Turkey Day 1

This is one day late, and many internet frustrations later, but I think I made it:) After leaving Israel, we flew overnight to Turkey.  We got to our hotel at 4:30am.  I don't really recommend this:)  But somehow I survived even though everyone on this trip knows that I have to be in bed by 8:30:)  We stayed in a hotel in the Old City part of Istanbul so the next day we took it easy and were within walking distance of everything we saw.  What a beautiful city.  We started off in a square where you could see both the famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.  We didn't go in the Hagia Sophia because its now a museum, but we got to see the beautiful outside.  It originally started out as a Basilica but was later changed into a mosque.  I don't think I can convey through pictures just how huge both these buildings are.  Massive.



Next we have the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly called the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles decorating the ceiling inside.



This is an imperial mosque, built by Sultan Ahmed in the early 1600s.  It has six minarets- the tall towers used for announcing the prayers - to signify that he was the sixth Sultan.  Until that time only the mosque in Mecca had that many, so the architect had to go to Mecca and add a seventh minaret so that the Mecca mosque still had more:)



Even the outside court is beautiful!






Later on in the day we were able to make it into the mosque.  I had to wear a temporary skirt since mine was just below the knee and a head scarf.  We all had to take off our shoes.  It was absolutely gorgeous in there.  The tile work is amazing.




After dinner we went back to see it and the Hagia Sophia lit up at night.  Beautiful.





After the square we went into the Basilica cistern.  It was so fascinating.  When Istanbul was Constantinopolis, they had a problem with water storage in the city.  So they built these underground cisterns underneath the existing buildings.  They went to nearby ancient ruins to get columns and other building material and built the cisterns that way so they could still support the weight of the buildings above.  So the cisterns end up being quite beautiful!  Much later, after all the land around was owned by the Turks, they had no need to worry about water storage during a siege so they made this cistern into a romantic place to ride in boats!  Kind of like an underground Venice:)  And I can see why!  It was very beautiful.  They have recently restored it and opened it to the public.



In the middle of the day we went to a Turkish carpet co-op for a tour, a lesson and a demonstration of the making of a knotted carpet.  This may end up being my favourite thing in all of Turkey:)  It was so fascinating!  You should see the woman knotting the rug.  It was so amazing I forgot to take pictures:)  And the rugs were so beautiful!  I could've brought a ton home, but it was all a little out of my price range:)  But when you learned about them and the whole process, you understand why the real handmade ones are so expensive.  I could've spent all day there:)




After that we went shopping in the Grand Bazar, which apparently is a famous tourist thing to do:)  I had no idea!  It was a cool experience.  I asked the tour guide what is truly Turkish and she said bronze so I got a bronze tea cup for my collection. Ok, its a coffee cup, but no one has to know that:)  Its still very cool looking.  And I bargained down to seven dollars, so I was happy:)

All in all, it was a great day in Istanbul.