The first Day of our tour was spent in Istanbul. We set out as a group with our guide, Serkan, leading the way. There were thirteen of us following him through the old city like ducklings following their Mama!
Istanbul is an amazing city, a delight for all of the senses; sounds of the call to prayer, invitations shouted from vendors to enter their shops, the honking of horns, the smells of roasting meats, bright colors in the clothing, buildings and markets. We stopped in at a tea house. There are tea houses all over the place where men enjoy socializing and playing cards. Women are not welcome in this environment but we were allowed to come in with our group for a few minutes and take some photos.
We visited a Tumbler Pigeon market. It was very interesting; men and boys with their birds, showing them off with pride and hoping to make a sale. (Apparently this is a big hobby in the region. Later, in Mardin, Robin and I saw some of these tumbler pigeons performing. Watching them fly is really amazing.)
We walked through the old section of Istanbul eventually ending up at the Galata Bridge where we joined the masses of people crossing the Golden Horn. Fishermen lined the bridge as well as vendors selling food and other wares. We marveled at the wonderful fish market on the other side. Robin had a “yummy, yummy mackerel sandwich” and we all sat down for a much needed rest with a cup of chai.
Serkan had been distracted and on his cell phone all afternoon and we were about to find out why. He told us of an earthquake in Van at 1:30pm. The earthquake of 7.2 magnitude, had left the area a mess. All outgoing flights were being used to get emergency services into the area. He had been trying to arrange for new accommodations and transportation, flight refunds as well as picking up voice messages from our frantic family members thinking that we had been there for the earthquake. Changing our plans meant extra days in Midyat. We were very disappointed but glad that we had missed the earthquake!
On our walk back to the hotel we visited the New Mosque and the Spice Bazaar. The Spice Bazaar was a delight unlike anything I’d ever experienced before! It is one of the largest bazaars in the city, The building is part of the Blue Mosque complex and was constructed at the same time, between 1660-1665. It’s the center for spice trade in Istanbul. I tried and fell in love with Turkish Delight candy here. (I have since tried buying it at home, supposedly imported, but it is horrible; nothing like what I got at the Spice Bazaar.) Robin bought some candied ginger here which turned out to be quite handy during some of the nausea inducing roads we were to experience later in our journey!