Saturday, January 29, 2011

Istanbul, Turkey IV

Hi folks. Big apologies from Yuriy and I for our slacking. We haven't even touched a computer for a week, let alone work on any blog posts. If you follow us on Twitter, you know we were on a boat for 4 days/4nights to do some scuba diving around the Similan islands off the west coast of Thailand. We have a lot of photos (and acquiring more daily) and a lot of catching up to do. After the boat trip, we did a lot of moving around.. from Nai Yang Beach in Phuket, Thailand to Singapore to Jakarta, Indonesia (where we are now). And we had the most wretched luck finding internet everywhere we went! The few places that had it either charged or if it was free, it didn't work.  

Well it was a nice break to disconnect from people and get lost in the world, but its nice to be back and working on a project. You can expect a lot of posting this week. 

Here's another (final) glimpse of the enchanting city of Istanbul.

So many of the city’s streets were organized by what they sold. So for one block, every shop on the street is lined with toilets and sink faucets. Another street has chandeliers and lamps in shop after shop. One street was full of musical instrument stores and fresh juice strands back to back. Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice is even better than it sounds! It's like biting into a fresh pomegranate without all the work of peeling. There was a section of shops devoted to suits and tailors, a few blocks devoted to overly glitzy and awfully cheesy wedding dresses, an area for kids clothes. We found this so peculiar. How are you supposed to get any business with all the competition next door?

Perhaps the most annoying thing about Istanbul was the pushy restaurant and shop owners. Absolutely every restaurant you pass, a guy comes out into your path, shoving a menu in your face and advertising his place. And when you say no, they don’t give up! They call after you, follow you. It’s as if their main goal in life is for you to look at the menu. If you do slow down and glance at the menu, the guy gets really excited and starts with a sales speech about his specials. We never saw a female outside a restaurant. They aren't bold enough for such a pushy sales job. I wanted to cover my ears and run sometimes. A few times after we sat down, we just felt like the sneaky guy had fooled us somehow with his "specials" and was probably chuckling behind our backs at how easy we were to lure in. 

...not that the photos below have anything to do with this. There's a lot more beauty in them than what I just described.

Istanbul-- the city of tea fanatics, rug stores, ancient hamams, prayer calls throughout the day, awe-inspring mosques, colorful culture, and royal history.  You have captivated me.

- Julia

The underground Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century and has the capacity to house 100,000 tons of water! It provided water for the city from ancient to recent times. It is the largest of several hundred cisterns that lie beneath the city if Istanbul.
Two of the giant stone pillars in the Basilica Cistern have a Medusa head at the bottom--one head lies on its side and one lies up-side-down. It's a mystery how they ended up underground or what they mean.