Istanbul, Turkey (10/25/09)


Sitting in our hotel room on the last night of our stay in Istanbul, listening to the call to prayer from the Blue Mosque just outside our window, and eating our dinner of various Turkish sweets, we think about how magical our days in Istanbul have been. From visiting the places we had known about for a long time (like the Aya Sofya that Jed studied in high school and college art history class) or those that we didn’t know about until we walked we stumbled across it (a brunch outside on the shore of the Bosphorus), these days have been filled with many discoveries. From history lessons to art lessons, Istanbul is the keystone that holds up much of world civilization and many things now make much more sense. For example, we now better understand the history of Islam and its spread; a lesson that we continue to bear fruit as we move south into the heart of the Middle East. Also one gets the sense that Istanbul is a city that has seen it all and now takes everything in relative stride; wandering down the Broadway of the city, the crowds take even a political protest in stride moving to the side as they pass and then continuing with their shopping or eating. There is even this sense of calm among the vendors, who do very little hassling to try to sell their wares.

 Aside from the wonderful sense that one gets from this city, some specific highlights:

-       Wandering the Topkapi Place (home of sultans for centuries) and its collection of jewels and historical items (Mohammed’s sword for a start).

-       Seeing a thousand year old Christian murals side-by-side with Islamic art in the Aya Sofya (and eating corn in the square outside

-       A real Turkish bath with scrubbing, soaping, massaging and all

-       Being accused of not really being American when trying to bargain in the Spice Bazaar- since “Americans don’t bargain.” For all you non-hagglers out there you are giving us a bad reputation.

-       Visiting the well preserved 1400-year old underground cistern that supplied water for the ancient rulers

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