Saturday, August 9, 2014

Take me back to Constantinople (More Not-so-summer vacation)

I'm back to talking about the epic trip of epicness.  This is partially because I spent an evening talking to a friend about it the other day and partially because if I wrote novels at this pace, I'd be done with The Deserter series when my grandkids were graduating high school.  Since I have no boyfriend, that should tell you something.

Semi-Arabian Nights

When we left off, we had just gotten to the night tour of Istanbul.  I bought the shore excursion as an early Christmas present and it was definitely a good investment.  For one thing, we had someone who could tell us not only the names of things, but the history, in a more-interesting-than-placard style.  He had an incredibly thick Turkish accent and long hair and was a little bit cute and we got to hear him give us the basics of the city while riding in a very comfortable bus.  You can imagine how happy I was to be a sitting tourist after my afternoon of legging it around Istanbul.  We found out things like where the divide between Europe and Asia is in the city, just how densely populated the place is, the standard of antiquity...  For example, there's a mosque known as the New Mosque.  It's the one that's only 200 years old.  Pshaw.  N00b.  I'll be posting pictures of REAL antiquity.

We got off at a few places, but as you can see, we were drive-by tourists for a few places as well.

 One of the things I got up that cobbled alley was a black leather purse.  It's butter-soft, but sturdy, and I take it everywhere these days.  The problem is that I bought it during a rainstorm and it tends to rain when I wear it.  I think there's a connection.

 This is the famous "Blue Mosque" by night.  Obviously, the blue part of it is not the exterior.
 A better look at the architecture of this semi-new, 400-year-old mosque.
 Look how Asian this is!  Pizza!

 Back to more modernity, one of Istanbul's most respected hotels.  I'm looking, I'm looking...  Can't quite find what it's called.
 We went to a less traditional shopping district where not only was there pizza, but Burger King!
 We got to stop at the hippodrome, the horse-racing arena from Roman times.
 I was tempted to get Sweet Honey lipstick for Mom, all the way from Turkey.
 Top Shop in Istanbul.  So very British...
 Some antiquity is better-preserved than others.
 And the cobbles on some streets were worse than others.  This felt like walking barefoot on chestnuts.
 I refer to this as my "Les Mis" monument.  It makes me want to go out and build a barricade.
And here we have a perfectly lovely park in the middle of this incredibly crowded city.  Actually, I was slightly startled because it was nearly 10 there by the time we got there and there were still children in the park.

So, other than more Turkish Delight (I offered Kate some and she frowned that I got the wrong flavor), I didn't buy anything that night in Istanbul.  That was mostly because I knew we were going to the Grand Bazaar the next day.

So, the next day, we did our usual "Get up, get dressed, get fed" routine.  When asked if I was ready to go, I told Kate to "take me back to Constantinople."  She deadpanned, "No, you can't go back to Constantinople.  Been a long time gone, Constantinople."  Yeah, we're dorks.  But you can't go to Istanbul with referencing that at least once.  We got off the ship and were greeted by the requisite, "LOOK AT ME!  YOU'RE A TOURIST AND I'M A SPECTACLE!"

They were playing some interesting music, so we stopped and listened, and then we moved on.

Day 2 in Istanbul

Like many places we visited, there were lots of beggars and I wondered if there was a correspondingly large number of homeless people.  While looking around the outer buildings of a mosque near the port, I looked down and discovered it was the stashing place for one of these vagrants.

I didn't take a picture of the whole thing, but beneath this cardboard box, I could see food and a sleeping bag and a few t-shirts.  And it was not the only one I saw.  

I found about five of these by accident.

Because it's such a massive city, Istanbul requires a little more transportation investment than, say, Dublin or the Vatican.
No, I didn't go all grayscale.  This is actually a picture that I color-isolated for a photography contest.  This is a token for the streetcar in Istanbul and i just loved how vivid the red was.

These streetcars were nothing like the ones in Athens.  They were so crowded that I had to be very uncomfortable just to hold on to a pole.  It was quite a lot like being on the T on 4th of July in Boston after the Esplanade concert.

