At last… Istanbul

I am writing this post at 4:30 a.m. on the 21st of December. I have already been awake for half an hour as my body is still waiting for my soul to catch up (you call it jet lag and I call it travel gap) but the truth is that I don’t mind one bit. I have nowhere I need to be at 8:30 a.m. and an afternoon nap would fit in nicely with my non-plans.

So we are loving Istanbul. This is our first visit and, as so often happens with firsts, it’s nothing like I imagined. In the case of Istanbul, it’s even better. We have found the Turkish people to be warm, gregarious and loud. At the airport on Sunday night, we witnessed an argument passionate enough to be worthy of a Mexican telenovela. I totally loved the BIG drama of it which eventually involved two police officers and wanted to move closer to the action; DP frowned ever-so-slightly indicating that my judgment was somewhat impaired after 24 hours of travel. (Thank goodness for DP.)

We are staying in the ancient neighbourhood of Sultanahmet and I was surprised to see so many wooden houses. Some are in disrepair, many are painted bright colours. The hotel where we stayed on our first night is a glorious colour somewhere between yellow and orange. I’m going to call this colour “July Sunflower.” On Monday afternoon, we moved over to a studio apartment owned by our hotel; at our request, they had removed one of the beds and replaced it with a second table for writing. From the moment we arrived, I felt totally comfortable in our apartment… so much so that I promptly re-arranged the furniture. When I told the owner that I had redecorated and would put everything back before we left, he said, “This is your home for the next 17 days. Do whatever you’d like.” Do whatever you’d like. (Could there be any place on earth less like Japan?)

We spent some time yesterday afternoon exploring our neighbourhood and every time we turned a corner, this is what we saw:

This is the Blue Mosque which is about five minutes away from the hotel and perhaps ten minutes from our apartment. No matter where we walk, there it is, looming above us. I have already taken about 15 photographs of the Blue Mosque and we haven’t even visited it yet.

Five times a day, beginning at 6:15 a.m., the muezzin recites the adhan which is the Islamic call to prayer; the call is broadcast from loudspeakers on the 6 minarates at the Blue Mosque, and from other mosques all over the city. I am mesmerized by this call to worship. You can listen to it here.

Since DP is working on his latest set of revisions for his grad thesis, we haven’t really begun our grand tour of Istanbul yet. Here is what is first on my list – as described by my trusted tour guide Rick Steves:
The Golden Horn and the Bosphorus
The Blue Mosque
Hagia Sophia
The Grand Bazaar

Yesterday afternoon, on our way home from brunch, we visited a smaller (less intense) market called the Arasta Bazzar. Ooooooh… the shopping is going to be very sweet.

DP is still asleep but, in about 15 minutes, the call to worship will begin and we’ll open the windows and begin our day.

How are you celebrating your holiday?

4 comments

  1. Just back to the US after weeks in Istanbul and your post already makes me Turkey-sick. Alas. I miss it already?!
    Enjoy that little street and the tall tales from the carpet salesmen, watch where you step (it’s a brilliant place to break one’s ankle) and have a salep if you haven’t yet given it a sip. 🙂

  2. Hi Paige.

    I can understand how much you miss Turkey… I am still feeling that way ten days after getting home. I am happy to report that we were on the receiving end of more than one VERY tall tale from the magical carpet dudes… we drank many, many cups of tea (apple as my favourite)… and I very carefully put one foot down in front of the other so as to avoid a fall on the gorgeous/treacherous cobblestone streets. These were all very helpful recommendations!

    I don’t think we tried the salep… but there’s always next time.

    Cheers,
    Monna

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