Not all those who wander are lost. ~JRR Tolkein
What a day in Turkey. The weather was outstanding as were the sights. We visited the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia in the morning. Then we wandered for hours in the packed bazaars where the vendors hawking their wares pounced on anyone even glancing at thier items.
The Blue Mosque is the first Mosque I have ever entered. The architecture and the interior designs were sites to behold. Domes dominated the structure internally with the main prayer area being a cavernous entity beneath the main dome. Internally, arched walkways dominated the visuals.
The Hagia Sofia is a Mosque that was once also a Christian Church. There are mosaics of Christian entities that were covered up by Moslem paintings only later to be partly uncovered. The Mosque, which is now a museum, is decorated with both Moslem and Christian art. Here, too, were domes and arches. One entered through massive doors that were once only used by the Byzantine emperors. Today, I walked in the same places as the ancients who died centuries before I was conceived. That type of history is typical in this old part of Istanbul and the immensity of time can be overwhelming to imagine
We lunched near those main attractions and paid the tourist prices as a result. Out meal was twice the price of the previous evening. However, it was outstanding faire. We both had chicken dishes with mine prepared in the traditional Ottoman way. I simply cannot give enough praise to the quality of food. With our hunger satisfied, we headed out to the Grand Bazaar.
It seemed everywhere we walked in the Grand Bazaar and outside the bazaar was one huge shopping mall but nothing in comparison to malls in the US. The Grand Bazaar is in a massive building with business intertwined in a labyrinth and is more crowded than any mall at Christmas time. I can easily see one getting lost in there for hours just trying to figure out where they entered. The nearest description I can give to the place is that it is a series of narrow halls each with it’s own theme in regards to goods. To navigate easily, one would need to lay down Ariadne’s thread.
The streets outside the Grand Bazaars are Bazaars in their own rights. Streets are themed. There are streets with leather goods, streets with jewelry, street with T-shirts, streets with spices and candies, streets with animals, primarily birds for sale either as pets or food. I’m thinking the primary use is fresh food for I don’t see how one would keep a pheasant as a pet and the chickens looked plumped for the cooking pot
I had wanted to just browse the bazaars, study the wares without becoming entwined in the seller buyer arena. However, my luggage has yet to arrive and my clothes were getting a bit ripe so I thought it a good idea to at east get some clean underwear and a clean shirt so I could be a bit fresher as I meet up with a friend of a workmate for a tour of modern Istanbul. I also left my hat, a very cool hat on the airplane so had to purchase a new one to protect my head from the bright sun. It was the only item I debating pricing with the vendor and picked it up for 25% off the initially quoted price. I’m sure I still overspent but not as much as I would have had I not turned to walk away with his opening offer.
Amazingly, just about every street we waked teemed with people. Teemed in that it was difficult navigating because people were literally shoulder to shoulder to shoulder. People of all colors, shapes, and sizes. People in Western attire and many women in traditional Moslem attire. I have never seen so many headscarves in all my life. There were women in pencil cut, skin tight jeans leaving no curve to the imagination and women in full black Burkhas’ showing only the eyes. I guess that is the dichotomy of life in Istanbul, the modern living in harmony with the traditional, the place where West meets East.
The amazing thing to me, someone raised in the more or less homogenous Midwest and a Chicagoan used to definite dividing lines separating white from black from Latino from Asian, is that the meeting of West and East is not a collision, rather, a blending of many cultures, an intermingling of people raised in vastly different belief systems, a harmonious integration where diversity is embraced.