Istanbul – Day 6

Today we transferred from a hotel in the Beyoglu district (in the New City, on the northern side of the Golden Horn) to one in the Sultanahmet district in the Old City. The main difference between the two is that the New City is much more modern and you’ll find your trendy shops, night clubs, and an all together younger set of people. The Old City is a bit more traditional and contains the bulk of the historical sites.

Once we left the modern for the traditional, we hit the streets ready for the Grand Bazaar.

I’d heard that it is an experience that I needed to prepare for; that it is going to be packed, we’d get lost in the maze of it all, and the vendors are going to practically tackle me into their stalls. Now, I’m not typically all that comfortable in crushing crowds, so I was wary. I don’t know if it was the time of day, the fact it was New Year’s day or what, but the Grand Bazaar was simply delightful. The wide avenues we’re free of a ton of people and most of the vendors seemed somwhat subdued.

Maybe they decided to call a truce with their marks just for this one day. Regardless, we had a blast checking out everything from lamps,
image (Photo Credit: Katie Riley)
to jewelry,
image (Photo Credit: Katie Riley)
to rugs, to cheap clothes and hardware. There were plenty of folks wanting me to buy their Turkish flag belt buckles, but the whole experience was really neat.

After bursting from the grandness of the largest covered Bazaar, we made our way up towards Süleymaniye Mosque, a structure built in the 1550s that sits on a high point overlooking the Golden Horn.
We got there just as the afternoon prayer was ending, and were directed off the side where the vistors enter. There are a couple of rules for entering mosques; some that apply to everyone and others just to women. A blanket rule is that everyone has to remove his or her shoes. They provide plastic bags, so there is always a funny image of everyone walking around holding his or her shoes. In an active mosque, non Muslims aren’t allowed past a certain point, beyond which only practicing male Muslims are allowed (though, to be fair, I popped into a Catholic chruch and they’d done the same thing with the pews). In the mosques we’ve been in so far, women are required to pray at the back of the mosque behind a screen. Also, women are required to have their arms and head covered at all times.

Rules aside, the mosque itself is stunning. It has a hugh central dome with amazing colors.
And is largely quiet despite the boatloads of tourists streaming in. We caught the last bit of a prayer and it was a nice reprieve from the hustle of the day thus far.

On leaving the mosque we grabbed a quick to-go pouch of pistachios from a steet vendor and headed towards the Spice Bazaar. Yesterday we skirted the edge of the bazaar and found ourselves in a super crunch of people. Hoping this wasn’t the case today, we ventured on.

Unfortunately, the Spice Bazaar was BUMPING. Built in the 1600s in part to help support the New Mosque that sits right outside the entrance, the Spice Market is still a very popular place. While the Grand Bazaar was open and somewhat chill, the Spice Market was wall to wall people and vendors and everyone wanted to buy or sell. Despite the crowds the market was a great experience.
image (Photo Credit: Katie Riley)
It was certainly worth the crush just to see all those spices and fruits and ceramics displayed in their glorious colors and smells.
image (Photo Credit: Katie Riley)
After we wedged ourslevs outside, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest before dinner.

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