I am not a Spice Girl nor am I one of Charlie’s Angels.

Posted on November 13th, 2010 by

During the last week of October, my school had a week long fall break. This lengthy break gave me the chance to do traveling that required longer than a weekend. With only one day of rest after my long trip in the Peloponnese, I headed off to Istanbul, Turkey with a few friends, Eliza, Casey, and Allison.

Galata Tower

We left Monday night the 25th and returned Friday morning the 29th. I flew on Olympic Air, which is a really nice airline, but I prefer Aegean Air; it’s a little nicer. I was originally planning on touring Italy over fall break, but I am glad my room mates talked me into Istanbul. Otherwise, I would probably never go there in the future. Our hostel was not to bad; it was located right next to Galata tower, which was a 20 minute walk or short tram ride from all the main tourist attractions. Since we arrived so late in the day, we only explored the street where our hostel was located. A few words I would use to express my first impressions of Turkey from that short walk are: vibrant, loud, and beautiful.

Obelisk

I did not sleep very well my first night; first, because I was so excited to be in such a strange new place, and second, because the hostel was very active and there were people going in and out the dorm-style room I was sleeping in at all hours of the night and not very quietly either. Also, during that first night I was woken up by what I later learned was the Muslim call to prayer, the Adhan; at the time I was very confused as to why some one was singing so loudly outside my window. The prayer is very beautiful to listen to during the day when you’re not trying to sleep. :)

The weather in Istanbul all week was a lot colder and rainier than I was expecting. Still, I persevered through the elements and saw all the main sights there were to see. The first day was quite jam packed. My adventure buddies and I went to the ancient Hippodrome, where we saw the Serpent Column and the Obelisk of Theodosius. Then we trekked on over to the Blue Mosque.

Inside Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque was absolutely beautiful inside. We had to take our shoes off to go inside since it was a sacred area. The inside was all lit up with candles. It was very aptly named the Blue Mosque because the inside was decorated in thousands of blue tiles arranged in classic Islamic styles. I had never been inside a mosque before this and my pictures do not do it justice. I really like how unique the architecture on the outside of their buildings looks as well.

Apple Tea

Sadly I was not very adventurous when it came to food on this trip. I did try some turkish casserole that was rather tasty; I ate a lot of Turkish pizza which is normal pizza only on Turkish pita bread. I did however drink lots of Turkey’s signature tourist drink: apple tea. I am not a tea person but that stuff was absolutely delicious. I bought a lot to bring back home. YUM!

After lunch we headed over to the famous Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia is greek for Holy Wisdom and [a comparison my room mate told me] is the Greek Orthodox version of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. It was very beautiful. It no longer functions as a church but instead serves as a museum. There were many beautiful mosaic inside; I was astounded by how much gold adorned everything; even some of the mosaics had gold pieces.

Grand Bazaar

To conclude my first full day in Istanbul, I spent a good amount of time in the Grand Bazaar, which was a crazy experience. Turkish men are much more forward in their words than most European men I have met so far well at least to a group of only girls who were obviously Americam. Some of the things that come out of their mouths were just plain silly and hilarious. We kept getting called Spice Girls; they’d say, “Hey Spice Girls! I’m Spice Boy come over here and talk to me.” Or, “Angels! You are angels! I’m Charlie! Charlie’s Angels! Yes?” Umm no I think not. One guy went up to my room mate and asked her very politely and solemnly if she wanted a boyfriend. Free he insisted. Hahahaha, that one sent me into convulsions. One of my favorite lines by the shop keepers was, “Excuse me, how may I help you spend all your money.” When asked where we were fun we just started making up random places, because if we said America they’d be like, “ooh you’re rich, come spend your money.” No I am not rich; I am a poor student who is thousands of dollars in debt for my education. I did like the Bazaar even with how overwhelming it could be. The men were even more overwhelming when I got separated from my group for a little while. They’d probably sell a little more if they harassed their customers less. I did make some purchases I am very happy about.

Wednesday morning we started out at the Spice Bazaar. The spice bazaar was just like the Grand Bazaar only with spices, tea, and coffee and less harassment. I bought a lot of really yummy spices as well as tons of apple tea. The guy who helped us get all our spices was a really nice and helpful energetic little guy. Those are the un-ground spices hanging up above me and him.

Restaurant boat on Bosphorus.
I had to climb through the fence to cross the street.

Next, we hopped on a ferry boat and took an hour and a half tour along the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus is the Istanbul Strait, a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It is the world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation. While on the tour, I met this cute old grandpa-like french man and his wife who was all excited that we had the same camera. He didn’t speak a lick of English but I understood his hand signals enough to know he wanted to take a picture of me and my friends for me. It was adorable because he got into photographer mode and was getting on his knees and taking the pictures from all different angles. The tour was cool but it decided to rain cats and dogs as soon as we got off, drenching us to the bone.

Not skull of John the Baptist.

That afternoon we took part in an age-old tradition of Turkey-A Turkish Bath. In a Turkish bath, after you have cleansed yourself you lay on a hot play for 30 minutes to work up a good sweat. Then a lady came in and scrubbed more dead skin than you could believe off of me. She then proceeded to give me a foam bath and a massage. It was definitely a different experience.

Alexander Sarcophagus
Cool sculpture on side of the sarcophagus.

Our last day in Turkey had the worst weather yet; it was the coldest and did not stop raining. A good portion of the day was spent perusing through the massive palace complex. There were so many different parts that I think I would have gotten lost even if I lived there. It costs extra to go into the harem, but I definitely recommend paying the extra cash because it was one of the coolest parts of the palace. My personal favorite part of the palace was the treasury. Unfortunately I was not aloud to take pictures. All the Ottoman jewelry was on display. There was a huge 92 carat diamond, and an even bigger ruby and emerald. They were jewels that were attached to the turbans of the sultan. There were many beautiful pieces of weaponry and armor that were completely encrusted with precious jewels and inlaid gold. One room held sacred objects. Housed in that room was the wooden [wooden mind you and it wasn’t petrified either] staff of Moses. Yes the wooden staff of the great man who led the Hebrew nation out of Egypt. the staff that was used in numerous miracles, including during the Nile river into blood. Oh they also had the sword of King David, I believe the one he chopped Goliath’s head off with. Also they had a fully intact skull and arm bone of John the Baptist. It was pretty intense. And don’t forget the numerous glass vials holding bits and pieces of the beard of Mohammed. Now the beard being legit, I maybe believe, but I’m a little more skeptical about all the other so called holy artifacts. It was still a really awesome display whether any of it was real or not. My final bit of excitement in Turkey was the national museum. There were a lot of cool things in there but by far the coolest was the Alexander Sarcophagus. It isn’t really the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, but is rather associated with him and his army. And so ends my week in Istanbul.

 

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