Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Crossroads of the World - Day 3


The Grand Bazaar

Istanbul                                                                         Turkey

Saturday 11th October 2014

The first thing I heard which pretty much woke me up in the morning was the call to prayer at 6am in the morning. Everything seemed a lot louder; however it was a great way to wake up without the use of an alarm. I took my time getting prepared for the day ahead so I had a nice shower which made me feel relaxed and fresh. I stood out onto the terrace and noticed that there were strong winds with quite a bit of cloud cover but still warm enough to make it feel like a holiday. I had a rough idea of my plans and at the top of my list was the famous Grand bazaar. I was excited to lose myself in the bazaar and to see its wonderful unique sights. My first priority was to get something for breakfast so I left the apartment and headed up the steep cobbled hill yet again and followed the tramline. I decided to take a different route than usual and I ended up at a row of restaurants next to the tramline. I randomly picked a restaurant and I ordered orange juice with what seemed to be potato fries in a bun with tomato sauce and mayonnaise splashed on it. It filled my stomach however and thankfully managed to eat it all without making a complete mess of myself. 

Turkish Shop

It was now time to head to the Grand bazaar and I quickly arrived after a short walk. The moment came when I entered the bazaar and I was speechless with what I was seeing. Yet again I was welcomed with vibrant colours from the silks, rugs, gold jewellery, mosaic plates and glass lights spread across the area. The other spectacle was the layout, design and colours of the ceiling in the bazaar. The outlines of the windows were covered in blue flowery patterns with cream/yellow coloured ceiling with some areas flaking off exposing the stonework underneath which was truly remarkable to behold. As I was there to see the sights of the bazaar, I was not intending on buying anything yet. One of my big concerns here was getting constantly approached by merchants trying to sell what they had to offer claiming they would do great prices. However, not one person approached me which shocked me but also a bit relieved as I was focusing on the sights rather than purchase. I also thought I would end up lost in the bazaar with its maze like layout but I always knew that whatever turn I made there would be an exit around the corner which was a great relief. I spent quite a bit of time in and around the bazaar before finally leaving to my next destination. 

The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar

I wanted to visit the surrounding imperial mosques in the area so I decided to head to the Süleymaniye mosque. I used my map and my compass which helped me a lot as in no time at all I arrived at the mosque. It was a very large and beautifully made mosque just like the Blue mosque. However, there was something different about this mosque I thought. Today was also a day where I wanted to enter the mosques which made me excited and curious as to what was waiting for me inside. Like any mosque, there were rules when entering them; I had to wear long pants which covered my legs and also to take off my shoes placing them either on a shelf or in a bag provided. I was suddenly amazed once I entered through the main doors witnessing the beautiful artwork on the domes and surrounding ceilings. The whole area was completely covered in colourful floral patterns yet again with Arabic writing scattered around the building. The whole floor was covered in a lovely looking carpet too with more floral patterns all symmetrical to each other. The next thing that caught my eye was the bright multicoloured window art which beamed beautiful colours onto the carpet. 

Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque
Colourful Carpet
Suleymaniye Mosque

I left the mosque so full of wonder and focused on my next mosque to see which was the ‘Princes’ mosque. Yet another short walk brought me to this mosque which when I looked at it made me realise how different it was from the previous mosque as this was not an imperial mosque at all. Around the garden area were a number of smaller buildings though which held the bodies of old sultans, offspring and other important people too. Some of the coffins were draped with an emerald green fabric with what appeared to have white headwear at the top. It was very different than what is at home which made this very interesting to me. The small buildings which held the coffins were a sight of there own as each one had its own design of mosaic art and Arabic writing. I then entered the mosque and I soon realised that this mosque had a different floral pattern and colour scheme to the previous mosque; it was yet another remarkable sight to see though and I was glad I took the time to see this beautiful area. 

Princes Mosque
Princes Mosque
Princes Mosque
Mosaic Art
Mosaic Art
Princes Mosque

As I left I wanted to find the Valens aqueduct which I knew wouldn’t be far from where I was but I would still need the help of my compass. However, I walked North West and looked to my right and there it was plain as day. It was a very large structure and reminded me of the sites in Rome again. The next mosque I wanted to see was a few hundred feet North West of Valens aqueduct which was called the Fatih mosque. More floral patterns welcomed me as I entered again with beautiful vibrant carpets. I spent a short while here though as it was time for something to eat. 

