The Last of Istanbul

This is my last full day in Istanbul and I’m up and outside the Basilica Cistern as soon as it dawns 9am to escape both the heat and the crowds that I’ve seen lining up here over the last few days.  My Welsh cousins also put me onto this one and as I descended into the barely lit room, I could see why.

On my way back to the hotel, I decide to try a local street snack – it’s a kind of bread with something barely chocolatey threated in it, but which is not really sweet.  There are street snacks everywhere – mainly corn and chestnuts but I’m sad to say I haven’t tried any of it yet – I think the heat banishes the thought of eating anything warm once you are out and about on the streets.  Well that’s my excuse on this occasion.

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A little later in the day, Marg and I decide to head to the Blue Mosque.  Our hotel is in a great area close to all the main sites, which makes it a lot more bearable to get out in the heat.  Lining up to enter, there are lots of signs advising how you are to dress upon entry and a tent where you can borrow the necessary clothes to do so, if you didn’t bring any head or appropriate body coverings with you.  It was extremely sad to see that despite the signs and that we all live in such multicultural societies these days, that there were still many people grumbling about having to cover up or questioning why it was they were having to do so.  It seems that there are many ignorant travellers in the world and it really embarrasses me.

Inside the Blue Mosque, so called because of the ceramic blue tiles lining the inside walls, is also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque after it’s founder .  It was built in the early 1600’s and is one of Istanbul’s most popular attractions.  I can see why.

Afterwards, I do a spot of shopping at the Arasta Bazaar before we sit down for a drink and some fruit.

Just about everyone who comes to Istanbul wants to see the Whirling Dervishes.  They are a part of the Mevlevi brotherhood who believe that closeness with one’s gods is achieved by elaborate whirling.  I’m not sure about you but all I get from twirling round and round and round like a spinning top is sick.  Now if you are wanting to visit the Whirling Dervishes you should go to a proper experience and you can buy tickets for these, but if you are time limited, there are a few café restaurants around the place where you can see a ‘tourist’ version.  And we found just such a place at the Arasta Bazaar behind the Blue Mosque – the perfect place to spend the evening.

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There was another reason why we decided to dine here and watch the show – Testi Kebap was the last thing to do on both our mental lists having seen them in action at other people’s tables over the last few evenings.  Testi Kebap is a kind of meat (usually chicken or beef) and vegetable stew cooked inside a small urn like pot on coals next to your table.  Once ready, the host slices off the top and empties out the delicious stew onto a sizzling plate for you to share.  Very cool and very yummy.

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Whilst dining we notice a few young boys standing around dressed in little white prince outfits, carrying little swords, the outfits the likes of which we saw displayed at the Grand Bazaar.  Wondering what it was all about, I once again used Google to give me the answer. Turns out these are the costumes of young boys who are about to be circumsised.  I wonder whether they have any idea about what’s in store for them whilst they stand watching the whirling dervish in front of us.

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The sun dips quickly and its dark before long, the Blue Mosque now beautifully lit behind a colour changing waterfall.

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Another amazing day is drawing to a close and Marg departs for the next part of her trip in a few short hours.  Despite my love for travelling by myself, it’s been marvellous to share the journey with someone else with similar interests and I’ve really enjoyed the company for my last few days here in Istanbul.  Everyone from our tour group has left now, either going home or going on.  It’s my turn to leave tomorrow and this time I’ll be ready.

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