Usla with his guide license around his neck, flanked by Joel, his wife Maria hiding behind Gina, just a few of our companions as we digest a sumptuous breakfast and listen to the day’s itinerary. First a walk through town.
Constantinople was built by the Byzantine Christians and was conquered by the Ottomans and has been Istanbul ever since. Near our hotel old wooden buildings, yet to be restored or replaced among the many modern buildings, is typical of ancient cities.
Usla points out an ancient fountain as we walk the cobbled streets of Old Town.
One of the nice things about traveling with OAT is they provide top rate hotels in the center of where the most intriguing sites are. We walk first to the Hippodrome built in the 5th century B.C. which just blows me away. It symbolized the victory of Greece over Persia. They melted all the gold into a huge golden ball which sat upon a giant twisted snake headed sculpture. (A picture I couldn’t find.) It was stolen by the Crusaders along with much beautiful statuary, including the Golden Horus which is now in Italy..
An ancient, restored fountain. It takes a moment to sink in that running water is something we take for granted. Here people congregated at the fountain and hauled their water to their homes a thousand years ago in pottery jars on donkey carts.
The fountain still works. The Square was once the site of Chariot races and marvelous statuary, much of it destroyed or stolen. The city is home to 20 million people.
Two prominent obelisks in the historic square are about 10 feet below the surface of the present street.
This one is mounted on a “story” stone base showing the obelisk moving from Egypt on a boat. It was taken in three pieces and would have been as tall as the Empire state building, but only the one piece survived the journey to Constantinople.
A second obelisk is locally built of stone and on certain holidays, local men challenged themselves to climb it without any equipment, seeking finger and toe holds on the rough surface. Many fell and died. A feat no longer practiced.
I enjoyed the uniqueness of the vendors in the square. He wears his wares.
Next stop, the Blue Mosque. As we approached the chained entrance, Usla scolded this girl for turning upside down on the chain for a picture. That is not allowed. Sultan Ahmet the first had the Blue Mosque built in 1609. When he tried to ride his horse through this gate it was chained and he complained why could he not ride his horse into his mosque? The Imam told him that even a Sultan is not above God and he would have to walk in like everyone else.
This is the main entrance to the mosque with three statements from the Koran printed above the door. I could not find in my notes what they meant. Usla is very well versed in languages, the Koran, the Bible and he speaks perfect Kurdish.
On the side of the mosque, are washing stations. The call to prayer is five times a day. Before prayer the faithful must perform a ritual wash. Each person washes first his hands. Then he washes his mouth 3 times; his nose 3 times; His face, his hair each three times. Then his elbows to wrist, first left then right. And last, his feet, first left and then right. Always 3 times. That cleanliness is in part what kept disease away and provided a healthful life.
We entered through a side door along with bus loads of others giving up shoes and gawking at the beauty above our heads.
Every arch is ornately decorated and we stand in awe of such beauty.
Owen thought his shorts just below his knees would be okay, and I thought maybe boys don’t have to be as covered as women. We were wrong, so they provided him with a wrap.
It is hard to capture the grandeur of a building the size of the Blue Mosque. The architect did a wonderful thing. He lit the heights with stained glass windows. He kept the oil lamps low so not to dirty the beauty of the ceilings. He made openings halfway up to draw out the smoke. Thus it is one of the best preserved Mosques in the world, a world heritage site. (UNESCO.)
One is not able to stand directly beneath each arch ceiling. These pictures can be double clicked to get a closer view and then back arrow for the next picture. These small photos don’t do them justice.
It is easy to see why it is called the Blue Mosque.
Tiles have been stolen from this mosque and were selling for $100,000 dollars each. protected now, that trade is illegal and stopped. Lower left you can see some missing tile spots.
The doors are made of rich ornamented woods.
If the faithful come to pray five times a day after a ritual wash, when do they have time to do anything else? The Imam complained to sultan that the faithful were lying around on the rugs sleeping and their family members would bring them food. Sultan, you must do something about it. One of the laws of the Koran is “work first.” Sultan built a library and required each man to study after prayer and the problem was suddenly solved.
Street vendors sell this wonderful drink made with milk and cinnamon called salep.
At Hagia Sophia we again see restoration taking place. This old, old church was built by Byzantiine Christians under Emperor Justinian in 537 A.D. When it was later taken over by the Moslems, who do not believe in worshipping images, they covered the angels faces with stars.
This face has been uncovered.
This Church/Mosque has deep meaning for Christians and Moslems. It was a constant source of fighting and prayer was outlawed here by the Turkish Government in 1934 to save the history and artifacts of Hagia Sophia. At one time a group of American Christians came here with the intent to defy the law and hold a prayer session in the building. Moslems got word of it and they decided if the Christians would pray, so would they. They were both stopped and the fighting was ended for good and Hagia Sophia turned into a museum. Interestingly, the altar faced East. When it became a Mosque, an arrow was placed on the floor before the altar about an inch to the right of center for TRUE East to face Mecca.
The frescoes have been damaged and will be restored, but it takes years to do that. Much work and expense. Thus another UNESCO site where all countries share the cost.
Lunch at Puddings was great. Owen chose chicken shish. But the ladies sign tripped my funny bone.
No trip to Istanbul would be complete without a trip to the spice market. The vendors there took a shine to Owen.
He quickly developed a taste for Turkish Delight.
The spices are sold in bulk and the smells are heavenly.
People here are very friendly. They asked us questions and we were glad to answer.
This guy teased and wanted to look inside the lens.
We bused to the Bosporus River for a cruise to where the river meets the sea. The captain served beer, fresh squeezed orange juice and apple tea, which is a very common and oft quaffed drink in Turkey. I had an Effes beer. Owen enjoyed the tea. We are still strangers; slowly we get acquainted. You’ll meet them all at dinner my next Turkey post.
This estate of brown buildings belonged to one of the richest men in Turkey. He told his children he wanted to be buried with his socks on. But Moslem culture does not allow a man to be buried with his socks on. The flesh returns to dust. The lesson was for his children. “You can’t take it with you, so enjoy what you have.”
It began to rain and we retreated to the Captain’s cabin. Owen made a run for the bathroom and I thought he might have gotten sea sick. He lost his lunch but it turned out to be the diesel fumes he was breathing over the rail.
If you double click on the album below, you’ll see all of the pictures from our day’s adventure. Above the icons is a slide show button. Click it to see the pictures full screen. I always take too many and as time goes on I thin them, so forgive my excess and I hope you enjoy them.