Impressions of Istanbul, Turkey

Our time in Istanbul was, like the rest of our trip, rather uncommon for us. Generally, when we travel, we like to go to non-touristy places; where just the locals go and we’re the only tourist faces in the crowd (or better yet, if there is no crowd at all!)

Our first evening in the city foreshadowed our 4-day visit: lots of waiters and street vendors calling out in English, shoving menus in our faces, flirting and anything else to get our attention. By the end of our trip, it was safe to say we were sick and tired of getting “harassed” and it reiterated to us how we prefer not to travel. One thing that remained familiar from our days in Pamukkale was the food: we returned to the comfortable, tasty mecimec (lentil soup), ayran and apple tea.

For the first full day in Istanbul, we did what the majority of tourists do: visit the Blue Mosque (Sultanahment Camii).

Here is the inside:

Here is Ligeia and Mindy wearing hijabs to be able to enter during prayer time:

What was different with our visit, though, was that we spent a good 2 hours in the Islamic information center located inside the mosque. The man in the center was friendly and kind enough to sit with us for about 2 hours explaining the pillars of Islam and what it means to be a Muslim. It was definitely a highlight for us to have such a profound and informative conversation. Just the shocked look on the man’s face when Ligeia posed the question as to whether there are any female imams, or if women ever sing the call to prayer. The answer was an obvious “no”. The rest of the day was calm and relaxed for us: sitting the park of Topkapi Palace (we didn’t have enough energy to walk through a packed museum); walked across the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn (a section of the Marmara Sea that juts northward on the European side of the city); and enjoyed people-watching along a busy street in the Beyoglu district.

The remaining time we had in Istanbul included visits to a couple mosques (Beyazit and Suleymaniye, both of which were beautiful)…

…shopping in the loud, Grand Bazaar (Ligeia bought herself a beautiful, purple tunic and a pair of costume-like pants called shalvar)…

…wandering through the narrow aisles of the aromatic spice bazaar…

…and the aforementioned Cemberlitas Turkish bath (from our previous blog post). We also tried to talk with Turks about the election that took place during our Blue Mosque day. Most of the people we spoke to preferred the party that won 50% of the popular vote and will begin their 3rd consecutive term. For those that would have enjoyed an alternative party to form the government, we understood that their reasons were that the current leader is too conservative. Sounds quite similar to Canada, eh?

Overall, one word describes the city of Istanbul for us: chaotic. Traffic seems to move in a honking, tangled mess. Winding, cobblestone streets intersect at anything but right angles, making getting lost nothing short of impossible. The vast number of tourists is completely overwhelming. The cacophony of sound with mosques in each city district blasting their calls to prayer over loudspeakers mounted to the minarets. Basically, we’re glad to have experienced the city, but we’re looking forward to returning to Turkey and seeing the roads less traveled in the country.

Until next time,
Ligeia and Mindy 🙂 🙂

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