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One Summer in Europe: Turkey


The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Blue Mosque

I limited my stay in Istanbul to the Old City section of town. Although Istanbul is large, diverse, and very different from all the cities I had visited in Europe, I was at the end of my trip and not very curious to go exploring. I did find the Blue Mosque and stood in the hot sun in the queue to enter. Everyone had to take their shoes off before going inside. This mosque was the first I had been in. Almost no furnishings were inside, and the majority of the room was empty floor space for prayers. The domed ceilings were very tall though and elaborately painted.

The Hagia Sofya Museum used to be a mosque, that got converted to a church, which was then converted to a museum. The inside was large and cavernous, with old mosaics — both Muslim and Christian — set into the walls. Other evidence of the use by the two faiths was found around this impressive buildings.

The Archeological Museum had quite varied artifacts. A number of large, elaborately carved sarcophaguses from when this was a Roman city were on display. The rest of the collection was less impressive, with an assortment of pottery and other art.

Topkapi Palace was the old royal residence. I was reminded of the Forbidden City from way back in China, as I walked about, although this had Muslim influences. The grounds had large courtyards, residences, and mosques. It also housed a large collection of Muslim relics, with objects supposedly owned and used by various prophets. They gave Catholics a run for their money on their incredible claim and number of relics. Another part contained a treasury of fancy jewelry and gems.

Hagia Sofya

Hagia Sofya

The Grand Bazaar catered almost exclusively to tourists. Its maze of passages has endless shops hawking rugs, cashmere, and other crap only a visitor would want or could afford. Some of the stalls outside were more bare bones, but I do not think many locals come into this area much.

The tourist track was pretty small though, and the city changed dramatically when I wandered just a little of the path. The streets were narrow and lined with small shops. They were similar in nature to those in the tourist bazaar, but the products were completely different. These sold the products of everyday life. Instead of a single big box store like in suburbia, a hundred different shops sold everything people needed. The stores were often very specialized too, such as exclusively selling scales for weighing, paper products, or cash registers. Usually a few stalls selling the same type of goods would be next to each other. If I happened upon someone selling spices, the aromas were powerful and amazing. A few butchers chopped all kinds of animal meat in their front windows.

The Valens Aqueduct was a large, tall aqueduct in the middle of the city It was remarkably well preserved. I had no other information on it than what I could see, but it was still interesting for such an large relic to be in the middle of the city.

When the Muslims had their call to prayer, which could be heard everywhere, the sound, music, and chanting was very captivating. The tone and rhythm of the sound coming through the loud speakers was enthralling. I disagree with the meaning behind it, but I really enjoyed just listening to the chants.

Istanbul was the end of my summer in Europe, but from there I caught a flight straight to Africa to see some amazing animals.

Pictures from Istanbul

One of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar, which mainly caters to tourists
Valens Aqueduct