We spent Monday morning walking around the old city part of Istanbul, visiting a spice market and two mosques then we drove to Ankara, the Turkish capital in the centre of the country, which was about a 6 hour drive. After all the traveling we’ve done that seemed a pretty short trip!
Istanbul has interesting and contrasting smells. Sometimes there is a faint hint of sewerage in the air and when you get close enough to the spice market stalls you can smell all the various spices mixed in together. The spice markets were inside a building, down some stairs, giving it the appearance of being located in a long tunnel-like cavern, which would have only helped you smell the spices.
We also visited two mosques, one located out of the way near the spice markets and the other the famous (and very impressive) Blue Mosque. These mosques were very different to even my idea of European churches, but still, they are exquisitely beautiful all the same. Similar to religious Jews, Muslims are not allowed to depict anyone in their areas of prayer- not just the prophet Mohammed but anyone. Therefore the artwork relies mostly on light, often blue tiles with gentle floral designs that arch around the building. It is really very graceful. The architecture uses columns and archways which lead up to big domes at the top of the building, again, adding an air of grace to the structure.
When I walked into the Blue Mosque, I was preoccupied with the idea of taking our shoes off to enter, which reminded me of Moses at the burning bush as God thunders, “take off your sandals, for the ground on which you stand is holy ground..” and thinking what it would be like to apply this sort of external respect to my own Christian religion. Crossing myself or bowing my head at every cross I see, or taking off my shoes to pray; I know these are just externals, which we don’t need to draw closer to God but sometimes I think in our freestyling and largely non-traditional western culture, it is good to stop and go through a ritual like that.
Anyways, I was so distracted with the idea of taking off our shoes when I entered the Blue Mosque that I forgot to look up. Finally I got the pictures I wanted, and then I glanced up and literally gasped. It was beautiful! It was hard to get good pictures with no flash but the view really was breathtaking.
After the mosques we went to the oldest Turkish Delight shop in the world- it was founded in 1777. Mum pointed out that it would be hard to imagine an Australian shop selling the same thing for 235 years… in fact, this shop is older than the first Australian convicts! I had tried some “western” Turkish Delight a few years back and couldn’t stomach it- it was too rich. But this stuff was heavenly. I wasn’t such a fan of the nuts inside the jelly but the jelly itself was so smooth and firm and yummy in general. So good.