Monday, October 10, 2011

Welcome to Istanbul, please pick your jaw up off the floor.

First of all, let's talk about this city shall we? This glorious incredible enormous city. My first impressions of Istanbul have now been overlayed with a week's worth of site seeing, but I do vividly remember two of my initial reactions upon arrival:

1) Minarets are gorgeous. Seriously, way to go with the religious architecture, Islam. As the plane came down over the city these graceful towers seemed to dot the skyline in every direction, and it made the whole city seem more elegant somehow, as though she had put on her special occasion jewelry just for us.

2) Holy crap, I'm back in India.

The latter was actually more of a visceral reaction brought on by some of the side streets we saw on the train from the airport to our hotel. I'm still not exactly sure what did it, but all of the sudden my stomach dropped and I got a little light headed. For those of you who did not follow the India saga, let me just say that being in India is like hanging out with the most beautiful, fascinating person you've ever met...who occasionally likes to punch you in the face. It was probably the strange, non-romantic, language I was hearing everywhere. There is nothing like being surrounded by a language you don't speak to make you feel like a total idiot. The similarities between Turkey and India were not deep or vast, however, so the deja vu didn't last long.

We opted to use mass transit rather than pay for a taxi, which meant our first visit to the hippodrome involved dragging our suitcases behind us and much map-induced anxiety. In fact, we did not even know we were in the hippodrome as we rolled our luggage over the stones that once flew beneath the wheels of chariot races and imperial carriages. All we knew was that if we cut through this...park? type place we could get to our hotel faster. Or not, seeing as we got lost anyway. Also, drivers in Istanbul have a much greater respect for the intelligence of pedestrians than DC drivers do. Which is a nice way of saying that in Istanbul they expect you to be smart enough to move yourself out of the way before they hit you, and they do not bother to slow down or go around you if you do not. Word.

Thanks to a very helpful fish-restaurant majordomo, we did eventually find the little bed and breakfast we had reserved online. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the view from our balcony:
In the foreground you can see the ruins of the Byzantine city walls, and that skyline in the distance? Oh that's just Asia honey.

Sunset over the sea of Marmara, baby. Welcome to Istanbul.

And looking out over the European coastline. We had no idea we would have this kind of view when we booked this hotel. I take credit for it anyway.  
Self-photography #451 "Jet-lagged and hungry"
We got to our hotel some time around 6pm and after gaping at that gorgeous view we set out in search of sustenance. And I'm sure we would have found it, too, had we not found the Arasta Bazzaar first.

You may now pause to wipe the drool off your face.
 But anyway, food. Right? Yes, we wanted food. Wait...
Blue Mosque, looking mysterious and awesome. Seriously, who cares about food?

And then we turned around and boom! Haggia Sophia was staring me straight in the face and she was like "Hello tiny mortal. I'm about to blow your mind." (In fact, I didn't even get a good picture. I just stared at her and tried not to cry.)

Somehow, eventually, we did get ourselves into a restaurant. A terrace restaurant with a perfect view of the backside of Blue Mosque. Mr. Awesome indulged in some very nice lamb kabob and rice, while I sipped fresh squeezed orange juice and stared at the minarets. Until about 8:30pm, when those minarets began to issue the call to prayer.

And then I really did cry. I have seen few things in life as beautiful as Sultanahmet at night when a dozen different minarets fill the air with the name of God.

And that was just the first night. Next up? Haggia Sophia makes good on her promise.

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