Monday August 22
Today is our second day in Istanbul. It is awesome. Most notably, I have been mistaken for J Lo and Jessie for Shakira. But seriously the things vendors say to you are just hilarious. Today, for example, as we were walking by I was talking to Aly, Aileen, and Jessie and a man said “she is always right” I replied “why yes, I am” to which he said “I love you.”
Above: Yesterday we went to Hagia Sofia, a gorgeous Byzantine Church-turned-Mosque once the Ottoman Empire took over.
We went to the Grand Bazaar and were overwhelmed by the colors and sheer amount of EVERYTHING. We haggled ourselves some scarves, earrings, and most importantly HAREM PANTS. This evening Jessie made us some delicious rice and veggies and we sat on the roof of our hostel eating, waving to other people on the top floors of their apartments, and discussing all the awesome things we could do with our harem pants for example, smuggle some of the large quantities of cats from Turkey to Kenya, catch baseballs in the excess cloth, hide your friends, dance, and basically anything else you could possibly want to do. We also went to a great spice market where we got lots of free samples of tea and dry fruit. This evening the four of us took a romantic walk through the grounds of the Topkapi. We practiced our Sultan’s daughter princess walks.
A great thing we have learned from Turkish restaurant owners is the custom of giving free tea to new friends. We’ve gotten three cups so far and vowed to not pay for another cup while here. Apparently once you’ve shared a cup of tea, you are automatically friends for the next 40 years. Apple tea is fantastic and, as long as you can handle some awkward conversation and smile, it is even better free!
Wednesday August 24Today has been a big day! We went to the Blue Mosque, the Archeological Museum,
a tasty lunch sitting on pillows (our new favorite way to eat, drink, and sit), the Cistern, and some bars with some other cool travelers we met in our hostel in the more metropolitan or modern part of Istanbul- Beyoglu!
-The Blue Mosque (or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) used the most tiles in a dome: 20000!
-The Cistern has a capacity for 100,000 tons water storage! Way to go Byzantine Emperor Justinianus!
-The Cistern has two Medusa heads at the bottom of two columns. One is sideways and one is upside down. No one really knows why but it might have something to do with good luck. Mysterious!
-There were a lot of hardcore women/goddess statues at the Archeology museum. Way to go Rome and Hellenic-inspired sculptors!
Yesterday we went on one of those uber-touristy hop on/hop off tours. We hopped off at the Dolmabahce Palace and went over the bridge and hopped off again in ASIA.
The Dolmabahce Palace was simply gorgeous. We walked around the grounds, again as princesses, and went in to the Harem section (the apartments of all the royal women and where Sultans and Ataturk had bedrooms). They were overwhelmingly intricate and colorful and beautiful. In Asia we sat by the water and congratulated ourselves on being great tourists. 15 minutes later we went to a restaurant staffed by people who spoke only Turkish without a Turkish dictionary. We pointed at pictures of the food to attempt to avoid meat (for me, Aly, and Jessie) or gluten (for Aileen). I do not recommend ordering food in another language when you have a restrictive diet.
Back in Europe we walked around and looked at more HAREM PANTS. Then we went to a little outdoor restaurant for drinks and Hummus and sat on pillows for a good 3 hours. It was wonderful. Then we went to another restaurant with a rooftop view of the Blue Mosque and a Whirling Dervish show going on below! We had a veggie dish that the waiter sets on fire before serving!
I am getting quite the collection of pamphlets. I know all about tours and whirling dervish shows. Every store has a pamphlet and every worker has a business card. We’re thinking of getting some that say “Margaret Kran-Annexstein: super tourist”
Thursday August 26, 2011
Today is the day we went from being American tourists to Turkish goddesses. We got up this morning and decided to go to a Turkish bath. We didn’t want to pay to much so we just got the self service sauna/hot tub/cold faucet deal. The traditional scrubble bubble body treatment (pretty sure that’s what it’s called) looked pretty nice but we made the most of that gorgeous bathhouse by giving each other head massages while sitting in there for way longer than anyone else and then lingering in the main (outside the bath) room with tea and on the roof terrace with lunch for a strangely long amount of time. We are really good at sitting around Istanbul. Especially when so relaxed. We floated back to our hostel and sat a little more before heading to the New Mosque and then back to the spice market where we snagged some free dried fruit samples. The guy who gave them to us was great. He kept going “everybody dance now!” and “show me the money!” and “I am from chicaaaaago” and “I’ll give you tons of things for free, this isn’t even my store!” It was his store though so we bought some dried fruit and nuts and headed down to the docks on the Bosphorus to take a ferry! It was a commuter ferry so we were the only people taking pictures and riding it just to ride it (we got off and turned around and got back on). It was another romantic experience as the sun set on Istanbul.