Friday, August 29, 2014

First Days A Tourist

First. We start with getting to Istanbul. After a 24 hour period of flying and waiting around in Airports I arrive to Ataturk International Airport. At first it is a bit overwhelming but calm takes over and I begin to give thanks for signs having an English translation. I discover from a man with broken English the only place to get wi-fi is in the Airport Cafe upstairs. This is the first time I've had to carry my bags and the first moment I've realized I may have packed too much. I only have one large rolling bag and a smaller roller carry on but combined they must weigh close to 70 pounds which has proven to be exhausting to pull around an airport and later the city of Istanbul. In the cafe I take a cup of Turkish Tea served in an hour glass shaped clear glass cup with a gold dipped rim. Here I plot my train route into the city of Istanbul. 

Inside the subway tunnel I am introduced to Turkish tiling for the first time. Notice the use of flowers, this is the common Turkish motif when it comes to their tiles. I hop the subway and meet two Spanish travelers on their way back to Spain after a day layover in Istanbul. They help me transfer my heavy bags over to the tram line that takes me to the area my hostel is in. Cheers is the name and it's ranked the #1 hostel in Istanbul. Probably for it's laid back atmosphere and cozy setting. Take a look below.

Cheers took care of me. There is a bar on the top floor where a view of the Hagia Sophia sits behind drinkers as they are entertained by the bartender "Mani" as I'll call him because his name being so unfamiliar kept escaping me. A shorter Turkish guy in his thirties with a bit of gray hair and the style of a man who wishes to stay young for maybe too long, he was keen to let me step behind the bar and make a delicious gin drink for him to try. It turned out to be good and so he gave it back to me as a gift and I closed out the night with a cheerful mood. Well done!

The following day was touring day. It's funny how people will sometimes step into a line without knowing where it goes or what the options are. Museum multi passes are available that grant access to all the common cultural sites for a discounted price and this was the best option for two friends from the hostel and I. Behind this selfie you can see the inside of the Hagia Sophia. A great site that has sat nearly 1500 years, it is not nearly as glorious as it once was. Murals are peeling, marble stones leading to entrances have been shaped by foot traffic and ancient mosaic no longer is in tact. The natural light baths the main chamber and thousands of tourists look up with cameras following the same.

Next stop -The Palace. No longer a palace for a prince but instead for tourists. Above you see the layout. Large sycamore trees and Cypress trees spot the grounds with lavish tile work decorating the Harem, Armory, and Treasury. I liked to imagine the grounds empty with no more than palace staff on grounds. I imagine the palace gardeners offering fresh picked flowers to royalty as or guards as they pass. I imagine royal instructors choosing a shady area for a day's lesson. I envisions guards making jokes to each other as they watch over a less visited part of the grounds. 

Above, this cage would have protected the windows of the royal family's quarters. 

Above, a guards outpost. On this day a man sat talking to himself.

Detail decorates each level and layer of this palace structure. As a fan of architecture and curious traveler I found these to be enchanting.

A day visiting The Palace, Hagia Sophia, and Blue Mosque (there are no photos above) has been a great introduction to the style of the Turks and also to how busy the tourists have made this city become. Istanbul has a population count of around 14 million as of 2013 and with tourists I'm sure it goes up towards 20 million.