Friday, June 18, 2010

Istanbul was once Constantinople - Istanbul Day 1

We found out very early on in our visit to Istanbul that Turkey would have a few adventures in store for us. Take good notes because you might be able to learn some valuable lessons from our experiences.

Istanbul is full of cruise ship tourists. No offense to those who like to cruise, but it's a little annoying when thousands of tourists bombard a city at once. Sara's New Yorker personality comes out when surrounded by these tourists and trust me, it isn't pretty.

Our first stop was the Blue Mosque. This is a beautiful mosque with thousands of blue tiles in the interior. There are six minarets and the courtyard is the largest of all of the Ottoman mosques. The Blue Mosque was built to rival another neighboring attraction, the Aya Sofya. The Aya Sofya was built in 537 AD and was originally a church that Emperor Justinian had built as part of his effort to restore the greatness of the Roman Empire. In 1453 it was converted into a mosque and in 1935 it became a museum. It's pretty interesting to walk inside and see symbols that represent both Christianity and Islam. Never would I have ever imagined seeing a mosaic of Christ and large medallions inscribed with Arabic in the same building. Fascinating!

We decided to take a break in a small plaza to plan our next plan of attack. As we were studying our map, a man approached us to see if we needed help. (Note, we left our skepticism skills back in Japan after the people were so friendly and helpful. Very bad idea!) We engaged in light conversation and he eventually told us he was a fashion designer. Some how we ended up in his shop where he offered us hot apple tea and then tried to persuade John into buying a custom leather jacket. It was hilarious watching John try on leather jackets in 100 degree weather. John politely declined and asked for his business card so he could pass it along to a fashion designer friend in Houston. Phew, we survived! Our friend wanted to walk us out the back way so we could find his shop a little easier if we decided we wanted a jacket later. Hmm, how convenient that the back way happened to pass a carpet store that he wanted to show us. Next thing we knew we were trapped in a carpet shop. Our friend offered us another glass of apple tea because if you drink apple tea together once you are friends for 30 years but if you drink tea together twice you are friends for 70 years. Gag! How could we say no? Five minutes later our friend of 70 years was gone and another friend started shoving silk rugs down our throats. After throwing rugs one after another onto the floor, our new friend then asked us to eliminate the rugs we didn't like. We played along until there were two rugs on the ground. He proceeded to tell us how much the rug would cost. We said it was too expensive and that we weren't interested. He then demanded over and over again for us to tell him how much we would be willing to pay. We sat there is awkward silence because neither of us wanted to purchase a rug. Finally, John threw out a shockingly low number (still expensive). We thought he would say no thank you but no, he wanted to continue to bargain. John knew that one of us would be walking out with a rug and it wasn't going to be him. John threw Sara under the bus and told the man that he had just purchased artwork so he wouldn't be buying anything but Sara would be the one to decide. A few minutes later Sara walked out of the store with a silk rug she never wanted in the first place. Another life lesson learned the hard/expensive way. Shady Turks!

After the rug fiasco, we headed to the Basilica Cistern. The cistern was used to store water for the Great Palace. It's a little spooky walking along the slimy platforms and looking into the carp infested waters below. Oh and don't worry, random drops of water will fall on you and yes, you are just as disgusted by them as you are with the subway drips in NYC.

We ended the day at the Grand Bazaar. There are over 4,000 shops to bargain a deal with. Don't worry, we learned our lesson for the day and didn't get conned into buying another carpet.....but we came away with a few things that we actually wanted!


  1. Oh Spar! ^shaking my head^

  2. I'm so mad at you right now for getting the "It's Istanbul, then Constantinople" song stuck in my head! It looks amazing there. Keep the posts coming. "Why did Constantinople get the works? It's no body's business but the Turks."

  3. I loved the rug story-I totally got conned into getting a $200 custom leather coat when I was in Turkey and I NEVER wore it :(
    I should have warned you two! Keep the stories coming! I love it.

  4. Sucker! Not many people get the best of Sara. Those two guys deserve an award! I would like to see Don Sparhawk and Bill Moss deal with those Turks -- the two cheapest guys on the face of the earth and Andrew runs a close third -- the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! Now Katie, Adam, and me -- when the guy said $1,500, we would have felt sorry for him and said, "We won't give you anymore than $3,000. The apple doesn't fall very far from the mamma tree either. P.S. If you think Sara paid $1,500 for her unwanted rug, you are wrong. She ain't that stupid.