Today started with an early morning wake up and a short walk to grab breakfast. We ordered a 'traditional Turkish breakfast' which consisted of some sliced cucumber & tomato, bread, a hard boiled egg, olives, cheeses, and some type of sliced meat (like bologna-ish).. and of course, tea. The Turks don't mess around with their tea.. all day, every day. The meal was small but satisfying.. and only about $10 (USD)!
Once we paid the bill we headed towards Topkopi Palace.
Somehow we got stuck outside the city walls and walked WAY out of our way to get there. I swear, wherever we go, the adventures keep us on our toes! When we arrives the line was outrageously long and we debated about staying or leaving. We decided to go and visit Hagia Sophia and come back later to Topkopi to see if it was less crowded. While in Hagia Sophia we experienced the most intricate and beautiful architecture and mosaics! We tailed a guy giving a private tour to this couple for a little bit, trying to get some info about the place as we were walking around. Apparently there was a massive earthquake a long time ago and it did a ton of damage to the Hagia Sophia (then a place of worship, now a museum). There were still cracks in the marble floors.
Istanbul is very similar to New York City in the way that its packed, huge, and most everything is within under a 30 minute walk. After visiting Hagia Sophia we trekked back to the Topkapi Palace. The walk was much shorter this time, since we weren't stuck outside the city. And we had purchased a 'Fast Track' museum pass to we got to skip the line. The museum pass included admission to several other museums also. The Topkapi Palace had many smaller museums inside it. We spent about 3 hours there looking at things from the prophet Muhammad.. even down to his beard hairs! We also saw Moses' staff! ** Also while in one of the small museums we saw a 37 karat diamond (uh, YES PLEASE.) Apparently it was found in a dump by a homeless man many many years ago.. he traded the diamond (not knowing it was a diamond) for 3 spoons. I repeat, 3 SPOONS, you know, the kind you eat with. Once it was found that the rock was in fact a diamond the size of a golf ball, the Sultan snatched it up and had it made into a ring. Seriously, a ring! I guess he then realized that wearing a golf ball on your finger is just ridiculous and had it made into a piece to wear on his turban instead. Seems a bit more logical to me. I mean, if I had a 37 karat diamond.. I would wear it on my head all the time too. **
The Palace did not allow pictures inside most of the smaller museums so I have mainly outdoor pictures. The tile work here was astounding! Everything was so bright and blue!
In order to get our money's worth from the Museum pass we purchased, we decided to head to the Istanbul Archeological Museum. We aren't huge 'museum-goers' but we enjoyed it nonetheless! There were a couple other museums available to us using our pass so we walked towards the Mosaic Museum. On the way there we passed a young boy selling a light up yo-yo or something equally as enticing. He looked at BHW and said 'Hello sir. I like your beard.' I guess the beard comments are going to follow BHW around from one country to the next. And we thought beards were more acceptable in this country.. I guess they're still as mesmerizing! By the time we got to the Mosaic Museum.. it had already closed, along with every other museum on our pass. Poor planning on our part. We fly out tomorrow morning and didn't even break even on the pass. We lost $5 USD a piece. Oh well I guess, better than losing $50!
At this point we were pretty tired from walking, hungry from our wee little breakfast, and frustrated about losing some money (we don't really have much to lose!) so we headed back to the apartment to regroup and research some other things to do. We found that the Spice Bazaar wasn't too far of a walk away and they were open past the ridiculous hour of 4PM. The Spice Bazaar is the second largest covered shopping center in Istanbul, behind the Grand Bazaar. There are hundreds of shops offering you just about anything! We were almost to the bazaar when we came across another beautiful mosque, the New Mosque. Before you step inside a mosque it is custom to remove your shoes and women must cover their heads. After we did that we went in and just sat. I didn't take any pictures inside, there were people praying (men and women in separate areas) and I felt it was disrespectful. There was an 'official' prayer time at 6:30PM so we relaxed there until then. The announcement came over the many minarets (towers on the Mosques) around town beckoning everyone to come to pray. The place immediately started filling up with men. The women pray in a separate area so I never actually saw them. At 6:30PM a man started singing the prayer and doing different movements at the end of each phrase. Standing, kneeling, bowing, standing. It was actually kind of funny.. men were still running in well after the prayer started, lugging shopping bags, setting them down hastily and doing the movements quickly to catch up to the rest of the group.
After witnessing the prayer, we headed to the Spice Bazaar to browse around. It was completely packed and everyone was talking to you trying to get you to come into their shop. We just smiled and walked slowly, soaking everything in. We didn't plan to buy anything, and we did a good job too!
Once the Spice Bazaar closed, we were ready to sit down, relax, and eat! We were walking along, minding our own business, when this man came from inside a restaurant and basically pulled us into his place. We did SO well not giving into the guys at the Spice Bazaar and we completely evened the score by getting stuck at this restaurant. When we walked in a few other couples eyed us like 'He got you guys too?' We sat down and ordered some lamb and rice. It was pretty yummy and the price was decent, so we weren't too upset about being basically forced to eat there. The meal also ended with, what else, tea, so that was a great way to end the evening. But an even better way to end the evening would be when the waiter tells you goodbye, tugs on your husbands beard, and says 'See you next year, with a baby!'. And that is exactly how our night ended. Success.
Tomorrow early morning, we fly out for Athens, the second leg of our trip!
At our wedding we had the guests vote on where they thought we should go for our honeymoon, and they voted Greece! So, 11 months later, we are finally making the journey! Turkey and Greece, here we come!