September 16th, 2007 – by: chrisrae
I made it to Istanbul this morning. The whole border/visa deal was a cinch, but it happened at around 3 a.m., so I've had little sleep at this point. Anyway, I was so excited when I arrived when as I caught sight of the sea, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Wow. So I managed to navigate the tram and find a hostel with no problem, and then I ran into a friend from VT at the hostel, this German doctor I hung out with one day while there. It's his last day here, so he's seen most everything, so we set out together, hitting up some of the bazaars full of wares. I need to get back into haggling mode for sure. I tried a little with some scarves, but no go.
Inside the Blue Mosque
Everyone back home knows about my scarf addiction, but I seriously need to cut myself off at the two I bought. They are useful, though, for the mosques and just to cover my hair generally. I haven't been harassed or anything as I've heard from others but I also hung out with a very tall German guy today, so who knows. At the market, we bought some food to snack on at the hostel (rooftop terrace!), and then I went to the Blue Mosque for a bit. I had to wait outside until the prayer was over before I could enter. It was very startling earlier in the day when I heard my first call to prayer and saw men washing their feet outside a mosque, a new experience for sure.
So the Blue Mosque is named for the blue tiles inside, which I did my best to get pictures but I don't think I captured it, so you'll just have to come and see for yourself.
Prayers inside the Mosque
There was a mix of folks praying, some hanging out, and some, like me, staring at everything and taking pictures. The women prayed in the back or in the balcony while the men went up front past the fence keeping back the visitors. Unfortunately there was a strong scent of stinky feet inside due to the fact everyone was required to take off their shoes, but I was lulled a bit by the prayers being said, not knowing exactly what was being said obviously. It's also Ramadan, so those who are following it are not to eat between sun up and sun down. I really wouldn't know the difference. I'm definitely starting to finally feel like I'm leaving Europe. However, this place is very expensive.
My dorm room was just as much as some of the Western Europe cities and the food not cheap at all. Part of this is due to the fact it is almost one for one between the Lira and the US Dollar. However, I think I need to get out of the tourist areas. I tried to buy a LP guidebook for Turkey today and they wanted 45 Lira! He tried to convince me the conversion was right with the British pound, but I'm not on the pound. Anyway, three nights here and I'm off anyway. More to see tomorrow in the meantime and a rooftop terrace to take advantage of some more as well.