Outside, it is just like Memphis late August/early winter weather. I started out the day in a light coat and scarf, but had to go back for my leather jacket later. It’s VERY cloudy right now and a sort of light mist, but no rain.
The streets here in the old town remind me of old parts in other European cities. These cobblestone streets with no awareness of an organized grid are echoes of a past built on a past built on….none of these having anything to do with automobiles. Yet SOMEHOW automobiles drive on these streets in both directions and nobody gets hurt. My travel mates explain it smells of nothing special, just wet and city. (Select photos for comments/explanation underneath.)
Another block and we saw 2 huge tower-looking things. I knew it was the Hippodrome. Chariot races and the social center used to be here in a large complex. All that remains are these two structures. The obelisk full of hieroglyphs is from Europe, moved to the new Rome (Constantinople) by Constantine.
Looking to the right (east) is a huge structure with domes and minarets...and there it is - THE BLUE MOSQUE (not in this next gallery of pictures). We cannot go in yet because the faithful have been called to prayer. In fact, while we were standing in this little park of the Hippodrome taking a ton of pictures (correction - I took quite a few, but was hanging out with 3 professional photographers…we were there for awhile), from multiple minarets came the call to prayer. It was beautiful and haunting as the callers echoed in Arabic, which I do not understand and I rather like that in this case. The voice is beautiful and the perfect soundtrack to a world that seems so comfortably familiar and completely exotic at the same time.
Back to all of these pigeons….PLEASE see Prof Kim’s photographs. She is so talented. Even if she assigns the instantly amazing shots to filters on Hipstamatic, she is being modest. Her shots are brilliant. Hearing and absorbing the knowledge from these three photographers: “Look at the color in her scarf!” “This shot is so blue” “The focus is there and not there” etc. is a reminder of all of which I am not aware when shooting. Also it appears I have become a model for them, which makes me laugh. :) But I do agree that I could easily be mistaken for a local as long as I don’t start speaking. BTW, the majority of women wearing things resembling head scarves seen in these photos are doing so to stay warm.
Another beautiful addition to the area by the Hippodrome is this German fountain. In any other city, there would be plenty of attention given to this; however, it’s nothing compared to what’s near it.
Looking from the steps across the way was another huge structure, which I (we) recognized as the Hagia Sophia.
We wandered through to the back Visitors entrance. Before we entered, we all had to remove shoes and put them in supplied plastic bags. If women did not already have heads covered, they were given a sheet of fabric.
Here at the Blue Mosque, there is a middle part where anybody can walk through and can watch the faithful. The men worshipped in this front area, public area in the middle, and behind was an area with a lattice covering for the female worshippers. Sidenote: when in Salt Lake City, I visited the area around the Mormon temple. ONLY the faithful could ENTER the temple. I felt today’s experience was a gift to be able to observe at the mosque, though I do not practice Islam.
The ongoing announcement on the loudspeaker kept going, sometimes in a singing and then a speaking tone. It was a constant hum of a background noise. Until the announcer easily broke into English explaining Islam. For one fraction of a second I thought that I'd suddenly begun to understand Arabic or Turkic. :) I soon realized my error and just began to listen to the information.
There were a few who came in to the mosque, washed hands at fountains in the public area, and bowed to Mecca. Others just wandered around peacefully and quietly observed, including a Buddhist monk in full orange robes.
We then asked our buddies at the front desk for a good restaurant close by AND that had its power on. It seems that somebody cut into a power line this morning and any place without a generator was dark. The restaurant was good and I had my first (of many, I’m sure) glass of freshly pressed pomegranate juice. No Turkish Coffee yet because I would like to sleep at some point tonight. ;)
We returned to the hotel just in time for tea and wine and little treats. Still no Turkish Delight. Kim and I are playing catch-up on the blogging and posting. I only have wifi and my phone isn’t working AT ALL, though I thought I had that set up with Verizon. We have both skyped our loved ones while we are here, realizing how lucky we are as we speak to them in a video chat for free from across the globe.
That is all there is to share for today! Tomorrow morning is our first trip north to the newer city and first glimpse at the Design Biennial. Be sure to keep following! :)