After the beautiful start to our day, we pushed through the hawkers lining the winding streets of our neighborhood to arrive at the Grand Bazaar. I came semi-prepared, heightened alertness to pickpockets and confidence that I would not be tempted by any of these mass produced goods. While I was told by everyone from past travelers to locals how commercialized the bazaar was, I wasn’t convinced. I held my breath in anticipation as we passed beneath gate one.Hawkers calling out, “Hola! Espanola?!” And, “We have best Pashmina” lined the maid corridor. I learned early that this would not be the authentic market experience I had hoped but the climate had to be absorbed.
We wandered the narrow corridors presenting hammam goods, scarves, spices and rugs as must have items. We passed through the market in record time, settling in on the outskirts of a mosque next door to find some peace away from the constant stimulation of the market. Istanbul is simultaneously exhilarating and depleting if that makes any sense. Once partially rejuvenated, we stood, rounded the corner and stumbled upon what is and continues to be one of my favorite spots in Istanbul.
The square separating the Beyzayit Mosque and Istanbul University welcomes visitors to a pocket oasis in the square welcoming us as visitors to Istanbul but privilege to a more personalized existence. I spun around in the square happy to be alive and in Istanbul and far, far away from the men taking stabs at my nationality.
We ascended the third hill of Istanbul only to find, unplanned, the Süleymaniye Mosque. This scene, this experience took us both by surprise and still exists as a highlight of our jam-packed day. I quickly draped my head in my scarf, removed my shoes and entered into the mosque, any mosque for that matter, for the first time. This grandiose site remains less visited and more inviting than all of those on “tourist row”. We were able to lounge on the grounds, snapping photos and devising a plan of attack for our first official meal.
Luke chose our lunch spot and I must say, I was impressed. In a prime location on “Addict’s Alley” (known for the opium once sold there) we popped into this lokanta to fuel up and continue our site seeing to the New District. Guided by the server, we peered into the small kitchen consisting of little more than a wood fired stove and stove top, and selected a lamb stew and chicken dish, respectively…served with pilaf, of course.
I wiped my plate clean with the bread on the table as immersed ourselves in an unrecognizable experience that was undoubtedly foreign and mildly addictive.