As in "home again, home again."
I arrived back home last night after something like 22 hours of traveling. Long day, but still! Just think about that - yesterday I was in Turkey; today I'm in North Carolina. It's a little amazing, isn't it?
I didn't post following the sightseeing day because I ran out of time - had to pack and try to sleep before the aforementioned 22 hour travel day. Anything I would have written would've been gibberish at that point. But today is a new day, on a new continent, so let's see . . .
As with the infamous "Asian Jaunt," we had a rough game plan that was subject to change. We knew and accepted that we couldn't see everything, so we picked our top five and hoped for the best. Overall, I'd say it worked out pretty well.
Since we were scattered throughout different hotels, those of us staying in Beyoglu (north of the Golden Horn) met in the Richmond Hotel then trekked down to the area in Sultanahmet ("old" Istanbul) close to where the ferries run. After puzzling out the tram system, we met the rest of our traveling companions and started wandering around the Hippodrome and (no doubt insensitively) mocking antiquities that are so old no one is exactly sure what their significance may be. Some of this stuff is famous for being famous - sort of the architectural equivalent of Paris Hilton. (By the way, for all of these, I've added links that have history and pictures - otherwise, this post was going to become manuscript-length! I really suggest you follow the links - there are some wonderful pictures and great information there.)
We respectfully visited the Blue Mosque (no, I didn't have to cover my hair and the fact I was wearing trousers was no big deal. Short skirts are a strict no-no; but in that event, you will be supplied with a Velcro-fastening tablecloth that can be seen as a long skirt) and the basilica/mosque/museum Ayasofya, as well as the Basilica Cistern (look for the wacky Medusa heads!) before breaking for a lingering lunch. Now reduced by two (flight schedules), our trio wandered the grounds of Topkapi Palace (we were too late to see the interior, which is a shame, but we knew we couldn't do everything. And hey! who'd thunk that such a place would be the local lovers' lane? Making out in a headscarf - that seemed rather weird) before heading to the Grand Bazaar to try our haggling skills. We also visited the Egyptian (or Spice) Bazaar before our last supper in Istanbul.
Coming home was long and tedious, but also uneventful, which is just fine by me! And one of the last memories I have of Istanbul might just sum up the blending of (or maybe the tension between) the secular and the religious in this country that was so warm and welcoming to me. On my way to the airport, I saw a billboard from the taxi. The billboard was advertising expensive and exclusive Armani clothing - and the haughty model was wearing a headscarf. Compare that with what we routinely see in advertisements here in the States and I think you'll agree that there's food for thought there.