06.06.2011 - 06.06.2011 86 °F
The Sultanahmet Mosque (or Blue Mosque) was our first stop as we wanted to be sure to see it. It was built in 1617 and is the only mosque that was originally built with six minarets (tall stems reaching up, where the call to prayer comes from). With its 260 windows and ornate decorations, it is quite impressive. Unfortunately, we scream tourist and just as we started to walk in, a guy latched himself to us to be our “tour guide.” And of course, “you don’t have to pay, see, I just tell you about blue mosque” and no matter what Nate did or said, we couldn’t shake this guy. He was a little obnoxious, he kept calling me sister and was a little creepy, but he wasn’t leaving so I went about taking a ton of pictures and wasting his time. We did get a few good tidbits of information by having a “guide” that we wouldn’t have known otherwise, but he did take away some of the enjoyment. Towards the end, Nate flat out told the guy, we are not buying a rug. And of course he just says, “no, problem – you come look at my shop.” We knew that is what he wanted all along, so we followed him to his shop, and by this time I was super annoyed and fed up with this game. He introduces us to his uncle and he starts showing us all these rugs and Nate says, “we aren’t in the market for a rug. We don’t have a house.” And then they finally got it…no doesn’t mean no until the thousandth time. So finally we got out, and we went back to the mosque to take more pictures.
From there we saw the Hippodrome which was used for chariot races. Today there are two Egyptian obelisks, which told a story of how it was put up along the base. The sun was in just the right position to snap a few interesting pics. Next up was the Basilica Cistern which was built in the 6th century to provide water for the grand palace and city. There are also Medusa heads on two of the columns, one upside down and one on its side. It isn’t understood why they are there, or why one is upside down but it was done intentionally. Don’t worry; we didn’t turn to stone by looking at them. There is still water in the bottom of the cistern and there are carp and goldfish that now swim through the vast space. This was one of the coolest places we have seen on our entire trip, we both really enjoyed it.
Next up was the Grand Bazaar which is the oldest and largest covered bazaar in the world and includes 18 gates, 65 streets, 5 mosques, 6 fountains and over 4,000 shops. It was very overwhelming. It isn’t like going to an American mall, where you go in and out of stores, instead you have people constantly trying to pull you into their shop and there is stuff everywhere crammed onto every single surface. There are more jewelry stores than anything else, but it is a lot of the same stuff over and over, so you have to search to find what you are looking for and of course, everything is a negotiation and “for a great price.” After a bit, and getting a feel for what we might want to buy later, we left for the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. They feature spices, herbs, plans, dried fruits, nuts, meats, oils, etc. We enjoyed this a little more, but knew we would have a hard time getting a lot of these things into the U.S. so looked but didn’t by. From there we wondered down the bridge and watched the fisherman pull these tiny fish off their hooks. I couldn’t believe how many people were fishing all at once. At the end of the bridge, is the fish market with a few guys cooking fish right there. These guys buy them when they are still moving, and then grill them up – can’t get much fresher than that. We checked out some of the bosphorus cruises and decided that we would be back for the 2-hour boat ride the next day. On the way back across the bridge, we were once again bombarded by every restaurant owner and Nate had enough, so said to one guy “yeah, yeah, I know…your restaurant has the best food” which made several of the other guys laugh and the ones within earshot left us alone. It was quite amusing.
From there we walked a ways to see the Aqueducts left over from the romans. We were surprised how much of it was still intact, although it was really a very small portion considering it used to stretch across the city. At this point our feet had had enough (we spent too much time relaxing on the islands, and weren’t used to miles and miles of walking again) so we headed back for happy hour in our room to relax.
Dinner was another adventure, as you can’t really look at a menu for more than 30 seconds before being swooped down upon. We found a few recommendations on TripAdvisor, and headed to that area as it seemed to have plenty to choose from. We landed at a little place that was in our budget and not too busy. The food was okay, although I really enjoyed my fried cheese (way better than Greece’s salty version) and Nate liked his lentil soup. Nate wanted to try a Turkish Waterpipe or Hookah, so we headed to another place to experience it. They put in some apple smelling stuff, add coals to the top and then enjoy! There isn’t really any tobacco in it, it was more for flavor, so we enjoyed it for a while before I got sleepy and was ready to call it a night.