For the novelty of it and so we could enjoy the view of the Bosphorous, we decided to walk a bridge that we had crossed the night before, the Galata Bridge.  According to Google, it's just under half a kilometer long and crosses the Golden Horn part of the city.  It's also the link between the new and old parts of the city.  But mostly, we crossed it because we could then say that we walked from one continent to another.  It was how we got from Europe to Asia.
 This is a very popular place for fishing.  Our neighbors from Provo would have loved this place.
I love this juxtaposition of the traffic jam and Blue Mosque in the background.

We got to Asia and wanted to go to the Blue (Sultan Ahmet) Mosque first, but arrived to find that they were closing up for some time for the midday prayers.  We spent some time reading the informational displays around the courtyard, and then headed to the nearby Hagia Sophia.

For those of you who don't know, the Hagia Sophia is the church to Holy Wisdom.  It's 1600 years old and was originally a cathedral.  Then it became a mosque.  Now it's a museum, which is why we were able to go see it during midday prayers.

Now I'm going to subject you to a LOT of pictures with occasional commentary.  It'll be like that time I posted about Athens, but without 18 pictures of the Turkish flag not blowing in the wind.
 Man at the streetcar stop.  For no apparent reason other than he was blocking my shot of he city.

 I like this quote.  It's very Pauline.
 Hey, look, other tourists!  Waiting to get into the Hagia Sophia.

It's weird to go all the way to Turkey and find your name written on a wall.  Then again, my family nickname Kaki is a Greek word referring to ugliness.  But my family and friends who call me that still got a kick out of this sign at the Hagia Sophia.
 You can really tell the age of the place.  It's not varnished or polished up.   It's authentic and gorgeous.
 Like these domes, clearly decorated during the mosque era of the Hagia Sophia.
 The main...sanctuary at the Hagia Sophia.  I was once told that if a Muslim were to do the Sistine Chapel, it would be covered in words.  I'd love to be able to read Arabic so I can translate all these pictures.

 As it is above, so it is below...
 There's really no way to explain how expansive this place is.

 I mentioned in my Izmir post that Turkey is the cat capitol of the world.  That holds true here, where a cat was taking a break from the rain to dry off next to a construction lamp.

 This is the exit of the passageway leading from the lower level.  It was this cobblestoned series of switchbacks that killed my ankle, but was worth it once I got to the upper level.

 THIS is why I forced myself to walk up that passage.  See what I mean by expansive?

 This picture and the next are remnants of the Christian cathedral that was the original version of the mosque.  You would turn a corner from the Islamic decorations and find yourself staring at Christ mosaics.

Let's move on to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, shall we?  It's more commonly known to tourists as the Blue Mosque and you'll see why in a second.


Kate is the random person in a blue scarf.  Because it was raining and because we went straight from one mosque to the other, we didn't bother taking off our head-scarves.  I did have to wear mine differently because in the Blue Mosque, they had signs asking for our forearms to be covered as well as our head and shoulders and I was wearing elbow-length sleeves.  So I used my burgundy scarf to wrap around my forearms to respect their modesty requirements.
 Here!  This is why people think of this as the Blue Mosque.  Those colors are really that vivid.
There are tens of thousands of blue tiles that adorn the ceiling of this mosque.

After stopping in at the patently-Asian squat pots (bathrooms that feature sunken toilets that you crouch over; I never quite got used to them in Taiwan and this wasn't much better, though these flushed), we headed to the Grand Bazaar for a different sort of worship next.  I didn't take any pictures of that--I was too busy looking for presents for freinds, finding my Istanbul t-shirt, haggling over the price of scarves with various vendors and lusting after more shoes.  There are hundreds of stalls in 40 streets in this covered marketplace, which means that there's something there for everyone.

We headed back to the ship with lots of cargo, picking up a simit on the way.  This is sort of like a cross between a bagel and a pretzel with sesame seeds on it and it was my addiction for the country.  I did persuade Kate to try a bit and she admitted that it was awesome.

And so we departed the fair Turkey.  We had nothing to look forward to for the next two days as we got from Istanbul around the boot to Naples.  I spent most of the time with my foot propped up on a deck chair while I got virgin strawberry daiquiris brought to me.

Next post will be the last one for this trip!  And be warned, it will involve a LOT of pictures of Pompeii.  Are you more excited for those or for this to be over?