chapter lx

Posts Tagged ‘Aya Sofya

Last day in Istanbul, and a wonderful and full day. I wasn’t feeling very well this morning, but had a simple breakfast and tried to stay hydrated, and by mid-day was feeling better. I walked down to the pier to see about a sunset cruise on the Bosphorous, which sounds lovely, and then went down to Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. Aya Sofya is awesome, just the sheer size of it for starters. The dome is 34 meters tall, it was built in 537, and for nearly 1000 years was the largest cathedral in the world, until it became a mosque in 1435. The icons are beautiful and the stonework incredible. Truly a holy place.

The Blue Mosque is across a large square from Aya Sofya, and rivals it in magnificence. It has intricate blue tiles, and many blue windows. Again, a holy place with so much history of worship. My camera has been kinky this whole trip, and stopped working in Aya Sofya, said the battery needs charging, but I just charged it a couple days ago, and sometimes has been giving a message “lens error”. I don’t know what’s going on with it, but resorted to┬átaking photos with the iPhone and I really don’t like how they come out, but better than nothing. We’ll see when I get home and have a good look at all of them.

I then spent the next few hours talking to a man in his rug shop. Only started talking because there was a row of old colorful wooden houses that I stopped to photograph. He asked

if I would like to see his rugs – they all do, and I made it clear that I was not going to buy a rug, but appreciate the beauty of old carpets, and know a little something about them. He took me downstairs where they keep the old ones, and they were all beautiful, such careful work, natural dyes, real wool and patterns that were each unique. I told him I was on my way to the hamam at Cemberlitas, and he wrote a note to the owner to treat me well. He had just returned from a trip to Canada, and likes Canadians a lot. He said the best time to go though is 7, so that you go home and have a good sleep. That put an end to the Bosphorous cruise, but next time. So we sat and drank tea for awhile longer, and it was about six, so I went to the hamam, and he said he would meet me after for tea. Then we went to a pipe house, and smoked apple tobacco, and I had a mint, rose and lemon tea, and then dinner. It was nice to spend time with a Turkish man who was just nice and wanted to show me some of Istanbul without an agenda. The hamam was wonderful, lying there and being washed, massaged, lathered with rose soap, rinsed, into the jacuzzi, very relaxing. It reminded me of the mud baths in California, just letting all the tension and tiredness go.

My flight tomorrow is already delayed a couple hours, although they say to be there as though it is leaving on time, as if. I just hope that the long connect time I made for the flight to Halifax doesn’t shrink. It is down to 1-1/2 hours now. I am sorry to be leaving, it has been an enjoyable time. One of the advantages of traveling alone is the chance to talk to many people. It has been fun.

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Today was a day for sacred places, among other things. I went to Chora Church this morning, thanks to Molly for recommending it. What a beautiful place; Byzantine, covered with gold mosaics with so much detail and beauty. When you look at the colors still so vibrant after 1000 years, and the work that went into covering every surface, I just felt awed. It was worth a bus ride, which is interesting in itself. The bus I took into the city Friday passed a whole string of shops selling store mannequins. Today it was a whole string of bridal shops – one after another. Busses are interesting, too because you get out of the tourist trap, and see real people and where they live. After visiting the church, I had lunch at Asinate, a restaurant that serves food made as it was in the Ottoman era. They research old records, letters, ledgers and whatever other source they can find to recreate the food that was eaten at that time. I had an interesting pastry filled with pistachios, olives, cheese and green onion. It was very tasty. Of course, there were tomatoes and bread. No meal is complete here without tomatoes and bread. Typical breakfast is tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, olives and bread. The breakfast here at the Emin Hotel also has fruit and cold meats. Sometimes there will be a boiled egg.

This afternoon I went to the tombs at Aya Sofya, where sultans and their families were buried – you can imagine how elaborate those rooms are. Also wandered and found an area of shops that sell local crafts, not the usual tourist goods. Some very interesting things to look at. Also the Istanbul Handicrafts Market, where local artisans learn old techniques and produce new items with a contemporary and individual feel. The more I walk around and explore, the more I am loving Istanbul.

This evening I went to a ceremony of the whirling dervishes, and came out feeling as though I could fly, that being there while they danced lifted all of us up, took our spirits with them in their ecstasy. It was quite amazing. Had some Turkish meze after, a plate of vegetables prepared in different ways. It was very tasty and fresh; eggplant in tomato, spinach in yoghurt, potatoes, I can’t remember what else, and bread! Got drawn into a carpet store, I guess because what I saw in the window was not run of the mill. Anyway, the man took me downstairs to see some of their old carpets – for awhile in California I was apprenticing to repair antique carpets, and do love the colors, the stories that are woven into them, honour the women who kept the design of the whole thing in her head. So I made it clear right off that I was not there to buy anything, but would love to see what they have. It did turn into a sales pitch, but I had a nice glass of apple tea, and saw some lovely old carpets. The uncle was downstairs with us by that time, and cut the price of one more than half if I would buy it tonight. I made it clear that I was not going to buy anything right then, if at all. There is a beautiful small piece that is very tempting. I also saw a piece of embroidered silk this afternoon that is very beautiful, careful elaborate work.

Tomorrow I think I’m going to Taksim and explore that side of the river. Only two days left, and I still have not been to Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque, or the Grand Bazaar, except for a cursory visit before I left for Chalki. I know that I can’t just go all day, though without totally running out of steam, so if I don’t see everything it doesn’t really matter, just being here is good.

The staff here is so sweet – when I got back from the dancers, the man who made the reservation for me was on the front desk, and asked how I liked it. I told him how light I felt, and like flying, and he said you need a cup of tea now, and got me one. I saw someone washing the front of the hotel this morning. I also saw a street person wander in, and a waiter on the patio noticed and ran right in after him.

I don’t think I have eaten a meal inside since I arrived, not here or Chalki. Maybe the odd meal, but mostly outside. Restaurants all have tables outside, and in Chalki there were not even doors or walls, just a kitchen and then covered area where the tables all were. Nice. And great for people watching.