It is said that Turkey is where "East meets West".. And so far, that quote has proven true. Istanbul is the only city in the world which is on two continents,..Europe AND Asia. We have seen a little bit of the Asian side, and a little bit of the European side, (culturally, and physically)..hence the quote "East meets West".. But overall, this country is so unique and we are having a hard time finding the perfect words to describe this place.
We have only been in Turkey for six days, of which 3 were spent in Istanbul and 3 spent in Cappadocia. So I think it's fair to say we have barely scratched the surface.
This country is huge!, and Istanbul even huger.. Or so it felt..
Istanbul is the fifth largest city in the world!,! (Based on population)..there are over 14 million citizens living in the city.!! Add in the hoards of tourists, and you have a very densely populated city!
As our guide book says "this marvellous metropolis is an exercise in sensory seduction like no other".. Which is entirely true. We were in awe while we explored this magnificent city.
From seeing the worlds most famous mosques, to walking along chic boutiques, to shopping in the Grand Bazzar, to ferrying between Asia and Europe,.. This city is alive and exciting!!
For being such a large city, we were impressed with how clean and quiet it was. The metro system was very easy to use and the people were fairly good at English. Unfortunately we did see poverty, with children running around begging for food and money, and we did get overwhelmed with the enormity of the city, but overall, it's a city I would recommend others to see. It really is bustling!
We often found ourselves sitting on a bench with coffee or beer in hand, simply people watching, enjoying the view of the sights, and listening to the call to prayer.
Blue Mosque- This 17th century Ottoman mosque is beautiful. And remains a place of prayer up to this day. We entered in appropriate attire, bare feet, shoulders and. Head covered.
Grand Bazaar- a colourful, chaotic, enclosed market. Shops lined up selling gold, silver, carpets, clothing, lamps and souvenirs. It was really neat to walk through and do a bit of shopping, however very easy to get lost in the maze of streets and shops.
Here's how it went for me..
I paid up front for a traditional turkish bath and a massage. (The name of the place was Cemberlitas hamami , which is a a beautiful building with lots of history, dating back to 1584 and elegant rooms-
I was pointed to a female change room and given a towel, disposable bottoms, and rubber sandals. From there an older turkish lady waved her arms and pushed me along to the steam room. I sat down on the marble and admired the room. My turkish lady spoke broken English "where from?" After I replied, she squeezed my cheeks, said "so nice", then smacked my bottom and said "baby baby from Canada"....????? LOL... She abruptly left and I relaxed in the steam room with a couple other female tourists. After about 15 minutes she was back and began scrubbing my body with a hand scrubber. I was quite disgusted to see the black rolls of gunk all over my body. ...( She scrubbed off five months of sunscreen, sand, sweat, grease, and god knows what else?.. Lol...after 15 minutes of scrubbing , she soaped me up, and I was covered in foam. Then she literally pulled me over to the water jug and began dumping pails of warm water over my head!.. I wasn't expecting that and sputtered, while
trying to breathe through the water..
Then I was allowed to soak in the jacuzzi for a while before my massage.
In all, I felt squeaky clean when I left and actually did feel relaxed! An interesting experience!
(These men and children are cleaning their hands, face and feet before they enter the mosque to pray)
"Turkey is 99% Muslim, practising a more relaxed version of Islam than many other Middle Eastern. Countries."- Lonely Planet.