October 5, 2011

American until proven innocent.

No one here has yet to guess my nationality correctly. Generally, a lot of the vendors will try to guess which country you are from in the attempt to engage you in conversation and get you to go into their shop with them so they can sell you stuff. Although Ben is quite good at getting the good price, it is really hard to extradite yourself from the situation once you are in it. So, I have been assumed to be American until proven innocent more time then I can count. I have also been called English, Australian, and Norwegian ( which was an odd one ) Not one person has guessed correctly yet. This is why most Canadians plaster their backpacks and clothes in Canadian flags. We get mistaken as American's a majority of the time, although not a terrible thing, gets a little annoying after a while.

Two carpets and a pair of shoes. That is what we bought within 2 hours of the first day of stay here in Istanbul. Which puts us way above our daily "budget" but, the shoes are hand stiched and the carpets are of the famed Persian variety. Wonderful stuff.

We visited the outside of " The Blue Mosque " yesterday. We could not go in as we were not dressed appropriatly to visit a mosque. Besides me wearing shorts which is a no no, I also need a head covering, so the plan is to get one of those and head there tomorrow morning.

We did however get to visit Hagia Sophia, built in about 400 AD, is was originally a Christian church that was converted to a Muslim mosque about 900 years ago ( I think ). The Blue Mosque was actually built very close to Hagia Sophia to show how much more impressive Islam is then Christianity. Up until 1911, Hagia Sophia was a functioning mosque, but was secularized by president Ataturk then. Secularization meaning that it is now open to every one and any one and has been made into a museum. When the muslims took over the church, they plastered over much of the original mosaic work that covered the walls and ceilings. An intesive restoration has taken place and they have peeled back some of the plaster so we can see parts of the original mosaic work. It's really quite the history lesson and incredibly neat to see. The next stop, after lunch in a cute little cafe was The Cistern, built to hold water for the palace. It is quite the experience being under ground. I can't remember the ago of it or who built it at this time, but one can just see it and imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago.

Amazing little thing. A women who was neither Turkish nor muslim ( I suspect German ) approached me while I was in Hagia Sophia. She asked me if I knew I was in a muslim city, in which I replied that I did. She then began to inform me that my clothes were offensive because I was wearing shorts. My shorts were not that short and there were many, many people wearing dresses, skirts and shorts shorter then mine. She informed me that Hagia Sophia  was a muslim mosque. We pointed out that it was now a museum and secularized, meaning it is no longer considered a house of worship and I think she was a little taken aback by the fact that I argued the point. It was kind of funny and strange. If it had been a devoute muslim or even a Turkish person who had approached me, I would have apologized, but the guards and people at the entrance seemed to have no problem with my clothes. Also, we saw what we think were dolphin police, but we're not quite sure.

The amount of history in Istanbul is amazing. Byzantine, Ottoman, Romans, and then some all have laid claim to this place and Istanbul is actually Constantinople, the famed ancient city. Looking at some of the buildings and surrounds, one can't help but imagine life here as it was 1000 years ago. The sheer scope of time and age of things here is unbelievable and being from North America, there is nothing that even comes close. Just touching a stone that has been standing there for 1000 years is mind blowing.

Today is The Grand Bazaar and The Spice Bazaar. We'll see how much more money I can spend Golden Horn which empties into the Agean Sea and the Black Sea the other direction. I guess I was a little mistaken when I called it the Medditeranean.

Hagia Sophia 

 Also, Ben saw a scoripion in the bathroom today. : S

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