Istanbul, Turkey (DoubleTree by Hilton) Istanbul – Piyalepasa
It was a late start today. Eventually I got around six hours of sleep after the music from last night’s wedding party quieted down. It was 1:00 p.m. when I caught the free hotel shuttle to Taxim Square and from there I took Uber to the Blue Mosque.
The area around the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (or Blue Mosque) is filled with various museums, other mosques, and historical places of interest. I was dropped off near to the Blue Mosque, a nickname given for the blue tiles surrounding the walls of its interior design.
But before I started touring the area I needed something to eat. I saw a vendor selling roasted corn on the cob and ate one of those along with the water I brought with me from the hotel.
As I was eating I was contemplating what I wanted to see. I saw an opening in the side of the Hagia Sophia and thought I should go in and investigate. Before I went in I was asked to remove my shoes and take off my hat. As it turned out it was a prayer room. I left a donation and put on my shoes and hat. Well, now I know.
From there I walked over to the Topkapi Palace. This palace served as the home of the Ottoman sultan and their court from the 16th century until the middle of the 19th century. After I walked through the first gate (of three), I found an ice cream stand outside where the tickets to the palace were being sold and ordered a cone with lemon ice cream. I watched my fellow tourists wait in line for the palace tour as I ate the ice cream and cone.
After finishing the cone I decided that maybe I’ll come back tomorrow because of the long line. Also I wasn’t too interested in walking through a museum for the next couple of hours. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. On my way to the gate I was approached by a man who started talking with me. He said he was practicing his English and it wouldn’t cost me anything to talk with him. I was more than a little skeptical but he seemed harmless enough so I continued to listen to him act as became my tour guide.
I said that I’d like to see the Blue Mosque and he replied that it was being refurbished and I wouldn’t be happy with the crowds today. We walked by the Hagia Sophia which also was crowded and he suggested that I might be interested in seeing the underground cairn that stored the water for the palace which was a short distance away. As it turned out this underground cairn happened to be practically next to the carpet shop where he works with his brother and would I be interested in seeing it. I wouldn’t need to buy a thing he said. Ah, that is why he was talking with me. I knew how it was play out, but went along with it anyway.
After being served tea and being introduced to his brother I was shown several carpets that they had available. At this point I was clear with the brother that I wasn’t going to buy any carpet regardless of the price. After the now awkward discussion continued I said it was time for me to leave and the brother was quite disappointing that I didn’t want to consider buying a carpet from him. The brother was not happy as I left the shop and walked down the street.
I chalked it up to an interesting experience and continued walking towards the Blue Mosque. On the way, I ran into a guide outside the Hagia Sophia and we talked about my visiting tomorrow. He showed me how to tell an authentic guide from others who were offering similar services. Hagia Sophia is a very historical building and a museum and I’ll need a guide to walk me through it. So that encounter worked out well.
As I walked toward the Blue Mosque I was approached by another man who started talking with me. His English was nearly perfect and obviously well educated. He just seemed he wanted to talk. Now I was interested to understand what he was after. I told him about my experience with the carpet shop and hoped he would understand if I was apprehensive about people who approached me. He just kept on talking about his recent visit to Japan and his travels and asked if I would like to sit down and have a cup of tea or a beer. Now I was interested to see what he was up to.
He found a nearby place and ordered us a beer. We talked about a number of things for about an hour while watching part of the football match between Spain and Russia. As it turned out, the area where we were sitting was in the oldest part of Istanbul, which I learned from the previous fellow. While we were talking I was thinking I was staying true to one of my travel goals: to meet people and get to understand the local culture. Today I was getting the whole enchilada!
He asked if I’d like to meet his business partner who had a shop down the street. I said sure. It was getting to be late afternoon and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to visit any historical attractions today since they were closing soon. I met his business partner and we talked about many things before I said I had to go. He asked if I’d like to see his carpet warehouse across the street. Having never been in a carpet warehouse (except for the business of the same name in Portland). The business partner went to great lengths explaining about the making and selling of carpet. He has a business in the U.S. as well and told me a story about an American in California who made extra money by importing carpets then having them resold and sharing in the profit. Ah, I think I know why I was asked to meet the business partner. I commented that it sounded like a creative way to make money but certainly nothing that I’d be interested in being a part of. My money was conservatively invested and was not ever going to be used for financial speculation.
Perhaps I was wrong about these two guys. We continued to talk for a little bit longer after we returned to his shop and I ordered an Uber to take me back to Taxsim Square and that was that. The Uber car showed up and I left. As it turned out my afternoon was very interesting, and aside from a couple of uncomfortable moments, it worked out well.
When I returned to the hotel after 7:00 I wasn’t tired and ordered a tuna sandwich for dinner. As I wrote my travel blog I ate the tuna sandwich. It was 9:30 when I started watching “What’s My Line” shows and I continued watching until almost midnight before I went to bed.
Tomorrow, now that I understand what I might want to see about the Blue Mosque, I’ll go back again tomorrow and finish what I started today. I wonder if I’ll meet anyone new?