Turkish New Year

Istanbul Travel Blog

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The club we danced at

DAY 1:

New Years is my FAVORITE holiday!

This was the first time I have spent NYE outside the states. That alone was a dream come true and to spend it with my wonderful boyfriend in such a beautiful city made the holiday even more amazing and special.

Sem made arrangements for us to spend the evening at a club called "Babylon" located near the Taksim area. The club sponsored a "80's" night and it was fun. For me most of the songs were obscure American 80's songs that I vaguely remembered peppered with classics like Michael Jackson's 'Billy Jean' or Madonna's 'Holiday', however the Turks seemed to know the words to EVERY song as if every one of them were well loved classics :P. The ceiling was covered with balloons held up by a net waiting to be release at the stroke of midnight.

Most people were dressed as if it was any other club night with the friends with skinny jeans and dark colors. They looked nice and stylishly hip, but I was the one that was really dressed up with my classic late 50's early 60's formed dress from Anthropology. The dress was a light greenish turquoise with a creamy beige colored floral detail at the bust and a few around the bottom edge of the dress and I wore a pair a cherry red 3" heels. I kept my hair simple. Pulled back the hair in the front and left the back hanging down with the ends slightly curled under. We danced all night, kissed at midnight, popped balloons with our feet during the first few minutes of 2009 and left around 1 am to head back to where we were staying. We had a long travel day from Ankara and wanted to get up early the next day so that I could see as much of Istanbul the next day.
Tower


We started the morning with a visit to the Galata Tower. The day was beautiful. In fact it was the only beautiful day, weather wise, that we experienced during both our trips to Istanbul! We purchased our tickets to go to the top for my first view of the city. The tower was built during the Byzantine era and has been used as a prison, astronomy tower and was the site that Hezârfen Ahmed ô┐Żeleb, an early aviator, flew from. He made some large wings and glided from the tower to the other side of the Bosporus. At first the aviator was praised by the Sultan and then later was exiled as a dangerous man by the Sultan. The space for tourists to walk around and view the city was narrow and luckily for us not to crowded early in the morning on Jan 1st.
The view was amazing! I walked around the tower ledge at least three times to see and visually absorb everything in sight. The tower was definitely a perfect way to introduce yourself to Istanbul.

From there we walked toward the river. Not the Bosporus, as I later learned from Sem, but a connecting river very busy with passing ships and boats. We walked through winding narrow and sometimes steep streets and then crossed a bridge that was lined with mostly male fishermen. I noticed a woman or two, but I think they were there mostly to spend time with their relative or boyfriend. On the other side of the bridge was a large walkway with a few food stands selling fish sandwiches. Sem ravished one such sandwich with lemon squeezed generously over it, while I feasted on an order of rice pilav.
In ever city Rice pilav seemed to mean something completely different. In Istanbul it was white rice mixed with chickpeas with some black pepper and I then added a little salt. It was simple and very good. We sat on these little benches set out by the people running the foodstand and enjoyed or early lunch while watching hundreds of people passing us, ignoring our existence as they walk, run, or shuffle toward their own destination. Our destination was just across the street.

We crossed the street through an underground tunnel filled with vendors selling cheap toys, clothes and knock off watches. When we emerge from the tunnel we found ourselves facing New Mosque, one of the many mosques that beautifully add too the city skyline with their elegant minarets. The heavy wooden doors were left ajar, so we walked inside the open courtyard and took in the peaceful beauty of an Ottoman era Mosque.
The wall around the open area was had a high stone covering and the ceiling of this covering was beautifully painted with these geometric mandala like forms and patterns. I am always impressed with the skills, attention to details paid into creating what would have been easily an ignored surface into something so beautiful and enchanting that you could almost taste it. Outside another set of doors we can see hundreds of Pigeons fluttering around tourists paying to feed them a plate of birdseed. And from the doorstep we see the well-loved Egyptian Spice Bazaar!!

When visiting the supermarket at home I always make a point of needlessly wandering down the spice aisle and inhaling the faint peppery herb scents stored in small glass jars, but that is absolutely nothing when compared to walking through a covered market dating back to the 17th century filled with vendors selling fresh colorful spices, herbs and loose teas piled into neat little pyramids to entice the wandering eye.
Spice market. I could walk through there everyday and never get bored
Keeping my fingers to myself was the most difficult task! Everything looked so good and I was twitching to buy buy and buy some more! We walked through the market twice and visited it everyday during our trip. Even now from my home in New Jersey I can recall the exciting and exotic scents of the bazaar.

