conversion into Euro. They gave us a fair price in Euro and we were on our way.

As we drove in we passed many military men standing guard in various places near the water. I flashed back to Crazy Aunt Carol and her warnings about safety. I knew that Turkey bordered Iraq, but Istanbul is far away from that part of the country. It seems the guards were just being safe, watching over their land. It did help remind me to be alert.

Our bus to the city center ended at a place which was not so central. Thankfully we had been following along with a map and asked if we could catch the bus back and get off halfway through. The bus driver was kind and helped us get headed in the right direction.

The rain was coming down and we were wandering the streets of Istanbul. Thankfully it was now daylight and we had a lot of time to find a place to stay for the night. The time was nearing noon and we began to hear a chanting broadcast throughout the city. We weren't sure what was going on, but used common sense to determine that it was a prayer time. We never saw anyone stop on the street and face east to pray, but we did see masses of people heading toward the nearest mosque. We continued wandering, looking for the Blue Mosque because this was the area we wanted to stay in.

As we neared we knew we were in a touristy area. People began trying to sell us stuff and help us in any way they could. One kind stranger asked if we needed accommodations, we nodded our head no. He kindly questioned us with, "Why not?" We had to chuckle to ourselves. Another gentleman saw us trying to look at our map so that we would be headed in the right direction. He asked us where we were going. We began to walk away because we never know if people are just being nice, want to sell us something, or are up to trouble. He said, "You are not friendly, you are not nice people." That made me sad, and I decided I would try a little harder and open up.

In just a few more steps I had my chance. A gentleman asked us if I was looking for him. I laughed and told him no, he said, "Are you sure you're not looking for me?" I said that I was sure. He walked alongside of us and told Charlie he was lucky. He also commented on how happy a person I seemed to be. This was in great contrast to the conversation we had just had. We were warming up to this place.

As we neared the area we were staying in, the sun began to shine and the feel of city greatly improved. It was nice and welcoming. Gentleman are always out looking for a buyer of some goods they have, but they are friendly in the process so we didn't mind too much. We found our lodging at the Side Pension. I was smiling ear to ear as we walked in. It was a cute place that I was happy to call home.

For some reason or another I was laughing as we came in. The gentleman behind the desk looked at me sternly and told me that laughing was not permitted. I smiled back, and so did he. We had sparked a kind natured friendship which carried through our time in Istanbul. He showed us a few rooms and let me pick my favorite. Along the way he was joking with us and making us feel very welcome. He gave us some tips about his city and sent us on our way.

For anyone going to Istanbul this is a great place to stay. It is very cheap, yet exceptionally clean and well decorated for a budget accommodation. They have free tea around the clock, free breakfast on the rooftop, and cheap internet access. The staff is eager to help and gives great insight into their country. The Side Hotel and Pension is one of our favorite places we have stayed so far. We met great people there in various walks of life. Young, old, kids, families, all in one place enjoying the town and the great location. Good stuff.

We were able to see various sights in Istanbul but our favorite thing was the people we came in contact with. Although we looked very different from them, and had different religious beliefs, we were able to find a commonality and a shared kindness. From the cozy local diner which we became regulars at, to the kids I talked with while on a field trip, the Turkish people made us feel very welcome. Kids would smile and carefully say hello. It was almost like we were celebrities. Our light skin and light hair gave us away as foreigners, yet we were continually greeted with kindness.

Istanbul definitely has a strong Muslim feel to it. There don't seem to be many women around and those who are out typically are wearing a head covering of some kind. The city seemed to be full of men, most of them trying to sell something. The Blue Mosque helped us gain some understanding of the Muslim religion, although more of our time there was spent admiring the beauty which surrounded us.

The building was made of various tiles and stain glass windows which when brought together were quite lovely. The lights hung low making it difficult for Charlie to take a good picture, but adding a brightness to the place. We watched as various people came in to pray. Charlie and I took some time to do the same. We prayed to our God asking Him to draw these people close to Him and to give us a greater understanding of the various religions we are being exposed to.
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