Monday, July 19, 2010

Turkey: Day 3

It has now been several weeks since we arrived back in Houston from this amazing trip.
As more time passes, I am more likely to make mistakes on facts and such.
Therefore, if you are reading this (and your name is Kristin), and you happen upon a mistake, please let me know!
Thanks (Kristin). 

... Turkey: Day 3 ...

Let me start off by explaining the whole "the-sun-comes-up-at-like-4:30AM-in-Turkey" thing.
So, the sun comes up in Turkey at like 4:30AM. 
It is different; 
it is confusing; 
most importantly, it is horrible the morning after a night of movie watching and "the drinking game."
I did not feel like getting up. 
Neither did Blake, and I'm willing to put money on the fact that Kristin didn't either.
But we all emerged from our cozy, warm beds to shower and step back out onto the Turkish streets we were to explore that day.
Luckily, there were no "little hills" to climb on this day!

After arriving in the area known as "Old Istanbul", we headed to our first site:

The Blue Mosque

Apparently, a young sultan wanted to create an impressive building for which he would always be remembered for creating. However, once the Blue Mosque was under construction, the government (or whatever) went bankrupt. 
It was finally finished, after much cost and embarrassment.
It is gorgeous, though.

[Because the Blue Mosque still hosts worshippers there are strict rules as to what can and cannot be worn inside. 
Shoes = No
Visible Knees = No]

[Even though we all agreed that the Blue Mosque seemed to have more red than blue, it was still overwhelming with its' beauty.]

[And yet another knocker]

[This structure was a gift from Germany to persuade Turkey to join the Nazi forces during WWII.
The gift fulfilled its' intentions.]

[Egyptian Obelisk and the Serpentine Column in the Hippodrome]

[Kristin was an amazing guide. 
She patiently answered all of our questions.
She probably heard a million times, "What's that?"]

[The Golden Milestone, the lighter structure pictured above, was once thought to be the center of the world by the Romans.
The other structure was a corner of a fortress wall.]

The Underground Cistern

Apparently, this entire cistern was completely forgotten about.
People were just drawing up water from under the ground, not even thinking about where it was coming from.
I wonder if anyone ever caught a fish in their bucket?

It was so peaceful, cool, and quiet. 
The only sounds were the rustling of tourist's feet, classical music softly being played, and the dripping of water from the arched ceiling.

[All of the columns were recycled from those left behind from the Romans. 
Two of the columns are supported by heads of Medusa.
No one is sure if the heads are placed with a certain intention or if they simply were the right size.]

[It was kinda creepy.]

Following the Underground Cistern, Blake, Kristin, and I enjoyed a lunch at Lale Pudding Shop
The Pudding Shop has such an interesting history. 
(Click on the above link to be directed to the restaurant's website.)

After enjoying lunch and some tasty chocolate pudding, we ventured towards our next site:

The Hagia Sophia

[It's hard to say but, I think that this was my favorite place in all of Istanbul.]

The "church of holy wisdom," Hagia Sophia is among the world's architectural achievements. 
More than 1,400 years old, it was of paramount influence on architecture in the following centuries (even though the dome fell in a few times before they got it right).

This is the "perspiring column" or the column of St. Gregory, the miracle worker.
For centuries people believed that the column wept holy water.
To have your ailments cured or your prayers answered, you must place your thumb into the hole and twist your arm to make a complete circle. 
If your thumb comes out wet, your prayers will be answered.

[These two pictures were taken by Kristin.]

[In the 15th century the Ottomans converted the church into a mosque.]

[All of the mosaics were covered in the process.
Crosses were scratched out.]

[The Blue Mosque seen from the Hagia Sophia]

I was floored.
I was inspired.
I needed some tea to relax after such overwhelming sights.

We all needed a chance to sit back and relax for a few minutes before continuing to the next item on our list.
Blake requested his desire, and Kristin, in all of her awesome-ness, knew exactly where to go.

Hookah Bar

I was the only one who didn't want to smoke, but regardless, it was an amazing experience.
We sat alongside locals, smoking and drinking tea.
Only once did we see another tourist.
Blake was in Heaven.
But... We must return to what was next on our list: 
My Heaven

The Grand Bazaar 

Nothing could have prepared me for the Grand Bazaar.
The labyrinth of streets is lined with thousands (literally, thousands) of booth-like shops, whose wares spill out to tempt those shopping and whose shopkeepers are relentless in making a sale.
They didn't know who they were messing with.
I love to barter.
And there was nothing that I needed, so I bided my time haggling with the shop owners.
Picking up gifts and goodies whenever and wherever I got the price I wanted to pay.
Once I had a shopkeeper chase after me exclaiming, "Wait! Okay, you can have it."
It was awesome.

Before meeting up with Brandon for a dinner (and the best meal of the trip, according to Blake), we stopped for a little treat outside of the Grand Bazaar.

Sweet, yet bold and unique.
Nothing could better describe our second full day in Istanbul, Turkey.

To Be Continued...

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