Following day I had to stop pretending that I am in a warm country and after plucking up all the little remaining courage I still had after the eventful flight last night I stepped out to explore the city.
Istanbul is a unique city which spreads to two continents, a part of it is in Asia while the other part is in Europe. The Bosporus Strait which divides the city also separates Europe from Asia. Looking at the map it can be said that the city is also squeezed between two seas: Black Sea to the north and Marmara Sea to the south. Today Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world.
It is also an ancient city. Its reach history can confuse a lot of people who may try to figure out who was ruling here and when.
Today no one can miss the Muslim character of the city. The mosques and their minarets are everywhere. Sultanahmet Mosque which is more commonly called Blue Mosque for its blue tiles stands out in the Old City. The sultan who built it was only 18 when he ordered to build the mosque. It is said that he himself was working alongside the workman. He didn’t have much time to enjoy the monument as he died at the age of 28. There is no doubt that it is a majestic complex, however the lasting impression I have taken from it is….. the smell of sweaty socks. The worshippers coming here to pray for centuries remove their shoes and the carpet of the mosque absorbed the smell of the socks of the faithful Muslims. My visit to the place was a brief one. You can understand why. Now even the six minarets of the mosque cannot impress me as they bring back the smell.
With a bit of resistance I made my way to another land mark of the town: Topkapi Palace. It was Sultans’ residence. Luckily for me the winter weather must have stopped lots of people from going out as the crowds were manageable. I have heard stories of the ridiculously long queues in front of the palace. When I came there was no queue at all. So without wasting my time I began exploring the place. I can tell that those sultans liked fussy stuff. It is hard to find a plain wall or floor. My ticket gave me access to all sections of the palace but because it is such a vast compound I am sure I missed some. I was also having difficulties to localize the Harem. There were plenty of staff around but I felt extremely embarrassed to ask: “Can you point out to me the way to the Harem?” Sounds so weird, doesn’t it? However after some time of wondering around I got to that. For those of you who are worried about my vocation I can assure you it is only museum these days.
As the sun was setting and the chill was getting worse I called it a day and went back to my cozy hotel.