What a wonderful city
Istanbul Travel Blog› entry 2 of 4 › view all entries
Very early next morning; 6am to be precise, we both physical and mentally woke up in a new country. The main reason was due to the fact that the speakers of the minaret from the next door mosque were pounding the first Morning Prayer over the sleeping city. Our room, which was situated next to the reception, made it possible for us to hear the night receptionist joining the prayer from the speakers of the many nearby mosques. We looked at each other; laught and decided to get up even though it was the break of dawn and that we arrived quiet late the night before, well we had slept less than 5 hours.
The hotel restaurant opened their serving of the breakfast as of 6.30. We were the first to enter the roof top breakfast terrace but to my surprise a lot of other early raisers were also ready to fill their stomachs before their attack of the joys of this wonderful city. It was absolutely not normal for me to get up this early if I am on holiday, normally I hardly have a chance to reach the Breakfast.
The breakfast was served on the first floor, on a terrace from where we could overview some of the city. Besides looking straight into the minaret of the little mosque that woke us we had a view towards the magnificent and stunning Hagia Sophia.
The Hagia Sophia is famous in particular for its massive dome, and that same structure was just in front of us while we were sitting there enjoying the breakfast. This mosque is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral ever built in the world for nearly a thousand years! The current building was originally constructed as a church between A.D. 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Eating breakfast in a beautiful sunrise over Istanbul and looking at a building that was almost 1500 years old, was for me the most fantastic way to start a day in this splendid city.
We took it easy and enjoyed the different breads and a couple of cups of coffee before we finished and decided to walk to the Hagia Sophia and the neighboring Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque as its more rightfully is named. The streets were empty and clean, very clean. When we arrived 5 - 6 hours earliere the rain was flushing down the narrow streets but this morning the sun was getting stronger and the temperature was already getting close to 20 degrees.
We started by walking to Haghia Sophia, which was only 500 meters from the hotel and we were both enjoying the sense of a different culture, just by looking in the windows of the shops we were passing on they way there.
It was a stunning way to sense and feel a new place, being almost the first in the streets this Saturday morning.
Outside the Blue Mosque I saw a man checking out all bushes and trees and I was wondering why! Well actually I still do! I was sure that he wasn't looking for stray cats but I suspected that he was checking for dangerous devises, like bombe or so every morning; what a job! We strolled around in the area for almost 2 hours and we met a lot of friendly locals asking to our wellbeing and in general just smiling towards us.
On the way back to the hotel we met a guy that decided to walk along with us, he was telling about the different things in the area and was in general just helpful. We met him while we were watching a strange traffic accident involving a police car. The car looked like it had been dropped from the sky being stuck between a large flower arrangement and a light pole. The sight was also the main attraction for all the police of Istanbul and they were probably all laughing their pants off over their colleagues bad driving.
Just before the hotel he said that we should take a look into his store which was selling local handicraft and carpets. It was not a sales proposition but he was just proud about it. Inside one of his workers showed us a lot of different carpets and told us a lot about them.
It naturally turned out that the guy had a nearby carpet shop but he knew rather quickly that he wouldn't be able to sell anything to us because we made that quite evident. He still took his time to tell about his city and since his shop was on the way back to our hotel we decided to see what his shop contained. He took his time showing us what he had in there, which I found amazing, because I already owned some Persian carpets. Kaija never liked these carpets and my different Iranian Naimâs were already filling the basement storage room after she entered my life. I had therefore no intention of buying any more carpets, but I always enjoy a good lecture when I can get one, especially for free.
After the pleasant talk to this local carpet sales guy, we walked back to our nearby hotel because Kaija wanted to get back because she wasn't feeling well, she wanted to sleep some hours in hope of that she would feel better later.
I walked some of the small streets that didn't lead anywhere; well that's how I felt anyway. After half an hours walk along Gulhani Parki trying to get to the other side of the wall; just to find out that the side I was walking on was the right one, I saw the Istanbul Sirkeci railway station. Here I started to feel some of the activities that is the characteristic of a great city. I walked down the water enjoying the traffic of the many ferries and the enormous amount of men standing fishing at the shore of the Bosphorus.
I walked along the water intrigued by the numerous of people running back and forth to the ferries and decided to walk towards the The Galata Bridge that spans the Golden Horn.
Just when I came up on the other side the prayer machine from the all Istanbuls mosques started to compete about the attention. I found the whole situation absolutely fantastic; I felt like I had moved myself to the other side of the earth. There were people of all kinds and colours and the sound was just everything I had imagined. The scent from the spice market started also to come and I found myself as far away from Brussels as I could come this day.
I walked into the neighboring and famous Bazaar and was dazzled by it all; it was not the kind of gods that was on display that fascinated me but more the absorption of all the different things; the sounds, colours and the scensts, it was a combination of all that, that greeted me there.
After enjoying the Bazaar for more than a couple of hours Kaija called me and said that she was feeling a bit better. I hurried back to the hotel to pick her up and I couldn't wait for her to see some of the sights I just had been introduced to.
We walked back to the Bazaar again and she liked it as well, especially not surprising the gold streets. We walked a couple hours and then she wanted to return to the hotel and stay in bed again, but at least she had seen more than I had hoped for in the morning.