Where East And West Came Into The Same Place. Istanbul
Istanbul is really an amazing city. Once landing I chose to take a bus with a guide in order to introduce me to the town and give me a first insight to this country. I was pretty shocked to hear that Istanbul is a city with 16 million of people counting the city centre, the surrounding areas and neighbourhoods. Bigger than New York, and the most populated in Europe and the second largest city in the world. When I was on the bus, the night I was leaving the town, I remembered these words spoken by the guide because it taken almost three hours from the town to the airport. This city is limitless.
I’ve been always attracted to the Middle East culture, so much different from the place I grew up and everything I was born. So much different from our culture. And I don’t mean just about religion, food, things, lifestyle, but what impressed me most was the way of thinking about the daily life and their approach towards the life. Everything is done with the religion in mind. Being Muslim is a way of being in any thing in life. The way they eat, the way they drink, the way they speak, the way they live the city, the way they live in their homes, the way they do business, the way they approach tourists.
When I saw the first Mosque near my hotel, the Nuru-Osmaniye Mosque, and I came in, the high and imposing silence embraced me totally, in a so deep way I couldn’t explain this moment. A young man after identifying me as a stranger from the west, said: “please after taking off your shoes, do to disturb others when praying”. Of course, I took of my shoes, put them into a plastic bag, and went down on my knees on the carpet and start looking around trying to catch any detail that told me something more about their culture. So mysterious, so fascinating.
This accuracy about the religion stuff, I found it for the second time when I got out the night trying to find something to eat and drink for dinner, exploring the city and ready to enjoy the night life in Istanbul. I took a seat in a small place and I was ready to order my meal (roasted meat, and a kebab obviously) and asked for a beer so desired. The waiter told me gently that no alcohol was allowed to serve and drink in Istanbul, except some places like pubs for foreigners and lounges into the hotels. So I opted for water. Muslims are very respectful for religion rules. They can’t drink alcohol in restaurants and when walking on the street.
Obviously, any rule has an exception, so when I was walking back to my hotel, my eyes were attracted by a neon light, I turned my face and I saw a very small market selling alcohol to the foreigners. It made me smile, I continued walking toward he hotel and I finally I ordered my beer in my hotel lounge. My first day ended this way.
A city where west and east come into the same place, at the same time. Is the European door to the Middle East and you can see how different the life style is compared with the west one. Another approaches, a different lifestyle, so enchanting.
Hagia Sophia (Saint Sophia Mosque)
Santa Sophia was the main Mosque in Istanbul, now is a Museum. Hagia Sophia was a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal church converted into a mosque, but originally the first church inaugurated on 15 February 360 A.D. by Costantinus II (the original name of Istanbul was Constantinople, Roman Empire) now is a wonderful Museum you can visit with a guide (I recommend take one)
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque)
The blue Mosque is really an amazing place to visit. It is a wonderful scenario and a thing you can’t absolutely miss if you visit Istanbul. They are very respectful of their rules and you have to take off your shoes and put them into a plastic bag they give you before getting in. This is because of their religion and because there is a wonderful carpet you can’t walk on with the shoes. The name of Blue Mosque is because of the blue tiles adorning the domes (cupola)
The Grand Bazaar
The grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world with over 3,000 shops inside and so many streets that make the Grand Bazaar a labyrinth you can easily getting lost. (No joke, you can found yourself lost if you don’t pay attention to where you are). But is one of thing you can’t miss if you visit the city. You can find everything inside and any kind of shops, with any kind of objects, just be careful at the price, you have always negotiate a price. One of the shops I liked most was a spices shop, so many colours, so many types.
Eating Fresh Fish-Sandwich on the Galata Bridges
This is one of the things I’ve experienced in Istanbul I liked most. Eating a fresh prepared fish sandwich on the Galata Bridge with so many people around went there for eating fresh fish with very few money. This is common thing you can fine everywhere but what attracted me most was living a simple daily thing in they way they do. Watching them enjoying a simple meal and being happy for that.
The Pomegranate Juice
Since it is very difficult to find a place where you can eat and drink a beer or wine, it is very easy to find kiosks or fruit bars where you will have all kind of fresh juice. Perfect places where you can fill yourself with vitamins.
Out To The Black Sea
The Black Sea is the door to the East Europe. The sea connects two continents Europe and Asia and you can experience the wonderful view by taking a cruise on the Bosphorus. Once on the boat, it is just matter where you looking at, and you have Europe on the one side, and Asia on the other side.