Tuesday, May 8, 2012

East Meets West

Awaking in Istanbul. What a dream. I enjoyed a beautiful breakfast on the rooftop terrace of my hostel before wandering around the old historic center of Sultanahmet a bit. An old family friend, Ian, and his lovely girlfriend named Jen met me at my hostel a few hours later for lunch and a day out on the town. First, we headed down to the waterfront near Galata Bridge for fish sandwiches and good people watching. To burn off some of our lunch, we trekeed up the hill on the opposite side of the water to Galata Tower, part of the fortifications around the city built in the 1300s. The views from the top of the tower were stunning. Despite the panorama of rooftops and structures, we concluded that I still have seen only a small fraction of this enormous city. Bah!
Next, we strolled through both the Spice & Grand Bazaar. There were shop after shop of Turkish delight, handicrafts, spices, and anything else you could imagine. It was packed and very impressive.
After wading through the hords of people to see as much as we could, we ventured back to Sultanahmet to view the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (better known as the Blue Mosque). This structure was built in the early 17th century and has the unique quality of being the only mosque in the world with six minarets. Quite an interesting story about that one. The outside is impressive and the inside is even more stunning. There is beautiful stained glass and calligraphy that is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Following this, Ian, Jen, and I strolled through the district behind the Blue Mosque and found ourselves a nice little kebab shop for dinner and dessert. It's official, team, I am addicted to Baklava. I'm actually considering staying a few more days here just so I can eat more. I also found another one that is a close runner up. I'm not sure of the name, but it's shortbread, nutella (yes, I am in heaven here), and pistachios. I just realized I haven't taken any pictures of them yet. I will get on that, no worries. But it absolutely blew me away!
I said farewell to my friends, feeling quite content and satisfied (in my belly especially) and returned to my hostel for some backgammon and impromptu Turkish lessons from the employees here.This city is so interesting. I really can't seem to put my finger on it. I know it has something to do with the mixture of old and new, conservative and liberal, religiously fervant and cosmopolitan, but I can't quite seem to narrow it down. Quite intriguing, right? But I will continue to ponder throughout the next couple days as I explore even further.

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