I woke up a little later than usual, rousing myself around 10am instead of 8. It felt good and I wasn’t worried. I had 3 nights here and on Monday morning I would head down to Izmir to see Ephesus. I then plan to take the long trek back to Bulgaria and the lands where the dollar is stronger.
I haven’t done so well financially on this part. Each day it costs me more to travel and eat on different currencies. In addition, I discovered that although the Turkish signs say there is a student rate, in high season (that would be now) it is not the case. Often, right next to the sign proclaiming 5 YTL instead of 20 for students, there’s another that proclaims in a larger font ‘THERE IS NO STUDENT DISCOUNT’… Unfortunate for my wallet. Still 20 YTL for the Hagia Sofia is nothing compared to the memory that will last for my entire life. The 10 to see the cistern that has fed Istanbul water since the 5th century is a price I gladly paid. However, the 40 YTL to see Dolhambaca Palace was something I couldn’t bring myself to do… especially when the student price was listed at 1 YTL …right next to the sign proclaiming in large white letters that there wasn’t a student discount. It strongly discouraged my entry.
Hagia sofia is 20 times as shocking as the Blue Mosque. Even though it was under restoration and the dome was covered in scaffolding, the parts of it that were open were magnificent. Ancient tile work extolling the detail and beauty of flowers, calligraphy, and flowing designs are plastered into the wall and where they have faded, simpler designs have been painted over their remnants. Finding the ancient beauty breaking through the simpler newer work is an adventure with beauty and satisfaction as its reward. The most startling thing about Hagia Sofia is that as you walk through the sections of the church you see its transition to a mosque…the hanging of giant pendants of Islamic calligraphy and in the darkened marble you notice that the crosses have been etched off the walls. The large orthodox and crusader crosses have been scratched or dissolved off the walls, leaving a ghostly image of them in the marble…a thoroughly chilling effect. In addition, Hagia Sofia is a much darker edifice than the mosques surrounding it. Darker paints, metals and imagery surround you in the walls.
Hagia Sofia and the Blue mosque are must sees!
From there I ventured out to the Burned Column and then took the metro across the new bridge north toward the Bosporus bridge. I got kumpir at Otakoy…a huge baked potato stuffed with whatever you want…and then took a ferry across the bay into Asia. The Asian side didn’t offer much to see but it did give me the chance to watch the sun set behind the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. Another experience that has been unparalleled.
As the sun settled into the haze of the city the horizon lit up. Orange tendrils broke from the earth like serpents during rain. They climbed into the sky and soon their reddened brothers followed their path. The blood red sun changed the horizon into a glowing bed of embers settling behind the mosques and etching them into the horizon. The colors changed from orange, to red, to deep dark burgandy to black. Then the city erupted in its own light, replacing the warmth of the sun with cold industrial lighting.
I headed back across the Bosporus bridge and have now crossed into Asia by land and by sea. The next time will be by bus as I head to Izmir and then I hope by Plane when I head for the Orient.
I returned to Istanbul’s nightlife, found myself a waterpipe and tea bar, settled in, and enjoyed the atmosphere until I started back toward my hotel. I decided on a taxi feeling a little lightheaded after the hookah and when I told the driver to take me back to my hotel he asked if I had a card. I gave him the card with a map on the back and he said no problem no problem… little did I know that he had no idea where we were going. We sped off into the Turkish night until we returned to the University area. There he proceeded to ask every other cab driver he passed for directions.
I couldn’t help but laugh the entire trip chuckling about how much fun it was to be in Istanbul taking a cab ride with a cabby who had no idea where he was going.Something about the situation just made it entirely too entertaining. I finally recognized another hotel and told the cabby to stop. I paid him 3/4 of the fare telling him that he had wasted at least 3/4s of it asking for directions and driving around trying to find the hotel. I then headed off on foot back toward my destination. I reached the hotel, grabbed my key, climbed up to my room and fell sound asleep.