Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Different Kind of Royal Land

Istanbul is also a royal city, but could not be more different from England. Teeming with people, speaking so many different languages they can't even all be identified, it is truly a meeting of cultures. There is almost a carnival atmosphere to the streets with the myriad street vendors and shop owners continuously urging you to buy their wares or partake of their food. You can feel the striving to be a part of the western world in the modern tram line and Mercedes' and BMW's that ply the streets. At the same time you know you are in a conservative Muslim culture when a man in shorts seems out of place despite the warm temperature. The sights and sounds are arresting; the overwhelming size of the ancient buildings, the athan going off at the appointed time, the spices in the markets, all those languages. A very unique experience that I highly recommend.
 
 
Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque)

 
Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia). I've long wished to visit this amazing structure and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, it isn't being maintained very well. There is scaffolding set up, but no work was actually taking place. I haven't been able to determine if this was due to it being the height of the tourist season or if it's an abandoned project (which is how it seems).  It is my hope that Turkey is able to find the necessary resources to adequately preserve and maintain this astounding piece of architecture.

 
Aya Sofya

 
Aya Sofya

 
Icon painting at Aya Sofya

 
The passageway to the balcony at Hagia Sophia. This winds up and up. It was humbling to traverse this crude stone ramp while thinking about the fact that people have walked here since at least the 5th century.  

 
The Basilica Cistern. An underground water source built in the 6th century. The entire structure measures 212x453 feet. It is massive and eerie. The almost lyrical sound of dripping water adds to the otherworldliness of the Basilica.

 
The pillars used to hold up the roof of the cistern are recycled from locations throughout Turkey.  There are two representing Medusa that are placed so that the heads would have been under water. Some have assigned meaning to this, but I suspect that they were placed this way simply to make them fit.

 

 
Chamber at Topkapi Palace. A 15th century era home of the Ottoman rulers. These three pictures hardly do justice to this amazing place. Windsor Palace has nothing on this place in size.

 
A dome in Topkapi.

 
Windows in Topkapi.

 

 
Dolmabache Palace as seen from the Bosphorus boat tour.

 
French style pastry, baklava and Turkish tea. It was pouring rain outside as we sat in a little galley attic space having our tea. We tried to wait out the rain, but eventually faced the fact that we were going to have to brave it. That was quite the experience as this part of Istanbul doesn't really have storm drains. Water was running about 2 feet across in all the gutters. I had already fallen while we were in Windsor and didn't want to fall again trying to jump over these mini rivers so I had to wade through the nasty water. We were soaked to the bone by the time we finally made it back to the hotel.

 
Classic Turkish kebab and our favorite sparkling lemon water.

 
The street view from our hotel.
 
 
 The Hotel Ambassador has a lovely terrace were breakfast is served with this amazing view of the Blue Mosque. To the left was Hagia Sophia.

 
The Blue Mosque.
 

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