Valens Aqueduct
Imperial Mosque
Cemetery
Imperial Mosque
Imperial Mosque

As I approached the Ataturk Bridge and came across a nice looking restaurant, I decided to head towards it. After eyeing up the menu which had a few peculiar dishes on such as the cooked head of a sheep, I finally sat down and ordered a mixed grill of chicken sheesh, Turkish kebab and meatballs which came with naan bread. It was absolutely beautiful to have and experience as I admired the views of traffic going by rushing around as I sat at my table relaxed. I finished it off with a Turkish tea becoming my favourite drink to have on this trip. 
Turkish Cuisine

As I left I decided to wander around the spice bazaar again. This time it was a lot more jam packed as hundreds of people were admiring and buying items from countless unique stalls. There were several times I would get knocked around trying to get passed but it didn’t bother me. There were also times when I would have to give way to people who were transporting a lot of goods to different shops. I eventually entered the spice bazaar welcomed by the strong smells of the spices again. I spent along time looking upon all the different stalls and then decided to head back out of the bazaar as the smell was overpowering and slightly got to me so I decided to head back up to see the inside of the Blue mosque. 

Walk to Spice Bazaar
Unique Blade
Spice Bazaar

After a bit of time walking, I eventually arrived and I couldn’t get over the size of the queue to get in. Clearly I picked the wrong time to get there as the queue stretched out almost around the whole mosque. It felt miserable standing right at the back of the line but the queue was moving quite quick for once. Time passed and I eventually made my way inside the entrance corridor where I would have to take my shoes off again. I immediately realised why it was named the Blue mosque. The majority of the mosaic floral patterns were a pure vibrant blue and the glass windows were blue as well which illuminated the room in a nice calming colour. As I looked up at the ceiling I couldn’t help noticing that all the mosques I had seen had the similar patterns as a spyrograph design which was amazingly symmetrical and eye catching. As it was nearing prayer time, the mosque started to fill up with people who were preparing to pray in front of us. It was a wonder to watch along with the wonderful sights of the mosques domes and ceilings. However as everyone had there shoes off the whole room smelt of feet which was very strong and enough for me to take my leave plus I would have rather returned to the overpowering smell of the Spice Bazaar than the smell of feet. 

Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque

I decided to head back to my apartment so I could take a very long rest watching TV before heading back out. By the time I got to the end of my walk I was hungry so I headed to the nearest restaurant which was at a small side road full of other colourful restaurants. I ordered sirloin steaks, 3 beers, mocha coffee, Turkish coffee and for dessert was a local delicacy called Baklava which was a Turkish pastry with walnuts and pistachios which all melted in my mouth. Time passed whilst admiring my food and drinks taking it all in until I eventually decided to leave and see some sites in the dark. 

Turkish Cuisine
Turkish Baklava

As I followed the tramlines towards the golden horn, I bumped into two Turkish men who began chatting with me about our experiences. Then they mentioned they were going for a drink and had asked me if I wanted to come with them. So I joined them stating that I would only have one drink not thinking at all about the consequences. All of a sudden we got into a taxi heading to the outskirts of Istanbul. I thought we were just staying within the old city area when I originally agreed to do this. The taxi eventually stopped outside a high class club in which we all walked in to and up the stairs. As I got upstairs the first site I saw were all the beautiful women in the club dancing away. I felt happy as I sat down with the two men and ordered my drink. I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only one dressed like a traveller; everyone else was dressed to impress. A small time passed as we chatted away admiring the view before 3 women came to us and sat down with us. One was from China, one was from Russia and the one who sat with me was from Ukraine. She was very pretty and she was impressed at the fact I came from England or maybe it was because I had money with me who knows. We talked, laughed and danced away really enjoying the night and we ordered a few drinks for the women too without knowing the price of them. I headed downstairs with the two men to settle the bill and then I went white as a sheet when I was told how much we had to pay and nearly lost control. 7150 Turkish liras was the damage and all I could feel was regret at the fact that I came out in the first place. However, we managed to pay the bill by splitting it 3 ways which pretty much left me with nothing and then we took our leave after saying goodbye to them all. I safely returned back to the old city of Istanbul and the walk back to the apartment was quick as I was constantly kicking myself thinking how stupid I was to do this realising how gullible I was. But despite this setback, I never panicked knowing I had more money in the bank which I would have to sort out the next day. The only upside of this was I had a fantastic night which I would hardly have done back home knowing I was safe and under control. I went to bed feeling relaxed and safe but still couldn’t believe I did this; Learn from mistakes I thought as I drifted off to sleep.
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