Four days and Istanbul is finally coming into focus. It has been difficult to let go of my expectations of what Istanbul is or should be and let the city, its people and culture speak for itself. This extensive, sprawling metropolis is the exact expression of its geography. Straddling the Bosporus, with one foot in Asia and the other in Europe, it has settled into a contract of contractions or functional schizophrenia where opposites must coexist. It is difficult to see or feel the religious tensions that buffet national politics here in the Sultanahmet of Istanbul. Even though you cannot look up at the skyline without seeing the minaret of some mosque or other, the only real reminders that we are in an Islamic culture is the occasional head scarf and the amplified calls to prayer that break the hum of the city's busy commercial and tourist zone.
Denis and I have mostly stayed within the Zone. Our lovely hotel, the Niles is located at the very end of anything the guide books might call interesting but the distance is easily walked or a quick tram ride past trendy and high end retail, rug and ceramic shops, cafes and restaurants, to the dense clutter of historical attractions.
Last night however, we boarded one of the many ferries that link this bisected city for Uskudar,
-- best, Hugo
Denis here. Just a quick note. We're heading off this morning for Cappadocia. Fly to Kayseri and then a bus to Goreme. Staying in a cave hotel. Hmmmmmm..
Yesterday we finally saw the Blue Mosque. Pretty extraordinary. So different from Aya Sofia. The Blue mosque or Sultanhamet Cami
(in the nabe of Sultanhamet, don't ya know) is truly a perfectly proportional building. Just beautiful. However, it's sort of a one-trick pony. Once you get it, you're done. Aya Sofia has so many hidden areas, so much layered histort, so much darkness and intrigue that you just want to linger and explore. Sultanhamet Cami is bright and tranparent and beautiful but doesnt' have the same punch. Interesting. It did have the Iznit tiles however and those are amazing. After the Blue Mosque, we saw the mosaic museum (after running the gauntlet of high-end carpet shops - sccccaaarrrrry). Then we had a charming little lunch in the shadow of Sultanhamet Cami. Then off to a travel agent for a frustrating over-priced quote on a 3 day jaunt in Cappadocia - 496 Euro -- each! Ummmmmm, can you say independent travel? Another travel agent later we had our tix to Kayseri for YTL 240. About $76.00 each. Then a nap.
Then back out to the Archeological Museum which Dana Ivey said was a must - she was right.
Then we walked in the Topapki Palace park and had a cay
overlooking the Bosphorous, then a quick walk down to Eminonou ferrry stop and we hopped a ferry to the Asian side - Uskadar -
for a coffee and cake and walk-about. Back to our hotel via the light rail.
I collapsed. Hugo was up for another 4 hours because of the coffee and had to flee our small dark room for the terrace for a drink, a smoke and reading about Goreme. P.S. make sure you view the video which has the muzzein call.........takes a bit to load so be patient.