Sunday, May 1, 2011

our first night in Istanbul

Well, I'm writing this on our first morning in Istanbul, of course -- our first morning which included hearing the call to prayers, the adhan, which is called five times a day. The early morning one (around 4 or 5 am?) includes a line exclusive to the early morning adhan:
God is greatest; I bear witness that there is no God except the One God; I bear witness that Muhammad is God's Messenger; Come to salat, come to success, Salat is better than sleep. God is Greatest. There is no except the One God.
A version of the adhan comprises the 8th version of the Turkish national anthem:
Oh glorious God, the sole wish of my pain-stricken heart is that,
No heathen's hand should ever touch the bosom of my sacred Temples.
These adhans, whose shahadahs are the foundations of my religion,
May their noble sound last loud and wide over my eternal homeland.
It was kind of cool, hearing the call to prayers in the dark this morning. At one point it sounded like we were hearing the call from a number of mosques, all overlapping. We'll see if I like it so much as the week goes on, waking me up so early, but for now it was eerie and beautiful.

After we rested a little, we went out for a walk before dinner last night. Just a few minutes from our hotel are the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Basilica Cistern -- along with lots of other things to see, like an Egyptian obelisk and some kind of twisty thing from 4BC. More on those later.

We ate at this really wonderful little restaurant a block from our hotel. The wait staff were as warm and generous as if we were in their home; there's a thing about Turkish hospitality, and that's what we got. Really wonderful (and when we passed by the next night, the guy at the door remembered us). Anyway -- the pictures below show the interior, but look on the wall, underneath all the little colored lamps. That's a flat screen tv (with the sound off, fortunately) and the whole time we were there it was something like Funniest Home Videos. Little kittens falling down, idiots wearing rollerblades on a treadmill, the usual funny home video stuff. Since I love that, it was just a little added surreal bonus for a jet-lagged person finding herself in Istanbul.
Here's the restaurant where we ate last night. So charming, and the hospitality was so warm.
kids -- this is Turkish snacky-snack! It's called mezes, it's a sampling of all kinds of things. We had it as an appetizer last night, before lamb shishkebab (Marc) and grilled kofta (me). YUM. So far the food is great.
down the street, and turn voila. The Blue Mosque. I'll show you later.

THE HAGIA SOPHIA, in situ. I cried.
as we walked past this kind of spooky place at the end of our street, I had to take a photo. Gave me a shiver.
After dinner, we just crashed. Woke up, slept, woke up, slept, didn't sleep, tried to sleep, woke up, slept. And so on, all night. And then the, I leave you with it, and we're heading down to breakfast and then out and about.

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