This morning started out cool but dry; overcast and ominous, though. With our pink umbrella in tow we made our way over to the nearest tram stop. Bethany pushed Avi in the big stroller with the little umbrella stroller bungeed to the side. Zoe and I walked with her and her ‘power band’. Bethany knit Zoe a power band that goes around her wrist or waste and give the her the ‘power’ of freedom – as long as either me or Bethany hold the other end. yeah, sure, it’s a homemade kid leash. Its just so crowded and she wanders that it is necessary….and we were on our way to the Grand Bazaar!!
We were quickly distracted by the need for breakfast and popped into a small local bakery to try some buns – we’ll call them ‘with’ and ‘without’. With comes in a variety of cheese, potato, spinach, meat etc… and the guy will cut of a piece, or more, for you and then chop them all up together to eat. It was adequate, but Zoe didn’t eat much so as soon as we found the bazaar she wanted a muffin from a cart. Popped her onto the little stroller and we were off!!
The bazaar is huge and crazy and like a giant maze. There is a big main part that has very permanent shops and then it stretches out to stalls and the like in the outer area. It’s all covered and has gates that still lock closed at night. We were overwhelmed by all the jewelry, leather goods, ceramics, tourist kitsch, antiques, scarves, and more. The men selling stuff were also fairly pushy – not as much as other places I’ve been, but it got old quick. Bethany was on the lookout for some specific necklaces and I wanted to find the copper area, but we didn’t have much luck. In fact we wandered around so much we ended up outside in ‘scarf land’ – an area full of shops selling Muslim womans headcoverings and attire. After being hassled by all the salesmen we seriously thought of getting some kind of garb, or at least a proper headscarf holder (we both had on a basic scarf) but gave up. We ended up spending a few hours wandering around and didn’t buy a thing! Bethany only found one place that sold the style of necklace she hunted and the only copper kettles we saw were in antiques – not for us.
Oh well, we were starving so we walked out to the main tram road, and then took an unfortunate detour down into ‘shoe land’ thinking there would be a good restaurant down the hill near the water. Detour over, we came back up to the main tram road and plopped ourselves into a nice ‘crepe’ cafe. It was like a tiny storefront of a cafe with short tables and tiny Zoe – sized stools for everyone to sit upon. There was an older woman setup in the corner with a big round hotplate cooking huge flatbreads that we ordered with any number of fillings. Zoe got a cheese one, that ended up similar to a cheese quesadilla while I got a spinach, potato, feta flatbread sandwhich. Bethany tried the lentil soup and bread which was also good. Full bellies, and no rain, and we were fat and happy and on our way to a highlight of an Istanbul trip: the Aya Sofya.
The Aya Sofya is a huge place of worship built around 532AD as an Orthodox church..a church had been in it’s place since the 300’s, and Byzantine Emporer Justinian had this big cathedral built. It’s incredible that something so gigantic with such a huge dome could be erected at that time. The interior had been filled with mosiac until Constantinople was taken over by Ottomans and it was converted to a mosque in 1453 by the sultan. It was a mosque until the 1930 when it was turned into more of a museum as it is now. It’s so interesting to see the Christian mosaics or bits of etched out crosses surrounded by or covered over with Muslim archtiecture or Arabic writing. The interior is too big for words to describe and simply amazing. One neat thing was yiaat there are switch-backing ramps in the corners of the building to get to the mezzanine overlooking the main worship area. So we were able to push our now-sleeping Avi up in the stroller. The upstairs area is where the remaining mosaics are, so we got pictures with them. Zoe especially enjoyed finding the mosaic of Empress Zoe! By this time, though, she was also ready for a nap so we left Aya Sofya and switched the kids.
I took Avi in the kid carrier while Zoe napped in the big stroller. From here it was an up and then down hill walk to the Archaeology museum where Bethany and I enjoyed some quieter time seeing ancient Egyptian, Persian, Roman, Greek, Ottoman and other sarcophagus and statues. It was interesting and nice to be inside. Again it had gotten quite cold outside in the afternoon. I was especially excited about seeing a huge black Egyptian sarcophagus and the reconstructed maps and floor plans of the ancient Constantinople Palace.
Zoe woke as we were finishing up and liked seeing the statuary, well really the kittys, that lived out in the garden. There are stray cats everywhere in this town – at all the big monuments, in all the big parks, and Zoe gets a kick out of seeing them all. There were even 3 cats living inside the Aya Sofya!! The cats make the trip fun for Zoe…Avi seems to like watching pigeons and other kids. In the evening we wandered around for a bit looking for a cheap place and ended up just eating at “Ralphs” again. That is the place we ate the first night we were here. Its a cheap little cafeteria kind of place near the hotel – ‘Ralph” (we don’t actually know his name) makes 4-5 dishes each day and soup and we just pick some.