Turkish New Year
Istanbul Travel Blog› entry 9 of 19 › view all entries
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.
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 HezÃ¢rfen Ahmed Ã�eleb, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.