Monday, April 16, 2012

Istanbul: Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia

Sorry for the lack of updates, but we've been in Turkey all week! I was SO excited about this trip. I've been interested in Turkey (even tried to learn Turkish for a while) since high school but I never thought I'd actually get a chance to go. Fionn had a week off as a kind of "spring break" and when we started talking about where to go he immediately suggested Turkey, knowing how much I've always wanted to see it. We had some passport issues that I was afraid would derail the trip (maiden name/married name mix up!) but all was solved by our trusty marriage certificate and we were on our way.

So here comes the mammoth post dedicated to our week in Turkey (I'm posting it oldest to earliest so you can read it easier and in order).

Saturday we left Munich for the 2 hour flight to Turkey. We arrived and found our hostel which was...well...interesting? It was a little shady and the bed was the craziest thing-sheets from that animated "Cars" movie, bright pink flower pillowcases and this weird black duvet cover. We laughed about it and chalked it up to travel experience. I felt kind of bad since I was the one who had picked the hostel (it had good reviews, in my defense) but since it was just ugly and not terrible, we decided we'd stick it out. We always joke we have to do this now when we're young cause when we're old and traveling we won't put up with this. :)

Our hostel was near the famous Taksim Square, which is a bustling shopping and restuarant area that used to be home to many famous protests. It feels like total chaos, with cars going in every direction, absolutely NO pedestrian right of way (we were pretty sure we were going to get hit sometime during our trip), people everywhere and vendors and restaurant owners screaming for your attention. Oh, and a huge statue of Ataturk too (but he's everywhere, after all). We braved Taksim Square to find some dinner, then called it a day and went to bed.

When we woke up Sunday the weather was gorgeous. Sunny, warm, blue skies. We decided to check out the Grand Bazaar. Once we got there, we realized it was closed, but the small market around it was still full of shopkeepers harassing us for attention. They kept thinking I was French and Fionn was German (probably his blond hair) but we got some occaisional Russian or English too. Frustrated by the constant attention, we went around the corner to the courtyard of the nearby mosque. I'd never been inside a mosque before so Fionn suggested we check it out, especially since it was small and not very touristy.

After a look around inside we stopped for lunch and watched these old men trade and discuss their prayer beads. Then we wandered around through the market stalls, tasting new things...

We walked along the street til we came upon two huge mosques and crowds of tourists...must be the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia! But right then the call to prayer started so we had to wait until it was done to visit it. So we killed some time by walking around, trying some apple tea and Turkish coffee and Turkish delight, and enjoying the sunshine.

Then, to the Blue Mosque! It was nice, though I was a little underwhelmed to be honest. I thought it would be...bluer? It was still pretty but there were a ton of people so we didn't stay too long.

no shoes allowed!

The Aya Sofia was right next door so even though we were tired we went in. I'm so glad we did, because that was probably my favorite part of the day. Aya Sofia was originally a church built during the Byzantine times, then it became a mosque after the Turks took over, and now its a museum. There are still a lot of beautiful Christian mosaics left over from the Byzantine era.

We capped off the day with a walk in the park, looking at all the pretty flowers, especially the tulips. The Tulip Festival was going on, we learned!

and that was it for day one :)

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