Despite Turkish Airlines greatest attempts to thwart our arrival into Istanbul, the moment finally did arrive, and only a tad later than expected (Tad = Turkish unit of measurement equal to approximately 22.5 hours). With only a day and a half to partake in some "expedited sight-seeing," our short time in Istanbul provided a great taste of what this historic city has to offer.
Now, while I would normally jump right into the highlights of our adventures in Istanbul I feel it necessary first to provide you, the reader, with a bit of a history lesson. Originally known as Constantinople, Istanbul was once the capital of the great Roman Empire. After a period of numerous years, some pretty intense stuff happened, followed by more intensity as well as stuff, followed by the Ottoman's taking over the city and renaming it Istanbul (Take that Wikipedia!). With one side of the city straddling Europe, and the other Asia, Istanbul is literally the point in the world where east meets west.
With everyone hopefully a bit more knowledge about Istanbul than they originally were from it's previous reason for being (Istanbul, Not Constantinople), I now leave you with the riot-free highlights of our time spent in this beautiful city:
Bosphorus Cruise - Dividing Istanbul between its European (aka riot-filled) and Asian (aka not riot-filled) sides, a relaxing 90 minute cruise on the Bosphorus was exactly what the doctor ordered to welcome us to our vacation. The doctor, however, did not order the waiter who felt the need to offer us some "Chai Chai Chai Chai Chai Tea" approximately 832 times.
Hagia Sofia - As the largest church in the world for over 1,000 years (God must have been so proud), the Hagia Sofia s now permanently under construction, and no longer the home to the Christian homeboy JC. With Islam the predominant religion in Turkey, the church is now open solely to tourists and those that enjoy praying while hundreds of others take photos.
Blue Mosque - As the Islamic response to the Hagis Sophia (see above if you are in "skimming mode"), the Blue Mosque was built, I am only assuming, to make Allah super proud as well. Entering the mosque, visitors are overpowered by both the amazing architecture of the structure, as well as the aroma of feet, wafting throughout, as no shoes are allowed within the premise. While most visitors utilize the plastic bags available at the entrance to carry their shoes, those "slower" folks place them on their feet, providing much enjoyment to all those with an inkling of common sense.
Topkapi Palace - Home to Ottoman Sultans for a damn long time, the Topkapi Palace was another example of a Turkish tourist site that charges a more-than-it-should-cost entrance fee of $15, and then ropes off the cool area (i.e. place where the Sultans "got down"), requiring another $10 to enter. We decided to forgo the "Sultans Brothel," and instead visited countless "enjoyment areas" where supposedly the Sultan "had enjoyment." And by enjoyment, I mean laying around all day doing nothing. Lazy lazy Sultan.
Markets - Just around the corner from one-another, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market are both exactly what you would expect from a once-local-market-turned-tourist-destination. With only 1.5 seconds allowed for browsing until a "excuse me, you buy here?" interrupts your casual glance, it is key to walk around constantly mumbling "no thank you" while shaking your head repeatedly. And when a purchase is truly in order, bargaining is the key, as in what world do these damn travel trinkets really cost $5? As a note, do not take Julie's approach and offer 1/10th the price, as the vendor will almost always tell you "no, I change my mind, I don't sell to you now."
Other - Amazing food, some Roman water storage, and a whole lot of walking/people-watching
Onto the pics: