Monday, March 24, 2008

First full day in Istanbul

We woke up in the morning to prayer call. Prayer call happens 5 times a day, and at each time devout Muslims are supposed to face Mecca and pray. What you may not know about prayer call is that it's broadcasted over loudspeakers from the mosque. You also may not know that morning prayer call is about ten minutes long (maybe it acts as an alarm clock?). Our hotel room had an enormous window that took up two walls, one of which had a direct shot from the Blue Mosque. So we woke up to someone singing in a dissonant minor "Heeeeeeeeey eeeeverryyybodyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, come and praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!" I actually have no idea what they were saying but that's my best guess.
Turkish breakfast consists of fresh bread (well done on the bread, Turks!) cheese, butter, honey, cucumber, tomato, a hard-boiled egg, olives, and tea. We popped up to the rooftop patio afterwards from which we could see both the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya.
Because the weather was delicious, we decided that today would be the best day to take a cruise up the Bosphorous river from the Golden Horn to the Black Sea. We followed the tram line down to Emminonu an and from there caught a public ferry that took us up to an old abandoned fort-castle at the mouth of the Black Sea. Here's a view of the Beyoglu and the Galata Tower from the ferry:
Here is Dolmabahce palace, which we didn't get around to visiting but which boasts a staircase made of crystal. Every clock in the palace is stopped at 9:05 am, the hour at which Ataturk died here on 10 November 1938. Turkish people LOVE Ataturk. Ortokoy Camii, under the Bosphorous bridge: Rumeli Hisari, built over 4 months in 1452 in preparation for the planned seige of Byzantine Constantinople by Mehmet the Conqueror: Three medical students in search of a life-expanding vacation in Istanbul: The suburb of Emirgan, European side of Bosphorous (maybe). Random picturesque ruined arch on the walk up to the Anadolu Kavagi Kalesi. We walked up the hill twice because I'm incapable of correctly reading ferry timetables. A view of the Black Sea from a window in the Kavagi Kalesi. After I took this picture, I was harassed by a group of 13-year old Turkish boys for about 45 mins. After showing off the limited English they knew (F*ck you bitch?!) at the top of the hill, they followed us all the way down the hill --a good 20 -25 minute walk, asking if Aaron was any of ours brother or boyfriend, stepping on the heels of our shoes, and trying to get an arm around an American girl. After getting back (we all slept on the ferry ride back to Eminonu--Turkey really is very safe!) we walked into the Yeni Camii (New Mosque, still over 500 years old) and sat for a while. Evening prayers were going on so we didn't go inside. We headed to Suleyman mosque and looked around. Unfortunately the main part of the indoors is closed for 2 years for renovations, but we looked at the tombs and graveyard from the outside. Outside of Suleyman mosque: The Gate around Suleyman mosque: Later that night we went to Taksim square to catch a bus, and in our downtime walked down Itstiklal Cadessi, where due to a communication error I accidentally bought 1.5 kilos (roughly 4 lbs) of Turkish Delight and some other candy which is not Turkish Delight, but which was equally if not more delightful:

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