When you’re not exactly a tourist and not quite a local traveling can be somewhat challenging. For us, we don’t feel like tourists. Well, not what we refer to as typical tourists anyhow. We understand enough of the language to comprehend our surroundings, we are aware when we are being taken advantage of in the bizarre, we can read the road signs, etc. So, being here in Istanbul for the first time as a family, with the thought of leaving Turkey soon, is different. And for me, not necessarily better different.
The city itself is an intricate maze. Everyone is bustling about at a pace that raises my anxiety level; Cars squeezing two by two down one way streets; horn honking that is a language unto its own and buildings with laundry lines hanging from the balconies. The aesthetics of Istanbul are pleasing. Green spreads and the Bosphorus, Ottoman style architecture and enough history to fill my brain for a decade.
We took the first day to bid farewell to the Best Buy corporate office staff. The Things met Husband Jared’s colleagues and saw the office that he visited every Tuesday. Then we were off to sight see. First was Topkapi Palace. You really must do your own research on this very distinguished place. Sultans inhabited the palace and it is bedecked with original Iznik tiles from the Ottoman period. The designs are stunning and all representative of various time periods throughout Ottoman history. We decided to pay a bit more and take a tour of the Harem quarters. Navigating through the secret passageways and the Sultan’s privy chambers took us to another place in time. Detailed descriptions of the purpose of each and every room, hallways and corridors were marked for us. It was fascinating.
Things posing in front of the tiled wall in Topkapi Palace
Privy Chamber of the Sultan
From there we walked to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The Hagia Sophia, or Church of the Holy Wisdom, was closed so we were only able to catch a glimpse from outside the iron clad walls. It was magnificent. The sheer scale of this structure is difficult to take in. Let alone the questions the Things were asking as to why it was no longer a church, how that happened, whom allowed it to be changed and what do they do there now. Inquisitive. Events in history often do make sense in their world today. And rightly so. I do believe it is important to help explain the why’s and how’s and who’s. This particular church was completed in 537 and was conquered by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453. He was responsible for converting the church into a mosque and then Ataturk made the Hagia Sophia a museum in 1936. The history of this church is simply fascinating and quite controversial, even to this day.
Husband Jared and I did our best to explain and then since the Blue Mosque was open to visitors Thing 2 and I ventured in. We were both dressed “inappropriately” and had to cover our exposed skin before entering. It was chilling. After a walk through I decided I wanted to go back in with the camera. This time Thing 4 went with me. Interesting enough both Things commented on the separated prayer space for men and women; Bay and bayan in Turkish. Thing 2 thought the women’s area resembled an animal pen of sorts. And then in all her years she said, “It seems as though women are looked down upon in their religion”. Enough said.
Inside of the Blue Mosque
View of the Hagia Sophia
From Sultanhamet we braved the Grand Bazaar, which has been in existence since the 15th century. Fodor's travel guide on Turkey gives these statistics regarding the bazaar: more than 20 entrances, spans 65 streets and has an estimated 4000 shops. It is smelly, crowded, loud and busy. What an experience. There is absolutely anything and everything for sale. We wandered around, did a bit of bargaining and then exhaustedly exited with our purchases. Using the small amount of Turkish we do know allowed us to deal on a more level playing ground with the shopkeepers. Or so we believed. All in all it was an experience not soon forgotten.
Husband Jared and Things outside Entrance 7 of the Bazaar
After a quick swim and a change we enjoyed dinner and walk through a park and new area of Istanbul. It was beautiful and dinner was fantastic at Den. Now for part two.