Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Good morning Istanbul

It's 5 AM ... we bolt out of bed to discover, it's true: In Turkey, the morning begins with prayer chants broadcast across the entire city ... the sounds bellow out via 4 megaphone style speakers that are attached to every Mosque. And then we go back to sleep. So, Turkey, here we are, in a culture unlike anything we've experiences in Europe. Five times daily the chants ring out, but what's quickly visible is that the Turkish people don't stop to go inside and pray. Society is changing, and while about half of the Muslim women we passed had their heads covered, others didn't. But, this blog entry isn't meant to dive into religion and politics ... so, onto the fun! Here's why Istanbul is now in our top 3 trips (if you're not in the mood to read, click here for pics):

  • Ancient - Come on, Istanbul used to be called Constantinople - that's just old. We walked through "Harems" that were created by Sultans for their wives, concubines and kids dating back to 16th century. We covered all the famous spots, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia (all in the pics).

  • Bazaar baby! - Heard of the "grand bazaar"? Well, it's just that - ginormous - thousands of little shops selling lamps, bracelets, shoes, all inside a space that's existed since the 14th century. It has the Tijuana feel, a haggler's dream (Geno was in his element). And there's the Spice Bazaar with brightly colored spices and smells that only a chef can fully appreciate.

  • Turkish Baths - We walk in, boys in one section, girls in the other. Naked bodies, marble slab from a million years ago, and a scrub down with a loofah pad by women who can break you in half, ensuring there isn't a speck of grim left on your body. (Or, according to Geno, the men have enough hair on their bodies to make a couple fake toupees.) Not necessarily relaxing, but gotta do it.

  • Roof top decks - The city is stunning, and restaurants and bars don't hesitate to offer you views of the river, bridges and colorful buildings. Weather was a perfect 75 degrees, so we pretty much roof jumped the whole week.

  • Island Trip - An hour long ferry ride along the Bosphorus Sea lands us at the largest of the Princess Islands. No cars, it's just horse and buggy (and the scent of manure). We decided we were too cool for for the buggy rides and rented mountain to cover the island instead, quickly learning that our Amsterdam flat land biking hadn't prepared us (okay me) for the mountain terrain. Finding the secret road to the beach proved a challenge but Geno wasn't shy about practices his newly discovered Turkish language (note: English is not spoken in Turkey), so we made it before sunset.
Okay, this entry is out of control long, I could keep going, but guessing you want to get to the pictures. Click here, even labeled a few so you know what you're looking at. Also, for a real live viewing of the prayer chants, click here for a perfect summary.

1 comment:

parents of marcus said...

i am so incredibly jealous you two went to istanbul! thanks for all the photos!