Sultanahmet, Hagia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar

Trip Start Apr 12, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Got up at 7 this morning, and tucked into a few pots of coffee and free Turkish breakfast. I don't think anyone actually eats the olives that they serve with the brekky, and my hostel mates have their suspicions that they just recycle them the next day, which would explain their wrinkly, dry, pruney consistency. But enough about olives. Olives suck.

Hit the town again today after churning out another journal entry, staring up at the Hagia Sophia, the enormous Roman cathedral constructed under orders of Emperor Justinian, later conquered by the Ottomans and turned into an Islamic sanctuary during the conquest of 1453 (I think). The Hagia is renowned for exemplifying this Islamic-Christian clash, as it once upon a time supported and reflected both religions. The interior was massively impressive, a fusion of old school Roman engineering and Ottoman renovation, who gave the joint a bit of a 'Changing Rooms' when they booted the Christians off their turf.

I'm currently rocking a pretty brushy goat beard, and am thinking it might be time to go fresh with a new look. Apparently, Turks have the ability to interpret the political inclinations of their people according to the style of facial hair they support - civil servants usually have to toe the line and trim a very neat, thin moustache, and I have no doubts that I must reflect that of a militant anarchist with my dogs breakfast minge beard.

The Grand Bazaar is arguably THE place to shop in Istanbul, a 4500 store labrinthine market where you can buy everything from spices, pastries, carpets, water pipes, jewels, and cheap ripoff designer label clothing. Just like the souqs of Morocco, the place bustles big time, with merchants lining the walkways with the intention of drumming up a little chit chat with random foreigners like me, in order to lure you into their store, drink a little Turkish tea, and hopefully land a sale. Once they have you in there, they make is very difficult for you to get back out again without either a carpet and a nargile, or the use of your legs. Bought some random crap from a few stores and did my best to barter with the merchants, with some success, though i have my suspicions that the Grand Bazaar is really just an inflated tourist trap, quite literally, considering how bloody hard it is to find your way out of the place.

Chilled for a little while down at the Bahaus and conceded that today´s overcast, rainy weather was a good chance to hang around and relax for a bit. The `bul was an enormous, wild city, and before the end of the Turkish leg i`d need to get away from the tourist hub and check out the 'real' Isntabul. Another thing i wanted to mention was that i have a different identity here in Turkey. The Turks always pronounce their 'c's as a comination of 'CH' and 'jh', so each and every time i put my name down for something, like a bus ticket, or if i order a meal, i keep getting called either 'Jam' or 'Sham'. So here i am, Jam/Sham Hassard, and don't you forget it.

Watched a bit of the soccer upstairs in the Turkish lounge, and got chatting to Mike the yank, and the dude with the most French sounding name on earth, Pascual Bourgeois, who ironically wasn't even from France. He was an excitable, intense little fellow, possibly because he just came from a heavily militant Communist outpost near Moldova, and nearly got his ass done in my local armamant merchants. Even if he was talking bollocks, it was interesting stuff. Got talking also to Anais the Puerto Rican, and Carol from El Salvador, who, like a number of people I've met on this trip is attempting to get a visa to Iran. I must admit, the thought of doing the same thing entered my mind a number of times, as the Western perception of the place is allegedly almost totally removed from the reality. Walked around Sultanahmet with these two, past the gorgeously lit up Blue mosque and Hagia Sophia, and wound up back at the Bahus for an early night.

Tomorrow, i do the Australian pilgrimage, Gallipoli.
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