Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Arriving in Istanbul

We came to Istanbul by way of Vienna. We didn’t plan on Vienna, but Lufthansa’s workers threw a one-day strike and we managed to catch a flight from Minsk to Vienna, connecting after a few hours to Istanbul. We took a train from the airport and explored downtown Vienna early in the morning and then explored a little bit of Istanbul in the evening. The cities are very different.

In Vienna folks seemed very stern. Maybe it’s because they hadn’t had their morning coffee, but they seemed much more abrupt than the people we’re around in Minsk. We had a nice tour anyway, but Istanbul came as a very pleasant change. Sometimes we felt a little bit unwelcome in Vienna, but the people of Istanbul have been warm, generous and accommodating. Well, we did find one exception to the Turkish hospitality. Strangely enough, our sourpuss was at the Visitor Information Bureau. I finally had to ask the guy if he even liked his city, and he said that it's complicated, but he’ll like it better after work and especially after retirement. Unfortunately, he’s still five years from retirement.

Never having been inside of any kind of mosque, we decided to find a small one for our first visit. We arrived at a quiet time of the morning, and the caretaker welcomed Alla into the downstairs area normally reserved for men. We sat quietly on the thick carpet, enjoying the reverent stillness as a single worshipper read the Koran silently at the front of the room. Later we arrived at Lalei Cami near the time of prayer and watched as people washed themselves and settled inside. Alla and I went inside too, and Alla separated herself into the women’s gallery. She didn’t like being hidden away behind a screen.

We spent rather more time today than we expected at the Grand Bazaar, and probably saw only 10% of it even in passing. It’s a wonderfully crazy place, and we’re altogether enjoying our time in Istanbul.

From 2013-04 Istanbul

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