Thursday, September 20, 2007

Turkey Trip (part 2 : Istanbul)

So we landed in Istanbul and wondered around looking for our ride to the first hotel, whom after 30 minutes had Rachel paged (for all of you who were worried about me going to a Muslim country yes they paged Rachel's very Jewish name in the airport and no one gave a damn). The ride in gave us our first view of the completely insane form of driving done in this country. Speed limits are suggestions, and red lights... well... they just slow down a little.

The hotel was nice. We had twin beds like they did in the Dick Van Dyke show. A cool little patio on the ground floor and a rooftop place to catch a bite. The weather wasn't that bad either, it was in the low eighties most of the time we were in Turkey, and not humid at all.

We took a walk through Sultanahmet and over a bridge... we both thought it was very cool that we were walking to Asia... however later we realized we didn't. There were stray cats everywhere... even in old ruined buildings. We got kind of lost and took a long walk up a hill, and there was a Turkish Bath, a Turkish porn store, and not a woman is sight save Rachel. We finally figured out where we were going and walked up a different hill for a mile and a half to the most disappointing food of the entire trip.

On our way back we proceeded to get lost again, but I was so enchanted I almost didn't care. After a little night cap of Fanta on the roof we crashed.

The next day we hit an archaeological museum that was in the Sultan's Palace park. We didn't go to the Palace... I'm sure it would have been fantastic, but it was expensive and packed with tourists. For myself the most fascinating part of the museum was the history of the search for Troy, and how an amateur found and destroyed a good deal of the historical record by digging right through the time period he was looking for.

We also started bumping into foreign signs that I found interesting.

Don't ask me what's going on here. But whatever it is it's cool:

I'm guessing these signs mean "stay the hell away!":

And this elephant looks like it's having fun:

After a trip to a new hostel and meeting a very polite hostel worker. We ate some turkish pizza, wrote some post cards, and drank some Turkish beer (Efes, pronounced like saying "f" then "s", which was a really good beer pick one up sometime.) After checking out the Grand Bazaar, we had a couple more beers then walked back over the bridge where the leaders of Istanbul decided to blast off some fireworks marking our arrival. We tried to take the tram back to the hostel but we only made it two stops as the packed tram car had the two distinct nasty smells of rotten salami, and pungent body odor. It might have been in the top 5 worst smells I have experienced in my life.

That night was the toughest of the trip. The bed was lumpy...I woke up with a few lines of bed bug bites. There were screaming birds outside all night. But the worst was the cats. They were in heat and making the most ungodly noises you could imagine. And after they got done fucking they started fighting... Cats screaming alternatively in ecstasy and in pain over and over and over for hours. Then what sounded like the world's loudest garbage truck apparently flew right past our fourth floor window to clean up the mess the cats left.

After no sleep whatsoever, the next day would appear to be ruined. Ha on your negative view of the world. For me drinking a gigantic iced coffee is kind of like getting eight ours of sleep. We did standard tourist stuff today. The first of which was Aya Sofia, a church built in the 6th century (the third to be built on the spot) by Emperor Justinian I. It was turned into a mosque in the 1400's by the Ottoman Sultan. And the national hero of Turkey Ataturk made it a public museum (thus no official religious denomination) in 1935. It was a stunning bit of work. One of the more interesting things, well for me, was all the graffiti. So many people saw this beautiful work of art and carved their names, racial comments, etc. into it. Hell, there was Viking graffiti from the 9th century. It never ceases to amaze me that people feel their need to scrawl their name into other people's shit, much less a centuries old work of art. Some odd bits also survive, part of the tile work contained swastikas, long before it became a symbol of intolerance. Buried in the building are also several crusaders... highlighting one of the sorer sections of western history. At one point I walked out onto the roof through an open door... I don't think I belonged there, apparently the roof was storage for cleaning supplies. But I just can't resist an open door, especially one in a tall landmark.

Then we hit the Museum of Islamic Art. The most interesting thing there was an exhibit of contemporary art celebrating the relationship Turkey had with South Korea, and displayed were a slew of Turkish artists and South Korean artists.

Then it was on to the Blue Mosque. Built to rival Aya Sophia by the Ottoman Empire leader Ahmed I. It was an intense experience, as it was a working mosque, something I had not experienced. It was absolutely beautiful and felt like a holy place.

The visitors showed a lack of respect for the religion. As their are many rules regarding the code of dress etc. that the tourists refused to follow. How hard is it for a guy to wear pants and a girl to cover their head? A good example is this picture... you tell me what's wrong with it.
This is just a small sample of the 100 people sitting on the steps outside.

After a delicious meal of a meat and potato thingie that tasted like shepard's pie with chicken it was off to the airport for a flight to Cappadocia.


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