All that notwithstanding, our very first stop was the graveyard across the street from the hotel. It contained a small mausoleum with the sarcophagi of a couple of 19th century sultans; the surrounding area had several other graves and grave markers. It was a small site and sort of wedged into the city, but interesting to see nonetheless. The standard Ottoman grave seemed to be a sarcophagus with an angled peak along the top, and a cylinder covered with inscriptions standing another 3 to 4 feet higher. If US graveyards are like a garden of tombstones, the Ottoman graveyard is more like a forest. Even the most modest of the markers stands a foot or so taller than a man and they seem to cluster together. The overall effect is not unlike a stand of birch trees, with the background scenery tantalizingly difficult to glimpse through the slender white trunks.
After snapping a few pictures of the graveyard and tomb, we headed west down the Divan Yolu. Although the name more or less means "Road to the Imperial Council", we were walking the opposite direction, with Topkapı palace behind us and the bustling commercial district in front of us. The Grand Bazaar was only a few minutes away and soon we were strolling up to the gates.
|One of the many gates into the Grand Bazaar.|
It's a large structure: a mall of sorts although very different than what that word brings to mind for Americans. It's the size of a large city block with major paths running through in a rough grid shape. The ceilings are beautifully domed and painted and the sides of the pathways are lined with merchants of all varieties. Major themes for their wares: souvenirs (magnets, t-shirts, ceramic tiles, purses, shoes, jeans, jewelery, etc.) We picked up some gifts for people back home. One vendor had a nice little backgammon set although the initial asking price of 25 lira was pretty high. We did some back and forth and he'd dropped the price down to 15 lira but I was still pretty reticent to buy the thing, but then the shopkeep opened the set up and took out the dice - we would both throw one of them and if i had the higher throw then I'd get an extra 2TL off of the price. He said that it was important that he start the day with a sale in order to be lucky. Luck was with me and I won the toss! So I paid my 13 lira and took the set home in a bag.
|Carpets! Lots of carpets!|
The vendors at the bazaar are all very friendly and engaging and it's easy for the traveler to get sucked into a conversation. It's important to remember that the vendors are all 'on-the-clock', so to speak. They aren't there to meet new people and have interesting conversations. They are there to move product off their shelves with the greatest profit margin possible. They'll take advantage of your innate desire to respond politely to overtures if you aren't careful. I quickly became inured to the entreaties for attention. A word of advice, though, if you are price matching the same item across several stores the Grand Bazaar is like a maze. If you get quoted a good price at one store - be sure to note where it is so you can get back when you want to buy it!
Immediately outside the covered bazaar and near the Beyazit Mosque is a great little "book bazaar". It was a small square lined with stores all selling books, manuscripts, magazines, and maps. I was completely enamored with the pages from old manuscripts and especially old hand drawn maps from the Ottoman era. But all the pieces that I was really interested in was quite a bit more expensive than I could afford.
Just past the book bazaar on the edge of a large open square is the Mosque of Sultan Beyazid II. We came out of the bazaar and took a turn through the courtyard of the mosque. Unlike the larger tourist attractions, this was much smaller and less ostentations, although still a gorgeous example of the Byzantine-inspired domed architecture so prevalent throughout the early Ottoman period. Across the large square stood the Istanbul University. We walked down past the university and through the city, past the Suleymaniye Hamam (a bathouse) and ended up near the Süleymaniye Camii (the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent).
|Lovely outdoor cafe near|
the Süleymaniye Camii.
By this point, all the walking had begun to take its toll on us, so we found a lovely little secluded cafe near the mosque and stopped in for a break. We sat in the shade next to a burbling fountain and enjoyed our turkish coffee and apple tea while we recharged our energy. We paid up at the cafe and went toward the mosque which was closed for renovation. The mosque's graveyard was open so we went around the side to have a look at the graves and markers. As we were leaving, an elderly man came up to me and said something abruptly in Turkish. I looked at him blankly and he repeated it more loudly. I said "I don't understand" and he turned away. Some younger men who'd overheard came and took him by the arm and led him away. I think he was asking where the temporary prayer tent had been set up, although I can't imagine that a white guy with the Korean woman could have easily been mistaken for locals!
|Süleymaniye Camii was closed for renovations.|
We continued on down toward the water until we found he spice bazaar. It was similar to the grand bazaar except (predictably) the focus was more on food then trinkets. We bought a few pieces of fresh "Turkish Delight" (called locum) candy which was very much tastier then the too-sweet variety one usually finds in the States. The spice bazaar opens up down near the waterfront at the "New Mosque". It was full of people praying so we sat on the open steps of the spice bazaar and ate a snack. The weather turned darker and began to lightly drizzle, not unlike Seattle (except for the large Byzantine building in front of us blaring out the call to prayer.
|Inside the Spice Bazaar.|
Rather then wait for prayer time to be over so we could visit the mosque interior, we decided to walk across the Galatian bridge and visit the northern side of the Golden Horn. We had to thread our way through a massive crush of people and vendors to get into the pedestrian underpass. However, the underpass opened up to the upper bridge level and we ascended to walk across the water past the crowd of men fishing from the railings. We didn't do anything on the other side, just walked to the other side of the bridge and walked back.
|Panorama of downtown İstanbul from the northern side of the Golden Horn.|
By the time we got back, the prayers had ended and we went into the New Mosque. It was similar in design to the Sultanahmet Camii, albeit with different colors and patterns. Of course, the number of tourists visiting was quite a bit smaller, which was very nice. We enjoyed the growing stillness as the worshipers emptied the building before we also headed out the main doors and turned our feet toward the hotel.
|Yeni Valide Camii (the 'New' Mosque)|
We dropped off the goodies that we'd bought and took small break in our hotel room before heading back out into the city once more. We walked down the hill toward the old hippodrome where the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts was located (across the street from the Sultanahmet Camii). It was a small museum but had an extensive collection of fiber arts and calligraphy. We spent an hour or so examining traditional nomadic looms and the ornately detailed calligraphic inscriptions. The museum is probably not terribly interesting to many visitors, but as we were both interested in rug-making and decorative writing traditions, it was well worth the time and entrance fee for us.
|Traditional rug and kilim loom.|
We decided to have our evening meal at a renowned meatball place on the Divan Yolu near our hotel. We were seated next to a rather obnoxious Greek couple. Well, as I recall it was primarily the woman who was obnoxious. While I couldn't understand the words she spoke it was clear she was finding fault with everthing from the food to the servers to the seating arrangements and everything in-between! I don't know what she was so worked up about, though, because Sally and I had a very pleasant experience. I ordered some kebap, while Sally tried the famous meatballs. It was all started with a first course of lentil soup and a salad. The food was both tasty and reasonably priced so - no complaints from me!
We had a little bit of time left, so we went back to Grand Bazaar for a few final shopping items and then then back to hotel where we packed up and got ready for a 0500 wakeup. Once again, I was quite tired and had no trouble sleeping easily after a long day full of walking the steep hills and cobblestone streets.