Posted by Sydney

Istanbul has lived up to all I’ve been told.  It is such a beautiful and unique place with such beautiful buildings.  Like Israel, we have been here in Ramadan (the 30 day fast for Muslims), so we have heard the calls to prayer all day long, and people eating late at night every night. 

My favorite building was the Haghia Sophia.  It was originally a Christian Church, then became a mosque, and now is a museum.  It really just isn’t used for worship and has both the Christian mosaics along with some Arabic calligraphy.  It is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen.  It is unbelievably gigantic, with no pillars in the middle to hold it up.  I loved how it is so humble on the exterior – but the inside is covered in gold and colorful mosaics of Christ.

The Grand Bazaar truly lived up to its name.  It is fun, exciting, and large!  It is like its own neighborhood.  There are people everywhere hoping you will buy stuff in their store.  They are excited about their products, and hope you will reward them.  It is covered and has beautifully painted ceilings.  There are thousands of vendors, so needless to say we couldn’t see the entire bazaar.  They sell everything from Turkish delight to cashmere scarves to jewelry to Turkish rugs to hand painted pottery.  The spices in the Spice bazaar are definitely impressive too – they sell all kinds of herbal teas, perfumes, and cooking spices.  It smelled amazing in there!  Our favorite things we were called to get our attention were “Hello blondish family.  Buy something from me.” and “Hello large family. Do you want a tour?”  Those sure got us smiling!

Another favorite was the Topkapi Palace.  Truthfully, we spent most of our time looking out over the view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Straits.  You could see both the Europe and Asia sides of Turkey from there.  The sea glistens in the sun and huge boats go up and down because they are traveling in international waters.  You could see why the Palace was built in that location!

The best thing about Turkey for me was the real old world charm.  Walking up the steep cobblestone streets and seeing the New Mosque (built in 1600’s is about the newest thing here), makes you feel you’ve gone back in time.   You can almost imagine the Roman horseraces in the hippodrome or the people worshipping in the Haghia Sophia.  It is neat to imagine the history that has happened here like Paul being in Turkey, declaring the gospel as a disciple of Christ.  What an amazing country!