Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Blue Mosque on my last night in Istanbul

Cafe and Turkish Tea

I had tea in a shop in Taksim. The Turks make a strong tea and serve it hot in glasses.

Crowds Celebrating Seker Bayrami, the End of Ramazan

At Taksim Square

Taksim Square seems to be the symbolic heart of the city. It attracts lots of locals and tourists. I noted that there were many more men than women enjoying the beautiful afternoon. You may have noticed how many more men than women there are in the pictures I posted above of the crowds.

The little boys, like many others I saw whose pictures I didn't take, were posing in front of a big Turkish flag poster.

Kid, Cat, Fish, Fruit, Ladybugs

The ladybugs keep people from parking on the sidewalk. I snapped the little boy talking to one of the many, many, many wild cats in the city. They seem to be communal pets. They are fed by everyone and live on the streets. They are a bit of a nuisance begging at sidewalk cafes. I saw the fruit and the fish at shops while walking around in Taksim, a central area of the city with lots of cafes, shops, and people.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More Street Scenes

The Harem

The opulence of the rest of the palace pales in comparison to the decoration and beauty of the rooms in the Harem.

At the Topkapi Palace

This is the palace of the Ottoman Empire. It was occupied in 1299 and remained in their control until after WWI, although they did not live there all that time. The rooms are beautifully decorated, many with tile and mosaics. I saw a throne made of ebony, one of mother of pearl and tortoise shell, with emeralds for decoration, and another with more than 3,000 identical-size pearls. I couldn't take pictures in that room, of course. The youth that would become administrative or military leaders were educated in the palace. I saw their library and the areas where they lived. As many as 10,000 guests would be served in the palace by the kitchens. They had quite an area of chimneys from the old ovens. And there was the Harem where the sultans lived with their families, the several hundred concubines, and almost as many eunuchs brought from Africa.


Despite having heard that Istanbul is totally seculiar, I find that many women here wear scarves and long dresses and are active in attending the mosques.

Perhaps because tomorrow starts a three day holiday, there were many families in the park taking group pictures.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My First Day of Istanbul Sightseeing

The weather was perfect. Breakfast was on the outside rooftop terrace at the hotel. I took a picture of the Blue Mosque from my breakfast table. I spent most of the day walking around town. In late afternoon, I made my way back to the hotel past the people fishing the Marmara Sea. I took a picture of the sea from my dinner table.

Visiting the Blue Mosque

This is my month for new religious experiences. I sat on the floor again. But this time it was not because there were too many people, but because that's what you do. And, it was a lovely carpeted floor, not a cold stone one.

I went to the Blue Mosque during prayers today. With a few other tourists, wearing scarves and not wearing shoes, we got to share in the service. There were many, many non-tourist worshippers. The men were in the center area and the women were in their area along the back wall.

The Mosque is breathtakingly beautiful. It has 260 windows. The red and blue colors inside are so stunning, it is hard to stop looking at the walls and domes.

This time, there was no way to discreetingly take pictures during the service. I waited until prayers were over and most people had left.

Visiting the Aya Sofya

Built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th Centurym this spectacular building has a huge dome area and no visible pillars holding it up. They are hidden in the marble of the walls. The lovely screen work on the balcony was designed to provide "security" for the original VIP worshipers, according to a guide.

Neighborhood Streets

Meeting the Neighborhood Kids

Little Miss Personality, here in pink, ran up to me at a neighborhood store. "My name is Becky. My name is...?" said she, pointing to me. So I told her "My name is Peggy" Then every kid on the street shouted "photo! photo!" and started telling me "My name is Muftar. My name is ....." What a hoot!

Photos from the Dinner Cruise

Hotel Photos

The turtle lives with fifteen others in the hotel lobby in a pond. I am including a photo of the lobby and one from my room window. The hotel is within the old city walls, which you see in the photo.