We arrived in Istanbul, Turkey airport and took a taxi to our downtown hotel. The traffic was very heavy and the cab fare tolled as we sat stationary for it seemed hours. We were then dropped off at a street corner and told our hotel was down this busy narrow street. Well, it was very difficult to find, but we found it and checked in to our oldest, smallest hotel room to date. The family room was on the top floor and was beside the restaurant. Turkey was in the world cup qualifier game and the Turks watched the game in the restaurant and partied until 4 am. Then at 5:30am the moques belt out loud amplified prayers from the top of the spirals lasting about 15 minutes. HIYAAA, LAAAA, YEEHAAA MYAAA,, ect, ect. Not much sleep that night ! We pressed on and really enjoyed Istanbul. The people were really friendly and the street merchants were not too pushy to sell their stuff.
We first visited Hagia Sophia mosque which was originally a Catholic church and transformed into a mosque. This is a very large and impressive building with both Christian and Muslim architecture. Wall mosaics of Jesus and Mary have been uncovered and are on display. The most impressive aspect of the building is the massive dome roof. Unfortunately, the dome was under repair and was only partially in view, which took away from the experience. We then meet a very nice fella who owned a Turkish carpet store and he insisted on touring us through the Blue Mosque. It was great to have him and we all learned a great deal about the the past and the present of the mosque. In return for his services, we followed him to his carpet store. Again, it was educational as we watched a women making a 6 X6 carpet that will take her 15 months to complete. He then passively tried to sell us a carpet for $1,500, but we declined and left the store without incident. It’s funny when merchants try to sell us something and we tell them that we are not going home for a year and we do not have a home to put their merchandise in. They look at us in disbelief, but we eventually get our point across when we show them our backpacks. Next, we visited the famous under ground Basilica Cistern which was built for water supply in the 4th century. Sounds simple, but it is another architectural marvel with historical artistic components under the city center of Istanbul. For example, there are three large sculpted heads of the three Gorgonas sisters with one sister being Medusa that were used for the base of the cistern’s 336 columns. Two heads were installed facing sideways and Medusa head upside down. It is believed that these heads were taken from the Roman Empire and used as a base and were intentionally installed incorrectly to insult the Romans. See pictures.
at night, we went to a traditional out door Turkish restaurant that encouraged it’s clients to smoke a Turkish water pipe with apple tobacco, while watching a traditional dancer dance with a live band. Even the kids got to try it. We all coughed for a week, but it was worth the experience !