Friday, April 4, 2014

Istanbul: Mosques and Markets

I've already told you about two of my favorite things in Istanbul: the people and the hamam, but there is so much to love about the city. Istanbul has more than 3,00 mosques (!), so of course we could only visit a very small fraction of those. But let me tell you, the ones we saw were breathtaking. My favorite was the Süleymaniye.

The courtyard was majestic, and we had such a nice time playing with Zahara in the lush grass. Inside, the mosque is tranquil and cool. The carpet felt nice against my shoe-less feet (everyone must remove their shoes when entering a mosque). I learned a couple of interesting tidbits courtesy of our Rick Steve's guidebook:
  1. The carpet has a subtle design in it that helps organize those who are praying.
  2. The pillars were designed to blend in to the decor--a very different style than the Blue Mosque, whose pillars are obvious. I liked this style better.

Due to a scheduling error on our part, we missed seeing the inside of the Hagia Sofia, but we did get to check out the Sultanahmet, or Blue Mosque. The inside is stunning, but it felt very touristy compared to the Süleymaniye. Granted, we were there only a few minutes before the mosque closed for prayer time, but there was a whole tourist infrastructure that didn't exist at the Süleymaniye. It was almost an assembly line for taking off your shoes, giving you a scarf or robe if you needed one and ushering you through the door. Not nearly as peaceful as the Süleymaniye. The tile work is outstanding though, so it is well-worth a visit.

No trip to Istanbul is complete without seeing the chaos of the spice market and grand bazaar. The bazaar is called the oldest shopping mall in the world; it dates back to the 1450s and has more than 3,000 shops. You'll find everything in the bazaar from lanterns, to knick-knacks, to Turkish linens. Dan and I actually bought some towels after I fell in love with the ones at my hamam.

I especially enjoyed the pretty courtyard where we had an amazing meal; the street filled with more gold than I've ever seen in my life; and the alley filled with silver-smiths at work.

As busy as the grand bazaar was, it was nothing compared to our first visit to the spice market. Unlike Dan, crowds never really bother me. However, this was over-the-top. I couldn't move on my own; I was simply carried away by the tides of people. Don't take my word for it. Check out this video Dan took. It wouldn't have been so bad, but I was constantly worried about people elbowing Zahara in the head. Fortunately, we went back another day and it was much less crowded.

Stay tuned for part 3, where I'll tell you about our Bosphorus cruise, the Topkapi Palace, and my surprising love of Turkish Delights.

Read more about our trip to Istanbul:
Exploring Istanbul
Istanbul: Final Thoughts

No comments:

Post a Comment