The Basilica Cistern was next on our agenda! I was so happy that we visited the Cistern on a clear and sunny day rather then putting it off for the next and much wetter day!! Even on a beautiful day the cistern was very damp and water leaked from the ceiling in various spots. I imagine that if it was raining outside it would be like a monsoon inside :P:P. The cistern was built during the early Byzantine era and meant as a water supply for the nearby palace. The lighting was poor thus making it difficult to get decent pics without using the disruptive flash or a tripod.
Basilica
You have to pay extra at the entrance if you decide to bring in a tripod. Something about it being a professional tool.. There was a simple walkway leading to the medusa heads in the back for visitors to follow. But I recommend that you don't rush towards the back. Enjoy the splendor of the massive space occupied by several rows of dimly lit columns standing in the chilly water filled with nameless fish. Some of the fish were huge, which was a bit of a surprise. I wonder how long there have been fish in the cistern? I can't imagine that they found a way into the peoples water supply the salty sea. About half way to the back of the cistern was a second walkway breaking from the main tourist path. It led to a column with a hole big enough for a human thumb to fit in. We saw several people placing their thumbs into the hole and rubbing the surrounding area with the rest of the hand three times making a full circle.
Blue Mosque
There was another one at the Hagia Sophia located across the street from the cistern entrance. I am not sure what the act meant, my assumptions would be for luck or to make a wish.

There was a long line outside the Hagia Sophia so we opt to return the next day early in the morning and proceeded to walk toward the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque, so named because of the blue interior tiles, was built by Sultan Ahmed I in the early part of the 17th century. This was the first mosque I have ever entered. The massive interior was decked out with painted tiles and stain glass windows. The ceiling was breathtakingly gorgeous!!! Again these magnificent mandala like forms gracing the ceiling. If only there was a way to get closer to the work, to feel it beneath my finger tips.
Inside the Blue Mosque
I want to learn if there is a texture to the tile or is it smooth as glass. I have to give credit to the people who successfully came to pray, for I know I would personally be distracted by all the splendor on the walls.

Outside the Blue Mosque is the Sultan Ahmet Square, once known as the Hippodrome of Constantinople by the Byzantines, where two ancient Obelisks and the Serpent Column still stand. The Serpent Column (almost 2,500 years old!!) is missing its three heads and the Walled Obelisk looks as though it may crumple to dust at a moments notice. The Obelisk of Thutmose III was imported from Egypt during the early Byzantine era but looks rather new despite the eroded figures carved onto its base.

By this time the sun was preparing to descend.
We walked some more around the city. Took a few evening photos of the Bosporus Bridge, ate some Gözleme and then took a taxi back to the apartment. We were both very exhausted and slept very very well that night.



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The club we danced at
The club we danced at
Tower
Tower
Spice market. I could walk through…
Spice market. I could walk throug…
Basilica
Basilica
Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque
Inside the blue mosque
Inside the blue mosque
Basilica
Basilica
Ceramics
Ceramics
Hagia Sophia ceiling. sooooooooooo…
Hagia Sophia ceiling. soooooooooo…
Hagia sophia
Hagia sophia
Roman Basilica
Roman Basilica
Blue mosque ceiling
Blue mosque ceiling
Taksim Square during NYE
Taksim Square during NYE
Choc Bars for sell in Taksim Squar…
Choc Bars for sell in Taksim Squa…
View of Istanbul from the Tower
View of Istanbul from the Tower
Topaki Palace
Topaki Palace
Topaki Palace
Topaki Palace
Boy Cat. Very smart and very sweet
Boy Cat. Very smart and very sweet
Momma Cat. She was my favorite... …
Momma Cat. She was my favorite...…
I love these derelict houses! I wa…
I love these derelict houses! I w…
My awesome Dress!!!
My awesome Dress!!!
NYE kiss
NYE kiss
Me and Mr T!!!!
Me and Mr T!!!!
Me being silly after a long night
Me being silly after a long night
Futbol  stickers on a fountain wall
Futbol stickers on a fountain wall
Arriving in the city via the bus!
Arriving in the city via the bus!
Crossing the bridge!
Crossing the bridge!
Fountain outside the Galata tower
Fountain outside the Galata tower
Tower
Tower
Street art! This was carved into t…
Street art! This was carved into …
Street Art
Street Art
Street Art
Street Art
Street art.
Street art.
I love how the city seems to celeb…
I love how the city seems to cele…
New Mosque... though not so new :P
New Mosque... though not so new :P
oh look another cat!!!
oh look another cat!!!
hungry pigeons!
hungry pigeons!
Entrance to the Spice Bazaar
Entrance to the Spice Bazaar
LOOK at those spice pyramids!!! do…
LOOK at those spice pyramids!!! d…
LOL :P:P:P and No we did not try i…
LOL :P:P:P and No we did not try …
mosaic wall near the Cistern
mosaic wall near the Cistern
Medusa head number 1
Medusa head number 1
Medusa head number 2
Medusa head number 2
the thumb hole in the column thing…
the thumb hole in the column thin…
blue mosque
blue mosque
Hagia Sophia from the park
Hagia Sophia from the park
oh look theres me :P:P
oh look theres me :P:P
inside the blue mosque.
inside the blue mosque.
Serpent Tower
Serpent Tower
A random yellow apartment that I f…
A random yellow apartment that I …
A man making what I called the Tur…
A man making what I called the Tu…
OMG this was sooo tasty!!!
OMG this was sooo tasty!!!
Istanbul
photo by: Memo