Ater wandering from our excessively beautiful hotel, across the Galata bridge and into the old town, and after hitting up the Basilica Cistern, we decided to see the rather stunningly decorated Blue Mosque.
Blue Mosque being demure.
Blue mosque causing deep thought in causal by-stander
Bystander saying cheeeeese, with by-flying bird
Tall bystander, being tall
Male bystander, attractive, with uncertain look on face
Couple with Mosque
Couple with Mosque, and Eldest/ Most Prized Offspring of Couple Looking Awkward
Directly opposite the Mosque, is the Hagia Sophia (more on that later), so we also did a few obligatory shots in front of that.
We headed into the Mosque…
… past this fellow, who was poking strange tar-like substances with metal forks.
These were eventually revealed to be various flavoured toffee- kiwi, chocolate, orange- which, due to some cruel twist of fate, I never managed to try.
While I was distracted by the sticky substances and pretty colours, Andy had already found his way inside the gates of the Mosque.
And behold, A Turret!
Apparently, these turrets, or minarets, initially caused quite a stir, as the Blue Mosque, rather presumptuously, has six- the same number Islam’s holiest mosque of the Ka’aba in Mecca. This was solved by Sultan Ahmed I (the builder of the mosque- technically the Blue Mosque is called the Sultam Ahmed Mosque), by the addition of a seventh minaret to the mosque in Mecca!
We headed through the courtyard to the back entrance (for tourists), only to discover that- alas! the mosque was actually busy being a mosque at that time.
So we hit the streets again.
At some point, I decided it would be a good idea to get an icecream.
I was right!
Turkish icecream (dondurma), in addition to the normal sugar, flavours and milk, also contains Salep, a starchy flour made from orchid tubers, and Mastic, a tree resin*. For this reason, it not only has a rather delightful chewey texture, but can be twirled and ‘stuck’ and spun by the vendors, who make a show of the icecream-selling process (note the long sticks in the first picture).
*Ella- do you remember sitting in the kitchen once with granddad and him giving us some resin to chew on? He called it Egyptian Chewing Gum. I’m pretty sure this is Mastic.
Mari-anne, whose sweet tooth apparently runs in the direction of sweet corn, went for a slightly healthier option:
But within the hour, we were all tucking into chicken kebabs anyway!
Biding our time until the Mosque was open again to the public, we headed into the depths of the Grand Bazaar…
…Which is a colourful, textured, noisy, chaotic experience.
I think the Bazaar is something that you should check out if you travel to Istanbul, but not somewhere to stay for very long, and almost definitely not somewhere to buy. By all accounts, the prices are massively inflated- only the tourists shop there- and unless you’re really skilled at haggling, it seems likely that you’ll pay far more than is necessary.
I’m neither good at haggling, nor do I enjoy being heckled/ ‘attended to’ as I browse… so, even I hadn’t managed to find any of the material that I wanted, I was fairly happy to leave when we exited after less than 20 minutes.
We headed back to the Mosque.
Somehow, on the way, we managed to lose Mari-Anne and Andrew, and while searching for them, picked up Andy’s Aunts Sandra and Barbara who were also visiting the city.
The women donned headscarves (you can borrow them if you didn’t bring one), which unfortunately created a bit of a comic effect somewhat at odds with the desired respectfulness.
Mari-Anne, Barbara, and Sandra, looking slightly suspicious…
And then we entered the 400 year old Mosque….
Andy is pulling a strange face, but this is the only one where my head looks vaguely normal…
… in every other shot I have this stiff neck and odd tilt of a woman desperately trying to keep a head-scarf on.
I do like the look of wonder in the eyes of the man behind me though. It’s a fairly accurate description of the whole visual experience.
And the other thing. It’s less violent than the cross, and the nails, and the thorns, and the blood.
A: I mean, it really makes you think.
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