I walked farther than I could have imagined possible today. What started out as a gentle morning stroll near my hotel, soon matured into a marathon journey all over this city, only finishing when I made it back to my hotel around 9:00 this evening. As I reached one landmark, I’d see the next in the distance, and just keep going. Because I wanted to really explore, I decided not to look at a map. This wasn’t so tough, though, because I’ve done enough research on Istanbul over the years to know my way around like I’ve been here before.
As I mentioned yesterday, my personal introduction to Istanbul has been a long time coming. I first became fascinated in the city when, in a high school Art History class, I first learned about the Hagia Sophia. There’s something about that building’s loose stacking form that drew my attention from a young age. I was also taken by how different it looked from any other Roman buildings that I had seen. In college, I took a class called, “Reading Istanbul,” which entailed reading pretty much everything ever translated into English about Istanbul. Reading about a city is great, but it cannot possibly compare with seeing it, walking it, smelling it, hearing it, and tasting it firsthand. I was hooked, though, and visiting the city has been an unattainable goal of mine ever since. Much like Proust’s dreams of Venice after reading Ruskin, I thought about it constantly, and built it up in my mind to an extent to which it could never live up. Now that I’m finally here, I’m almost a little sad that the anticipation is over, but I’m thoroughly enjoying experiencing the place in person. Will it meet my expectations? I’ve still got a week to find out.
By the way, it’s nice to be back by the sea. This is the closest that I’ve been to any sizable body of water since leaving Boston. The weather has been perfect here. There’s been a refreshing breeze all day, and with temperatures in the mid-eighties, it’s downright chilly here compared to Bukhara. If I sit on my hotel’s rooftop terrace in the evening, I even have to put on a sweater.
Here are the photos from today (click to enlarge):
I have a feeling that Sundays at the Grand Bazaar are not quite as boisterous as other days.
I was happy to see that everything was closed here when I walked through. I needed a break from fighting through crowds today.
Unfortunately, the Suleymanye Mosque's exterior spaces are in the midst of renovations, so I wasn't permitted into the forecourt, or the gardens. It's a shame because I had been really looking forward to seeing them.
I was, however, allowed inside, and I was sufficiently impressed, as expected.
The Suleymanye was built for Suleyman the Magnificent by his court architect, Sinan, in 1557. Sinan was responsible for a whole slew of important buildings in this city. This mosque, which is enormous, is simply, but meticulously detailed. Although its construction was an incredible engineering feat, it remains understated on the interior.
This was the mosque that I was most looking forward to seeing in Istanbul. I plan on going back a few more times while I'm here. The great thing about mosques here is that they're free.
The gardens on the other side of this wall were inaccessible due to the renovations. They look pretty nice from here, though.
Not all of the markets were closed today.
Olives! I must be close to the Mediterranean now.
This is a great city for wandering around, exploring different passages, getting happily lost, and spotting a familiar minaret in the distance.
For lunch today, I sought out the waterfront for fish sandwiches. I haven't had fish since my first skewer in Xi'an, and I was really excited for this.
Delicious. Fish fresh out of the water. A bottle of lemon juice was provided.
After lunch, I crossed over to the other side of the Golden Horn to check out what was traditionally the more diverse part of Istanbul. I encountered this condition a lot today: The upper floors are cantileverd over the street to bring in more light. in this case, they are canted at an angle so that the apartments deeper in the block can still get some light and views. This usually works well, until everyone of the block decides to take up the air space over the street, and the buildings on either side almost touch at the top.
The Galata Tower is an old landmark that dates back to Roman times, although it's been rebuilt a number of times. It was once a lighthouse.
Now, the tower functions as a place from which tourists can snap panoramas of the city. It might be worth going back up here when the light is better. In the foreground is the neighborhood of Galata, and the Golden Horn is the body of water behind it. Sultanahmet, the old city, is on the opposite side, and beyond that, you can see the Sea of Marmara. On the Sultanahmet side, you can see the Topkapi Palace all the way on the left. The Hagia Sophia is the first mosque to right of that, and then the Blue Mosque is just to right again.
This side of the Golden Horn was always more western than the old city, and today, it's a big destination for western-style shopping.
This 19th Century mosque, on the Bosphorus, would be right at home in a turn of the century World's Fair.
Evidently, local kids like to swim in the Bosphorus, although they have to dodge the fishing hooks of the countless anglers who line up on the shores.
Hasn't this kid ever heard of a cannonball? I give him a 2.
I figured that, for the sake of research, I need to sample ice cream everywhere I go. It's very different here. They have special tools for digging it out of deep tanks, and pull it out in rather thin slivers. The texture is a little gummy, but the flavor is superb. You'll notice that I went for all five flavors here, for the sake of research.
Not far from the last mosque, this one almost has an art-nouveau look to it.
Prayers had just started when I got here, so I couldn't make it inside.
After an epic day of walking, I ended up having an early dinner at a delicatessen. The waiter told me that these were the best meatballs in the city. They were actually pretty good. The rest of the stuff was good, too, including the artichoke salad, and that red substance in the corner, which ended up being a spicy sauce for the meatballs.
If there is an open patch of waterfront, you will find Istanbulus fishing. Just make sure you don't get hooked, though.
It turned out to be a beautiful evening, with a refreshingly cool breeze.