Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Istanbul and Christmas!!!:)

The Blue Mosque

Three weeks ago I ventured into the fantastic land of Istanbul.  I can't really even describe what it was like!  European? Check!  Foreign? Check! Strange? Check! Friendly? Almost too friendly..then again most people just wanted us to buy stuff.  Our trip began at the airport, we hopped on the plane and headed to Istanbul Constantinople.  The Istanbul airport smelled spicy and we couldn't understand anything.  After going through customs we got in a van to take us to the hotel, the drive was amazing, all of the houses were built on top of each other, not literally but there were a lot of houses built in one area.  We dropped our stuff off in the hotel room and walked over to the pedestrian street near Taksim Square.  We found a restaurant with authentic Turkish food, the food consisted of meat, veggies, fries and other things I've never tasted.  As we finished eating a huge crowd of chanting citizens walked by, they were protesting something but since we couldn't understand them  I'm still not sure what it was.  While walking around later everybody wanted us to buy things some people would even follow us, they were really persistent.  After a good night sleep we had breakfast at the hotel, just breads and little danishes.  We decided to get a lot of stuff done, starting with the Grand Bazaar.  We took a cab and were dropped off a short distance from the market, I'm pretty sure when I walked in my eyes grew to the size of Anime characters.  It was amazing, there were hundreds of stalls selling almost anything you can imagine! Tea, food, scarves, rugs, furniture, clothing, and places to eat.  You basically had to bargain just to get the price at a reasonable number, if somebody said fifty lira we would offer twenty five.  Sometimes they would agree but other times we had to walk away because they wouldn't put the price down enough.  After the market we walked over to the Blue Mosque, as it slowly came into view our amazement grew.  On the outside of the mosque all of the dressing requirements were posted, long skirts and head scarves for women and long pants for men.  We walked into a small room where you took your shoes off and put them in a bag, the reason for doing so was not just for keeping the floor nice but also a sign of respect.  Inside the Blue Mosque there were domes and sparkling lights, there was a large area roped off where people were worshiping.  That's one very interesting thing about Istanbul, they probably do this in other places too, several times a day they have a call to worship.  I will put a video on of what it sounds like, it's not my own footage though.  After the Blue Mosque we found a place to eat nearby.  The food I ordered was pretty normal, just green beans and mashed potatoes.  By this time of the day I had to use the bathroom, not to go all TMI on you, I walked up to a very scary restroom.  The lights were automatic and while I was in the stall they freaking turned off!!  That had to be one of the scariest moments of my life, I yelled my friends name because I thought she was messing with me, nope she wasn't.  Meanwhile my friend, Sarah, pressed the wrong button on the toilet which caused it to spray water all over the place.  I later found out that a lot of toilets do that instead of toilet paper... or maybe both, I just thought that was different.  Didn't mean to write a whole paragraph about my Istanbul bathroom experience. :)  After eating we decided to go check out the Spice Bazaar, this market is similar to the Grand Bazaar but much smaller and sells less products.  We decided it was about time to go get some sleep and the fastest and cheapest way was the train.  If you've ever been to New York, Chicago or any other big city (and ridden the train) you know how crowded it usually is!!  Luckily the ride was pretty short, but to our disconsolateness we discovered there was a big trek up a hill to our hotel.  Eventually we made it, it wasn't easy haha we almost got taken out just crossing the street.  One very important lesson, we learned from books before hand but didn't believe it was true, was that if you're going to cross a street DO NOT STOP!!  It's amazing there aren't more accidents, but everyone seems to have street crossing down pretty well.  Just look for a stop in traffic and then run, I don't believe I saw any stop lights either.  Moving on, the next day was also very busy beginning with Hagia Sophia.  Hagia Sophia is another big tourist attraction because of it's vast history beginning in 537 A.D!  Crazy, right!? :O  We were lucky enough to arrive early because as we left the line had grown to triple the size it had been.  When this amazing structure was first built it was an Orthodox church, when Constantinople was conquered in 1453 it was ordered by Mehmed ll to become a mosque.  Late it became a museum and remains that today.  Inside Hagia Sophia there is a huge dome and several smaller ones with amazing mosaics and artwork all around the inside.  In the center of the ceiling there are four angels, three have there faces  covered and one was just recently unveiled in  2009.  The faces had been covered and unseen for 160 years because Muslim churches don't believe in having the human body depicted in church.  Once we had been all around the museum we decided to go check out the Topkapi Palace.  I honestly did not enjoy this stop because, one there were long lines and two most of the time was spent in a line staring at jewels and clothing. I'm sure many people would enjoy this stop but I didn't have the temperament for walking into five rooms that looked exactly the same, especially the circumcision room, that was great. <---sarcasm font="font"> data-blogger-escaped-font="font">data-blogger-escaped-nbsp="nbsp" data-blogger-escaped-sarcasm--="sarcasm--">

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