Trip Start Jun 27, 2007
26Trip End Jun 2008
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Having just spent a week in Istanbul, I can easily say it is one of the best cities İ`ve ever travelled in. İ timed it just about perfectly. İ had time to hit all the major sights İ wanted to see and not get bored. İ took the overnight train to Ankara last night, am checked in at my hotel, but have yet to meet anyone from my new group. We are supposed to have our introductory meeting tonight, so hopefully there will be a note or some information when İ get back.
İstanbul .... where to start? İ guess wıth the Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian to be the greatest church the world had ever seen
The Blue Mosque, Suleiyman`s answer to the Hagia Sophia (build it bigger and better!) is at the other end of a big park with a fountain. It ıs also very beautıful and it filled the view from my hotel rooftop restaurant. Also in this immediate neighborhood is the Underground Cistern, cool and damp, dripping from the ceiling. Amazing it was built 1500 years ago and, of course, used to be full of water. That's a LOT of water! New Mexico should study this. Maybe we could build one to catch the monsoon rains. My hotel is right next to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. They have a very nice collection, some of which is startlingly old. There was a bronze spear from 4000 BC. Not 400, 4000! I checked the information tag twice to be sure. Your sense of history gets a jolt here as you begin to realize that many of the buildings you are walking past date back well over a thousand years and are still standing!
I also visited the Mosque of Suleiyman the Magnificent, altho it was mostly closed for renovations. The Rustem Pasha Mosque, just down the hill, is much smaller, but very lovely. Also braved the public bus and found my way out to the Chora Church, which is famous for its walls covered in Byzantine mosaics and frescoes
Early on in the week, I met a French Canadian woman who was also travelling alone. We hit it off well and did a fair amount of sight-seeing together
Istanbul is a city of cats. They are everywhere, in the alleys, on the rooftops, begging at outdoor restaurants, sleeping in any and every park, palace, church, cemetery, you name it. My hotel had a resident cat, who was well fed and spoiled and tended to ignore you. One night at a restaurant, I had a mama cat sit by my table begging and then she got tired of waiting and hooked her claw into the tablecloth and very nearly pulled my whole dinner (chicken kebab) onto the ground. If I hadn't been being attentive, she would have gotten it. I fed her a couple of bites and saved several chunks for later (it was a big plate of food), but she had disappeared
Something strange - a lot of Turkish people seem to think I look European. I have been asked repeatedly if I am from Spain, France, even Italy. Some people address me in French (just saying hello, how are you sort of thing as a preliminary to get you into their store), so I answer back in French and keep walking. I had quite a conversation in Spanish with a guy whose brother married a Mexican woman and they both lived there, doing business. Of course, he wanted to guide me around and then sell me a carpet, but I managed to avoid both.
I really enjoyed Istanbul, and I don't normally care for big cities. It reminds me a bit of San Francisco, being built on hills all surrounded by water. I'm glad I set aside the time to see all the sights, as my GAP trip only spends one day here at the end.