Rocking the Casbah

Trip Start Dec 22, 2009
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Trip End Jun 22, 2010


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Flag of Turkey  , Istanbul,
Sunday, January 17, 2010

ISTANBUL HIGHLIGHTS

Shopping in the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market


Since Laura loves to entertain the idea that she will actually spend a few of the beans she's been counting, we paid more than a few visits to the legendary markets in Istanbul. The Bazaar is one of the oldest indoor shopping malls, a labyrinth of shops and pushy merchants. Our first night there we snuck in to check it out and we quickly stepped out  after  being bombarded with offers to purchase carpets and pashminas. On return visits, we managed to escape sans carpet despite great sales pitches  that included life stories, dubious claims of having visited Seattle and Washington and the state of Dallas,  while drinking delicious apple tea together.

A couple of days into the trip, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon a courtyard of merchants during one of our multi-hour escapades through the city. Here we picked up some reasonably priced textiles from the wonderful Ali.

Ultimately, the Spice Market was our favorite place to shop because of its more traditional market feel and the incredibly nice merchants we got to meet there. It was a cooks dream with spices galore!!!  It was so hard to not buy a little of everything! Ultimately, we picked up an interesting lemon infused rock salt, masala spice, fresh sundried tomatoes and "love" tea. The Spice Market was really a great place to meander and experience some tastes and smells of the Asian world.


The New District



Istanbul is divided up into the old district, the new district and the Asian side. Honestly, it's pretty confusing whether or not the New District is Asian or not, but anyhow we made it there a handful of times. The first night we ventured out, we took the tram across the Bosphorous (the Golden Horn) and then up to the Funicular all the way up to Taksim Square. Once we arrived at our destination, we were amazed to see that there was a major Turkish outdoor concert / block party. With thousands of people on the street (easy being that it is the 5th largest city in the world!) and crazy turkish pop music blaring from the stage in the square, we had a really great time.

The Galata Bridge


In order to get the true feeling of what life is about in Istanbul and why it has always been such a sought after strategic location, you have to get intimately familiar with the importance of this area in particular. It is the epicenter of the city, acting as the highway connecting Old to New, food source (not just fishing but port) and historic harbor(site of various historical battles). On our second neandering morning in the city, we decided to trail the Golden Horn (inlet of the Bosphorous Strait) by crossing the infamous Galata Bridge and observing the life of the typical Istanbul people. One can't help to notice the multitude of fishermen perched on both sides of the bridge with their collosal poles trying to catch a few measly fish for dinner or to make a few extra bucks by selling them as bait. It's quite a sight and a great way to be introduced to the panorama of the city.


The Underground Cistern



What you have to understand about Istanbul is that it has been inhabited for thousands of years. Over this  time (like Rome) new buildings and monuments are built over previous ones. As many of you may know, the Romans were masterful engineers and left great aqueducts where ever they set up shop (most of Europe); Istanbul is no exception. Just below the streets near the Hippodrome, there is an underground lair of more than 350 Roman and Greek columns comprising one of the most beautiful underground cisterns in the world. The size of the underground waterworks is greater than that of a football field and very tall. The entire temple-like room is lit in a amazing crimson by special lights and really made for an amazing memory, especially when accompanied by Stevie Wonder, no joke!
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