Istanbul….oh Istanbul….I love you, Istanbul!!
We woke up to a big breakfast Saturday morning. Damla and her parents had a wedding to attend that afternoon so we spent a lazy morning, hanging out with the family. Around 1 or 2 we all left the house, Suha and I headed downhill on foot toward the wharf. There were tons of cute shops and restaurants but we were on a mission. Suha had an agenda and I was blissfully in the dark. We watched a kid catch a fish while waiting for our first ferry. Took that ferry to another wharf and switched to another ferry that went to the European side. He said we could have taken a minibus but he knew I loved water and seeing the city from the sea was much more exciting than sitting in traffic! He is right J We landed and disembarked into the largest sea of people I have only ever seen once on a Rome subway platform! It was all we could do to keep together. We dove in and literally swam our way through to the spice market where I was overwhelmed by the sights and smells and stopped a couple of times just because I couldn't handle all the stimulus coming in all at once; being jostled from every angle, lights and sparkles, spice scents, yells from the patrons clamoring for your business. Suha wanted to hurry and we did as much as we could. Once out of the initial hall the side streets went on and on for miles, shop keeper upon shop keeper, all with the same wares. I bought a pair of traditional Turkish silk slippers to go with my traditional Turkish bridesmaid dress for Carrie’s wedding. YAY!! We finally made it to a main street that had a street car and boarded for the trip up the hill to Mavi Cami!!
There was a line to get into the cami because they had to make sure all the tourists were dressed appropriately, I was of course so we went in and “Allah Allah!” It is BEAUTIFUL!!! Cok cok guzel!! You can’t help but walk around with your eyes staring up at the ceiling…(every one is doing this and bumping into each other…) There are prayers going on while all the tourists are taking pictures and gawking. You can’t help but gawk. Seriously. How does anyone pray here. You can’t even stop staring!!! I could have sat there and stared for an hour, but we had to move on. Suha had more tricks up his sleeve so we exited and made our way through a beautiful garden to the AyaSofya (sound like eye of Sophia) – HagaSofia. We went the wrong way and ended up at the exit. Asking where the entrance was she said it was on the opposite side AND we had ten minutes to get in before they closed!! I've never seen Suha run before but we made it in!! I am SO glad we did!! It was a Roman Catholic Cathedral that was turned into a Mosque and is now a museum with relics from both pasted one on top of the other. Some were out of reach so untouched by the change. Other parts were partially destroyed to take out the religious meaning, even others were integrated into a new design to become part of the new users design. Half the time you can’t tell which came first the cathedral or the mosque. It was a beautiful juxtaposition of history and cultures coming together morphing and changing with the times. I wish we had more time but it is being renovated and some of the old relics are being restored and will be re-positioned on the walls at a later date so that is just one more reason to come back!!
We were the last people out of the doors and walked out into the park as it was getting dusky. Suha really wanted to be back on the boat before dark. But he took the time to buy me some fresh hot chestnuts from a cart to munch on on the way back. We hopped on the train and were on the boat by dark and floated across the straight to the city lights. It really was surreal. The bosphorus bridge was all lit up and changed colors every 45 seconds or so. We made our way back to the first ferry port and Suha started looking for a bus. There was a line of course and it wasn't moving because the cars on the road weren't moving. We called Damla and they were stuck in traffic too back at Golden Horn, where we had just came from. Suha started looking for a taxi or other solution when I piped up, why don’t we just take the ferry we took here this morning? He said, “OH! Are you smart or what?? I am so used to taking mini bus from when I lived here!” We laughed and ran to the gate just in time to walk on a ferry (they come once every hour!) – it was providential!!
We arrived home just after Damla and her family, we all sat down to dinner and then crashed. It had been a long day for all of us.
BUT IT WAS AWESOME!!!