If you recall from the last post, Sister kept my iPhone next to her before we went to bed to make sure that I didn’t pull a fast one on her and shut the alarm off after she passed out for the night. But then she proceeded to wake up BEFORE the alarm went off and, so lovingly, placed the stupid thing right next to MY ear so I got to hear that god-awful ambulance sound screaming at me at 6AM.
Sister tried to ease the pain by suggesting coffee within the first 5 minutes of our walk to Sultanahmet. I wanted to try a different coffee shop than the first place we tried, so we somehow ended up at Starbucks. Surprisingly, for a place that LOOKS and FEELS exactly like the Starbucks of America, they didn’t have iced coffee on the menu.
We had tried to go to the Grand Bazaar the day before, but it was closed since it was a Sunday. However, Monday morning haggling seemed like a fun thing to do so the bazaar was our first stop.
Our Grand Bazaar experience was overwhelming, but unimpressive. If that makes sense. There was a lot going on and so many different places to turn that we eventually got lost and found ourselves in a separate part of the building that sold all things underwear and lingerie related. It was worse than Ikea – I thought I’d never find my way out. But, overall, it seemed like the vendors were all selling the same things and my sister and I agreed that, had we not been to several bazaars and marketplaces in India, this place would have seemed VERY cool. But I wasn’t really interested in buying lamps or rugs or fake Michael Kors purses. So, the three hours that Sister had allotted for the Grand Bazaar were cut short.
Since it was a Starbucks morning, we thought we’d continue the pattern of being All-American citizens and follow it up with a lunch at Subway. Let the eye rolling begin.
I just like to try out all the Subways in different countries to see the difference. Don’t judge me. The Subways in Turkey have corn as a topping. That’s really smart. I think the USA needs to consider this option. And, as Subway’s #1 customer, my opinion is the most important. Obviously.
The oven-roasted chicken breast is actually a lot better than the USA. Less rubbery. But the hot sauce tasted like it had ketchup in it. I’m not down with that.
After lunch, Sister and I went to the Basilica Cistern (aka the “Sunken Palace”), which was an underground water storage area that provided water for the people of Constantinople. They just had to lower buckets from their homes and were able to get water through the cracks and holes of the ceiling walls. Sometimes they were able to catch fish this way too.
The whole cistern was constructed with plain or slightly engraved columns, but a few of the columns were really interesting. For example, the one in the center, the “Tear Column,” had a teardrop design and there were two that had Medusa heads at the base (one upside down and one on it’s side).
Rumor has it that they set Medusa’s head upside down so that when people looked at it, they wouldn’t turn into stone.
We thought the Basilica Cistern would demand more time, but it was just a small underground area so we were only in there for 30 minutes max. At this point, I could see Sister stressing out a little bit because it was about 2PM and we had completed most of the activities we had planned for the day.
We decided to go see the Blue Mosque since we were so close. Fun fact: the locals don’t call it that. They call it the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It was us dumb tourists that came up with the name, “Blue Mosque” because the interior tiles were blue.
Istanbul Fail #7:
Tourists in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (<—do you see how I refuse to call it the Blue Mosque because I’m trying to fit in?). I felt a little embarrassed to be categorized and clumped together with some of the other people we walked in with. They had a separate entrance for visitors and they partitioned us off from the main worship area. Still, it was a small divider. Not a sound proof wall. In the middle of the prayers, you could hear all the LOUD conversations. And then there were people who posed for pictures pretending to pray with the real worshippers in the background of their picture. I felt so ashamed – no wonder people hate on tourists. We’re obnoxious.
Sister and I sat for a little bit, but eventually got so distracted and frustrated with the people surrounding us that we got up and left. I’m sure the people who come in for daily worship don’t really enjoy the crowds of people that come in and observe them like monkeys in a cage. But, regardless, I appreciated the fact that we were able to come in and get a glimpse of what takes place inside a mosque.
Sister and I left the mosque and walked to sit at the park across the street while we figured out what to do next. Meanwhile, it was nap time for some of the local restaurant workers. It was so cute to watch them walk out with their deconstructed cardboard boxes. Some of them set phone alarms. Others had a system set up in which a co-worker would come out to wake them up.
I love how relaxed everyone was and how seriously they took their break times. So different than the American GO-GO-GO mentality.
Sister was trying to GO-GO-GO here. But realized she already WENT-WENT-WENT.
What do you when you’ve seen all the things?
You remember to feed your sister.
This was probably the best place we tried for doner kebabs. I think it’s because they used sauce. Sauce isn’t really a THING in Turkey the way it is in America. Maybe that’s why we’re all fat.
After the pit-stop for food, Sister and I walked back to the hotel and had a couple hours of down time before we went back to Sultanahmet at night.
Also my calf muscles are real sore still from walking up and down this hill. I guess that’s how you prevent vacation weight gain. Either that or you travel with a sister that doesn’t really like eating food.
We did the whole FaceTiming the family thing, took showers, checked e-mails, and then went BACK into the Old City to watch a Whirling Dervish performance.
They didn’t have any actual, legitimate ceremonies going on, but we found a non-religious performance happening on the rooftop of a restaurant. Better than nothing, I suppose.
Sister ordered some Raki, which tasted like black licorice. I went the vodka route since the wine had been a disappointment thus far.
(That’s the Hagia Sofia in the background. NBD).
It was an hour-long performance and they kept whirling and twirling. I got dizzy just watching them (or maybe that was the vodka?) – I definitely can’t imagine what it would be like to actually do it myself. I felt a little guilty drinking alcohol while they were performing what is technically considered a religious practice. But, it was at a bar. So I would have felt guilty not ordering anything.
Up until that point, we hadn’t been out in the Old City at night. It was crazy to see how different a city looks and feels when the sun goes down. Day #4 was a lot more relaxed and less eventful than the two before, but I actually enjoyed having time to sit back and not try to see all the things, but rather just observe all around us.
Questions of the Day:
- Have you tried Raki? Like or dislike?
- Have you been to a Subway or Starbucks in another country?