Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Turkey - Day Three - Istanbul

Today contained even more sight seeing adventures.  The band first visited the Blue Mosque, a very popular tourist destination.  The place was packed with people, making it somewhat difficult to see what the mosque had to offer in its completeness.  The mosque is very old, having been built during the 17th century, and has numerous designs throughout the building.  The women wore scarves to cover their heads, a picture of them being featured bellow.  Since the mosque is still in use, visitors had to take off their shoes before entering the building as an act of respect to the Islamic religion.  The building was ultimately very cool and our tour guide provided a lot of background on both the history of the mosque and that of Islam.

After passing through the Hippodrome, the band made its way to the Topkapi Palace.  This was the central area where the Ottoman Empire lived for the duration of its reign over the Middle Eastern world.  The area had four courtyards which tourists needed to pass through before getting to the main area of the palace.  The  main area where tourists stood in massive lines for was the treasury and various areas which belonged to the Grand Vizier got considerable attention, as the Vizier was essentially the voice of the Sultan for the people.  It was very cool seeing that this structure has lasted for centuries.  The various designs in the palace showcased the artwork which made the Ottoman Empire unique and the large area which was the Topkapi Palace made the for a fun time exploring and seeing its many sights.

The band next made its way to the Grand Bazaar, an immense series of shops which line about a mile of Istanbul's city.  The shops sold unique items from jewelry to rugs to t-shirts and even more things.  Students were recommended to barter down items to the best of their ability which made the whole ordeal seem like a garage sale with people trying to get the lowest price possible and vendors trying to sell their items for the most money possible.  I found the experience very cool, as I traversed the various shops and areas which had many different venues to explore and shop from.  One thing two of the players in the band bought were Turkish Parachute pants, to give you an idea of the variety of items the vendors were selling.  It was a very interesting experience as we began to learn the basics of bartering and got good prices on the items we wanted.

The last area we visited was the Spice Gardens, which as its name implies, sells various spices among other things.  While the area wasn't nearly as large as the Grand Bazaar, it was still a cool sight to see.  Like the Bazaar, there were vendors on each side of the walking area trying to draw buyers in.  There were a variety of different spices available at each area, along with coffee beans and Turkish Delight.  While this area wasn't as exciting as the Grand Bazaar, it still displayed a unique part of Turkey and showed what the country had to offer.

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