Istanbul: Day 3. A day of marriage proposals. Galata Tower, The Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar, Rustem Pasha Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar.
So, I was sick for several days after Istanbul with the flu. Been a while since I’ve had that and it’s about as fun as I remembered. I really wished I was a little girl again, so I could lay on my parents’ couch, watch The Price is Right, and sip 7-Up. I’m thankful that Meredith was willing to step in and help me. She brought me crackers, ginger ale, and went on Tylenol excursions. What a lady!
GALATA TOWER Anywho, Istanbul was more interesting than the flu, so I’ll try to finish up writing about our adventures there. On Saturday morning we got up and took a tram to a station near the Galata Tower. Galata Tower was built in 528 as a wooden lighthouse. In 1348 it was reconstructed in stone and called Christ Tower. It was used for many different things over the next hundreds of years, including defense of the city, an astronomical observatory, a prison for Christian prisoners of war, a watchtower for fires, and a jumping-off point for Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi. Rumor has it he was so entranced by da Vinci’s flying machines that he built his own “wings” and hang glided across the Bosphorous (more than 6km).
The tower is 66.9 meters (about 220′) high. At its base the walls are 3.75m (12′) thick. Tapering as they rise, they’re 20cm thick at the top (7.9″). The tower is the oldest tower in existence that’s still open to visitors. As a visitor, I can’t say that I felt very safe up there, but the view was nice. It was fun to look across the Golden Horn (body of water) and see all the things we visited the day before. It also became really clear to me why so many thousands of people die when there’s an earthquake in one of these towns. The buildings are SO close together and so old and the streets are so narrow that there would literally be no place to hide from falling debris during a quake. The safest bet seems like it would be to throw yourself in the water and swim as far out as you possibly could. As we looked out, building upon building upon building stretched as far as the eye can see, in every direction. It was kind of amazing. I’ll put pictures in a slideshow at the end again.
After the tower, we decided to walk across the bridge rather than catch the tram. (We mistakenly thought we had crossed the Bosphorous into the Asian side of the city and we wanted to see if there was a line delineating the two where we could take pictures.) Lots and lots of men were fishing. We didn’t see a single one who looked like they’d caught something, though! I was really curious to see what kind of fish they were after. Maybe next time.
Oh, I almost forgot. At the tower, we met some other tourists who said they were getting out of town that afternoon “due to the holiday tomorrow.” What holiday? They told us there was a big national holiday the next day and everything would be closed down. Huh. This was news to us. We asked a different tourist in the lobby on the way out and he said it was true, and that the holiday involved “sometimes sacrificing animals in the street.” Ohhh. O-kay. Tucking that tidbit aside for the moment, we went on our merry way.
RUSTEM PASHA MOSQUE After crossing the bridge, we wandered off to find the Egyptian Bazaar. On our way, we found the Rustem Pasha Mosque. I had written this mosque on my list of “things to see,” but Beth and Rachel weren’t too interested at first, so we didn’t make plans to go to it. However, since we were in the area, they kindly said they’d check it out with me. We found it just off the market and got there about 10 minutes before the noon call to prayer. It has beautiful tile work and is a lot smaller and more intimate than the Blue Mosque. I liked it. I think Beth and Rachel did too. It had a different vibe than the bigger mosque – it felt like an actual place of worship rather than a tourist attraction. As you walk up the stairs (it’s on the second level, above a busy market street) the din from below gradually falls away until you step into a quiet, secluded courtyard filled with beautiful tile and plants. The men working there didn’t speak much English but were very kind, loaning the other two girls scarves to cover their hair. The only reason I had mine was because I figured I was going to freeze once the sun went down, and I wanted to be able to cover my neck.
After the mosque, we went to the Spice Market/Egyptian Bazaar, which was only about 1/2 block away. Whoa. So many people, so many fun things to look at and smell! I put a short (18 seconds) video clip up, taken while the call to prayer was going on. Check it out. At the Spice Market, the marriage proposals started pouring in. They continued at the Grand Bazaar. All of them for Rachel. Ha! I have to say Beth and I just laughed, but then we got smart and had her help us with the bargaining since the men liked her so much. Besides marriage proposals, here are some of the other “come buy the stuff I’m selling” lines we heard: “Let me sell you something which you don’t need.” “Yes, please?” “Yes, please?” “Yes, please?” one time followed by, “No thanks, I’m just looking,” in falsetto after I completely ignored him. Also common: “How can I spend your money? and the ever-present, “Where are you from?” followed in one incident by the seller pointing at Beth and me and saying, “You two, Germany; and you (points at Rachel), Paradise.” Ha! Most sellers responded quite well to good humor and jokes fired right back at them.
I really wanted to buy a leather-bound journal, but they were too expensive at the first place we saw them (40 lira each, a little more than $22) and the guy wasn’t willing to bargain with me. After a bit, we saw another guy selling them. He was younger, which was a bonus, as the younger men gave us much better deals than the old men. I decided to turn the tables by asking him where he was from before he could question me. After a few minutes, Rachel and Beth came over to help (they’d been looking across the way at scarves). We got him to sell me two journals for 40 lira (total). I was happy.
Rachel made a special friend at the Grand Bazaar. He sold earrings. They talked a lot about music and to be honest I tuned out. (Like that pun there?) Anyways, he gave her his card with his phone number and email on it. Beth and I gave her lots of crap. She was not impressed. With either offering. I can’t imagine why!
We did hear a few (not many) lewd comments in addition to the friendly ones above, but I’m going to leave them out. Walking away from the situation was the best way to handle those, as the men can’t very well follow you, or they’d be leaving all their merchandise up for grabs. Most of the sellers were quite flirty, I guess you could say, but only one or two were actually obnoxious.
The Grand Bazaar is HUGE. Here’s a map. It looks like a map of a small town. It’s all indoors, which I didn’t know. We’re pretty sure we only covered a small small corner of it. I don’t know much on the history of it. The Egyptian Bazaar’s construction began in 1597 and was completed 67 years later. (Took that off a handy-dandy plaque on one of the walls. Couldn’t find one at the GB.)
After the markets (the Spice Market was WAY more crowded than the Grand Bazaar) we got some supper. I was tempted to stick with the chicken shish I liked so much, but I decided to be brave and try something new. I wished I wouldn’t have. Oh well. The rice was good. And so was dessert. We went back to the same dessert and coffee shop we’d patronized the night before. The same waiter was there. At one point, I went to the bathroom, and when I came back Rachel was singing to him, embarrassing him to no end. He seemed to like it though. It was fun to see one of the men get embarrassed for a change. Then we went home and went to bed. Rachel had to leave on Sunday morning, so she packed up all of her stuff first 😦
Tomorrow’s post: Istanbul: Days 4 and 5 (final days)
Click on a thumbnail below to open a slideshow viewer. Navigate with the R and L arrows (way to the sides of the screen).