02 December 2009

Istanbul !

If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.
-Alphonse de Lamartine

We arrived in Istanbul the day before Thanksgiving, and were met at the airport by old Florida friend Patrick. He has recently moved to Turkey with his wife, Zeynep, who grew up there and whose family still lives there.

Zeyneps parents generously had offered for us to stay at their beautiful home on the Asia side of the city. The house is on a hill overlooking the Bosphorus and Europe !

On Thanksgiving morning, we went out to see all the major sites....and boy did we hit them !

As soon as you get into the old city, you are confronted by extremely impressive sites to remind you of the amazing history of Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul

The Blue Mosque - built in 1616 by Sultan Ahmed I
Hagia Sophia - built in 537 by the Roman Emperor Justinian

Finally seeing the Hagia Sophia in person was....amazing. Originally built as a church, it was the largest cathedral in the world for 1000 years. After the Ottoman Conquest in 1453, it was converted to a Mosque. These days, it is a museum.

It is absolutely breathtaking.

Just a few hundred meters opposite of the Hagia Sophia, is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque for the many blue tiles inside.

Everyone is welcome to enter the mosque in between prayers.

Still reeling from the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque is a knockout punch.

We were in Istanbul for 5 glorious days, and got to explore all sorts of nifty nooks and crannies.

Our trip coincided with Kurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha in Arabic) a Muslim holiday. It is the festival of sacrifice celebrating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God.

Unfortunately, this holiday weekend meant lots of traffic and the Grand Bazaar was closed !

We did walk around some of the shopping streets in the Old City and had lunch at this place, which not only made fresh (made by hand in front of you) cheesey pita things, but also had a house band that acted like they had been waiting their whole lives for us to show up !

We all shared a good laaugh, especially when Kelly came back from the ladies room and I was dancing about with my new Turkish backup band.

We did some shopping in the bazaar behind the Blue Mosque, where you could spend all your money on nifty Turkish decorative items...lamps, rugs, souvenirs.

Sultanahmet, The Old City, is a magical place.

The Blue Mosque at Night.

I could devote several bog posts just to the wonderful food we had on our trip.

Zeynep made a full blown Thanksgiving dinner, and bombarded us with all sorts of pies, cakes and traditional Turkish dishes the entire time we were there. We ate like Sultans !

We, of course, had to have REAL Kebabs. Not the kind you shovel down at 4am all over Europe from late night stands..... no, authentic, delicious, mouth watering kebabs from the best place in Istanbul,

Garaj Bursa Kebabs

Words cannot express how delicious they were.

They bring over hot melted butter and pour it on top just before you get started....good lord.

We also got to enjoy the nightlife of Istanbul, with Zeynep & Patrick being the most accomodating tour guides.

We had a blast.We also were able to sit and enjoy many glasses of tea at one of the multitudes of Tea houses that line the streets.

..and what goes better with a glass of tea then some fruit flavored tobacco smoked through a Nargile, a Turkish water pipe.

Zeynep also taught me how to play backgammon...and when I say taught me, I mean wipre the floor with me.

It was the perfect trip, we can't wait to go back.

above, the busy Bosphorus Straight at Sunset

Zeynep waves goodbye and as is a Turkish custom, pours water behind the car to make sure we have safe travels and find our way back to Istanbul.

We will definitely be back Istanbul !


Jim W. said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed Istanbul!! Great people, great sights, great history!!!

sultanahmet said...

Great Trip
Great Pics
Thanks for your sharing.