Istanbul the Incredible
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As a foreigner many attempts were made to coerce, cajole, sweet talk, drag, coax, and butter me up (ok I think I've exhausted the thesaurus) into buying carpets which were ONLY five hundred dollars or more (ONLY because according to every carpet dealer a well produced carpet is one of the best investments anyone can ever make). That may be true but excuse me, I just wanna go sightseeing!
Aside from that, this is a city which really has something special to offer. From the mysticism of the whirling dervishes to the intense scrubbing of the Turkish bath, this was indeed a cultural immersion for me
Nor did I argue with the big burly guy dressed only in a one piece red and white sarong scrubbing my almost naked body and then slapping me on the bum to tell me to turn over. After all I was just praying to God to that his inclinations were of a more erm...normal kind cos it was very wet and slippery in there you know.
Being the scrooge that I was, MacDonalds provided much of the sustenance for the stay in Istanbul (what?!!! I hear you say...you flew eleven hours just to have a meal at MacDonalds???!!!), though a meal at one of the seafood restaurants beneath the new Galata bridge was a pretty memorable alfresco experience, especially since it was the first time I experienced the uniquely Turkish experience of having Apple tea and Turkish coffee in their traditional cups.
Previously Constantinople, the city had seen its fair share of Christianity during its heyday, and another amazing aspect of Istanbul for me was to experience its Christian heritage, captured vividly in the frescoes at both the Hagia Sofia, Christianity's largest basilica before St Peter's in the Vatican was built, and the St Chora Church, or better known now as the Kariye Museum. Despite the church being much smaller in size compared to its better known sister, the frescoes in the Kariye Museum were for me more interesting and definitely worth the detour
But Istanbul would not be Istanbul if not for the towering minarets of the mosques that dominate the religious and physical landscape of this bustling city. My journey took me to the Sulamaniye and Blue Mosques, the largest and by far the most beautiful mosques in Turkey...but where was the ventilation? I hope I don't offend my Muslim friends here but whew...the toe jam if harvested could have been used as substitute nerve gas in chemical warfare. Nonetheless it's a humbling experience to go into such amazing buildings and stand in awe at the lengths people would go to in order to reach out to God.
A final stop on the itinerary in Istanbul for me was the Topkapi Palace and the Harem tour. After all, I just had to find out how naughty the royals could be...you know...hidden from view, surrounded by eunuchs and pretty women...and getting in more mischief than Charles and Camilia.
Next up...a 4.30am wake up call for the flight to Cappadocia. Whatever possessed me to agree to that???