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Busy Istanbul, Turkey

Written on: Wednesday May 14th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

We arrived by bus into Istanbul at 6am (loving those night buses!)  The city in the still of morning was quite breathtaking, kind of reminded me of the wellington waterfront on a nice calm morning, with a few mosque minarets thrown in.
After the other countries in the middle east we've been to it's hard to remember you're in a muslim country, especially this western part.. most people are wearing tight and fairly revealing clothing, and most of the tourists don't seem to know to take their shoes off or cover their head when they visit a mosque (despite the 10 huge signs at the entrance!).  It is strange to have western music blaring and big screens in most of the cafes and bars showing music videos.  We are suddenly surrounded by tourists, the cruise ships are out in full force - impossible to avoid all the grey haired americanos on the power tour circuit.
We were pleased to find a hotel near the imposing Blue mosque...  until 4.50am when the 20 loudspeakers hanging off the minarets are blasting a call to prayer into our room! 
We went to a lot of old palaces, ancient underground water tanks and mosques. The most memorable was a little relic room in the old Topkapi Palace housing a wooden stick of Moses, Josephs saucepan, St Johns arm and hand, and countless little decorated boxes containing bits of mohammads (peace be upon him, or p.b.o.h for short) beard and even a cast of a footprint meant to be his.  We believed all that we were told, just like good tourists.
Al had a dodgy kebab on day 1 which set him back for most of our time in Istanbul.  While he was losing weight by the hour, I was gaining it by going solo on the streets, making friends with shop keepers and munching down on turkish delight and baklava!