Monuments to Power: the Blue Mosque, Istanbul City Walls, Topkapi Palace

In looking back at my five days in Istanbul, and the feeling of relief as well as exhaustion that led me to take long naps, sleep 9-10 hours a night, and eat too much (to try and put on some weight lost in Nepal), I’m fairly impressed I was able to get out as much as I did. Here are three jaunts to local sites, with only the City Walls requiring some effort.  I will separate the three posts so that Word Press doesn’t choke on the photos, as it did the first time I tried.

Blue Mosque

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The actual name for this mosque (called camii in Turkish) is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. This ruler decided to build the mosque to calm God. Since Ahmed was defeated in his one particular war with south Russia, he thought God was angry with him and so used funds from an already diminished treasury. The construction lasted from 1609 to 1616 and created controversy because the mosque had six minarets, like the Great Mosque at Mecca, whereas most others only have four. The “blue” feature comes from some 20,000 ceramic tiles, but towards the top there is paint rather than tile.

Visitors are permitted into a viewing area that is wholly carpeted and so shoes go into a plastic bag one totes around. I hung out on the right side so as to get a fairly unobstructed view of the central prayer area and the amazing dome. Too bad there was no sunlight, but it was still impressive.

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While lingering in this area, a number of people asked me to take their photo, and of course I obliged. One young man turned out to be from Costa Rica, now working near Leipzig, Germany for the cargo company DHL. We started talking and soon he was asking me about the difference between religion and spirituality. But rather than talk too much, I asked him about his own religious background and what he practices today. It soon came out that he is searching, confused about all the options available, and dissatisfied with his Catholic roots in part because his wife of 1.5 years is so utterly accepting and devoted to the church. She has told him she doesn’t want to have a child with him if he doesn’t become more religious and promise that their child will be raised Catholic. I suggested that the two of them see a priest who is certified as a marriage counselor because her intolerance threatens the marriage. Quite a conversation.

Upon exiting, prayers were soon to begin and visitors were being cleared out. The call-to-prayer started as I headed back to the hotel and was broadcast at ear-splitting volume.

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