Friday, May 24, 2013

Gunaydin!

The title of this means good morning. In Turkish. Because that’s right, I’m in TURKEY for the week!! It’s been a packed trip full of beautiful, ancient, and exotic sites. I never knew how modern and pretty this country is. I’m very impressed! It reminds me of other European countries I’ve been to. I wasn’t expecting it to be so modern since we can’t drink the water here, but go figure. 

Other people are impressed with Turkey too. A LOT of the sites we’ve been to have been packed with American, European, and Asian tourists. Our guide told us Turkey is the 7th most visited country in the world.

Day 1 of the trip was spent in Istanbul. And yes, we listened to that one song you’re thinking of right now about 50 times on this day. Our first stop was the Blue Mosque. It’s huge, and very beautiful. It’s from the 17th century. Early European tourists called it the Blue Mosque because they had never really seen other mosques. Apparently mosques usually have mostly blue tiles, so Muslims find it semi-idiotic that they started calling this one the Blue Mosque. Locals call it the Sultanahmet Mosque, because they are aware that other mosques also have blue tiles. Let's imagine someone only having seen one Mormon temple, and naming the 'White Temple.' See? Now the Blue Mosque thing sounds funnier.

Here’s the inside: 



(Side note- to go inside mosques, women have to cover their hair, and everyone has to take off their shoes).

Another interesting thing about this mosque is that it has 6 minarets (those are the towers outside of mosques that they do the call to prayer from). People got angry at Sultan Ahmet for building 6 minarets at his mosque, because then his mosque had as many minarets as the Grand Mosque in Mecca (the most sacred city in Islam). Instead of taking down one of his minarets, Sultan Ahmet sent his architects to build another minaret in Mecca. Such a crafty sultan.

Here’s the outside. Pretty amazing!



After that, we went to the Basilica Cistern (built in the 6th century). Cisterns are water holding tanks. This one is called the Basilica Cistern because it was built underneath a church. Some of the columns were reused from older structures, so they don’t all look the same. It was built to hold water and not to be pretty (but it is pretty!). Apparently a scene from an old James Bond movie was filmed here (From Russia with Love). Also, in Dan Brown's new book 'Inferno,' the climax of the book takes place here.

It’s a little dark to take pictures, but you can sort of get the feel for what it looks like.




Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman sultans lived for 400 years, was our third stop. The palace, now like a museum, has different rooms that showcase the royal treasures. For example, there’s an armor room, a gemstone room (with an 86 CARAT DIAMOND), and (the most entertaining) a holy relic room. They claim to have artifacts belonging to famous prophets. Here’s a list of my favorites:

-Moses’ staff
-David’s sword
-Joseph’s turban
-and....Muhammad’s beard hair!

That was my favorite part. I can die happy now that I’ve seen Muhammad’s beard in person. Because I ALWAYS believe in the authenticity of relics ;)

Entrance to the palace:


At the palace!


The next stop was by far my favorite. The Grand Bazaar! 



It was like a mall but bigger and more exotic (and sometimes weird men follow you around asking to be your Turkish boyfriend...).

Check it out!


It has 4,000 stores. I was in heaven. I got some really pretty scarves and jewelry, which are so awesome in the Middle East (those are some of the prettiest souvenirs you can buy in Jerusalem ,too).

Our day ended with a boat ride down the Bosporus Straits. We sailed between the continents of Europe and Asia. Lots of green, and lots of beautiful architecture.



Yeah, and this is just Day 1 of the trip. I have a lot of things to catch up on! We have a lot of early mornings and long days here, so usually I just want to sleep instead of uploading pictures or anything. Stay tuned for more info about Turkey!

1 comment:

  1. What a lot of amazing sites packed into one day! Now I want to visit Istanbul too; cool!

    ReplyDelete