Hi Everyone! J
We're in Istanbul, Turkey and let me just start off with saying that it is a completely different culture from anything we have experienced so far.On our first day we decided to check out the Grand Bazaar (a.k.a. one of the oldest marketplaces in the world).Winding through the maze of crowded streets and looming buildings we found our selves in unfamiliar territory.Men with loud voices called from their shops with the intention of luring us in; women covered from head to toe with only their eyes showing passed us right by.And us, well we stood wide-eye in amazement that people live like this.Our first encounter with bargaining came when we stepped into the Spice Bazaar (not to be confused with the Grand Bazaar which we soon found out).Shop owners grabbed our arms insisting that we try their product in hopes that we will buy it.As we made our way out of what we realized was not our final destination, we head into the heart of the old city.Two hours later we still had not made it to the Grand Bazaar due to getting lost.Finally a sweet old man figured out that we did not know where we were going and because we were tourist figured we were looking for the bazaar so he showed us the way.Had it not been for him, we were going to turn back, labeling the day a loss.Once inside the Grand Bazaar we officially had stepped back in time to 1461.With over 60 streets and 5,000 vendors, the word chaos does not encapsulate our experience through this wondrous labyrinth.The "shopping mall" was sectioned off by categories such as carpets, jewelry, clothing, antiques, etc.We enjoyed roaming around and enjoyed even more buying products through bargaining, a skill Kevin and I are good at!
The next day, it was time to immerse our selves even further into the culture.While Kevin enjoyed the luxury of wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I had to wear a full-length skirt, a shirt that covered most of my arms, and to top it all off a headscarf for inside the mosques.First we went to the palace where we took pleasure in pretending we were royalty.The exhibits showcased the gifts acquired by the Royal family from all over the Mediterranean.My favorite was the 86 karat diamond with 49 two karat diamonds encasing it!After the palace we crossed the beautifully landscaped garden to the Blue Mosque.It is famous because of its exquisite blue ceramic tile intricately designed throughout the inside.You can see it in some of our photos.
Now a few words on the headscarf… as weird as it was to first put it on, there was actually a sense of freedom that actually came from wearing it.This may sound weird because from a western perspective, the headscarf is seen as a way to keep women in their place but I can also see the freedom of not having to impress men through our dress, let alone compete against other women to meet this ideal.I'm in no way saying I would ever adapt the headscarf but I do challenge everyone to not judge something you don't fully understanding and we in American clearly do not understand this way of life.
The most interesting part about being in Istanbul was heading the Qu'ran being spoken over the loud speakers of the Mosques 5 times a day.Kevin and I would be at lunch or walking around and suddenly the Qu'ran would call Muslims to pray.It was fasinating.
All in all, Istanbul was an incredible experience that neither of us will ever forget!ON TO BULGARIA!
Andria and Kevin