Day 1, Istanbul
Hello from Istanbul! It has been a long day. We flew in this morning
at 9 AM and started sightseeing right after we dropped off our
suitcases at the hotel.
My first impression – this is not Italy.
Despite the rave reviews I got from the prior visitors, my inner
voice whispered, it was not going to be my cup of cappuccino.
We started with Topkapi palace, the seat of the Ottoman sultans for
over 400 years. The palace complex is impressive and very well
preserved. But much as the harem history is fascinating if not racy,
and the tiled rooms are a sight for the sore eyes, their décor soon
becomes redundant – Islamic art doesn’t offer much variety to the
jaded Western eye. We dutifully followed the path around the complex,
mused at the whole chamber dedicated to circumcision, appreciated the
royal jewels including an 85-cart diamond, and contemplated “prophet
Joseph’s turban”, “prophet Moses’s staff”, and “prophet Jesus’s
something or other” (all of the above and more they claim to have
originals of), we also learned that it was Allah who helped prophet
Moses (one of the last three prophet that Allah sent to Palestine
before his one and only last and true prophet Mohammed) to lead the
Israelites out of Egypt. Live and learn.
Having been educated as such in the ancient pre-Mohammedian history,
we decided to experience the modern world and took a walk in one of
the neighborhoods. Much as we searched, we found no beauty pageant
winners. Not even second runner-ups.
So far, these parts of the city unimpressed us as a charmless and
unattractive metropolis with bad people watching. Hmm,,, reminds of
Santiago, Chile somewhat…
One thing we liked was the Spice Market that looked like an upscale shuk
and which assaulted our senses with a rainbow of vibrant colors and a storm
of intoxicating smells.
One thing I find positive in this town is an almost total
absence of burkas. Scarves cover a lot of heads but they cheerfully
mismatch the just as bright and multicolored vestments of the bearers.
The scarves look completely inoffensive and appear more like accessories and
statements of bad taste rather than statements of faith, in the opinion
of this project runway junkie.
We were just startled with a call of a muezzin from a nearby mosque
calling the faithful to prayer (mind you, it is 10:45 PM).