Thursday, April 24, 2008

the guises of istanbul

Ahhhh, Stambul! The eastern Rome, the center of the byzantine empire, where gilded christian mosaics meet flavored smoke meets bare feet on mosque carpets and turkish tea rolls around on your tongue. As you make your way around the modern-rome-esque cobblestone streets you'll find a new amalgamation of east and west around every turn. Wooden victorian houses and lush and manicured city gardens, centuries-old churches-turned-mosques-turned-museums and underground cisterns holding nourishment for this vast expanse of people that has been called many names: Constantinople, Byzantium, Istanbul. A metropolis with many guises, now removing its masks for the world to explore in its modern form.

Oh, and did we explore. This morning we had a breakfast overlooking the blue mosque on our rooftop terrace, then to the Aya Sofya with its uncovered golden mosaics. We wandered into a few other mosques (oh, how I love the plush carpet between my toes!), one with particularly beautiful and expensive islamic tiling. Then through the grand bazaar, which was less authentic and localized then Morocco's souqs, but interesting nonetheless. Then we went underground into a huge ancient cistern, complete with fish in the water and atmospheric lighting and music. We then went to our new favorite restaurant DoyDoy ('fill up! fill up!') and finally to a super local and legitimate hookah bar where we drank mint tea and smoked orange-flavored tobacco and played backgammon looking out onto the blue bosphorus and the up into the chilly night sky of the east.

ah, stambul.

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