I’ve gotten better at dealing with Istanbul’s many salesmen. Today, a vendor thought that we were more likely to buy a kebab from him if he compared himself to George Clooney. Hence, my titular reply. His laughter loosened his grip on my hand and we were free!
One and a half more supurb days in Turkey’s capital. Yesterday, only counts as a half day because I took a three hour nap. That’s allowed from time to time, right? Admittedly, we were both feeling the effects of the three long days prior. That didn’t stop us from adding another UNESCO Heritage Site to our list: Hagia Sofia. I guess what was most awe-inspiring was the fact that the buidling, formerly a church and a mosque now a Turkish state museum, is nearly 1,500 years old and was hundreds of years ahead of its time when it was constructed.
Today was more action packed. First thing this morning we again dove head first into the Grand Bazaar. CeCe, needing a shawl for our many anticipated mosque visits, adeptly bargained the price down to 18 Turkish lira from the 30 lira quoted price. The vendor was initally stunned by CeCe’s audacious opening salvo. Good work sweetheart!
We again couldn’t resist the pull of another high end carpet shop. This one boasted many English language press clippings in the window so we knew we were in safe hands. This store again plied us with tea (of course!) and showed us at least a dozen hand woven carpets from the second half of the 20th century, when women traditionally made one or two to include in their dowry. We learned that most new “Turkish” carpets sold these days are either machine-made, are of Chinese or Indian origin, or use unstable and cheap artificial dyes. The nomadic art of carpet weaving is dying a quick death in Turkey evidently.
The Spice Bazaar was next. We stumbled upon an alleyway and a tiny store selling bulk quantities of imported teas, spices and other unidentifiable and its two aging proprietors. They spoke no English, but it was quickly clear that it was tea time again! This time we traded tea for some of my old baseball cards that I brought over to give as gifts. (They were quite impressed that erstwhile Yankee Jim Abbott could play baseball with just one arm.)
Around the corner was our first mosque, the unbelievably gorgeous Rustem Pasa Camii commissioned by Suleyman the Magnificent and completed in 1561. It’s best known for its many glorious tiles – a Turkish speciality we’ve learned – which cover most of the mosques walls, from the floor to the beginning of the dome.
Our second mosque was the significantly larger, but somehow not so impressive YeniCami (“New Mosque.”) Most memorable from this visit were the many friends I made handing out more baseball cards, starting first to the few kids we saw with baseball-themed clothing. There were quite a few. Inside the mosque, a boy of seven or so returned the favor by giving me his white Muslim skull cap. (I don’t have a better term for it.) Then outside, we met a charming family from Malatyain Eastern Turkey. Sharing no common language but possessing a Turkish-English dictionary, we made a go at it for about 20 minutes. We learned that both parents were teachers and we were able to communicate more-or-less what our professions are. Yet again more evidence that Turks are supremely friendly.
And that was about it. The rest of the afternoon was spent strolling and eating, strolling and eating. Our new favorite pastime, I guess. The Blue Mosque tomorrow?
And be sure to visit our gallery for more pictures of Istanbul.