What a city...it was everything I expected and more! The history, people, harbour, Turkish Tea, the bazzaar, and the opportunity to share Gospel tracts with the folk left a soft spot in my heart for this unique city. Napoleon said that if the world were one empire, Istanbul would be it's capital. Osama Bin Ladin calls the people of Istanbul "half brothers" because they are sympathic with America.
We began the day boarding buses at 8am, heading to the Blue Mosque (so named for the beautiful blue designs painted on the ceiling), in the European part of the city. It is still active, so we removed our shoes, donned clothing from shoulder to toes, and the women respectfully covered their heads. Twice during the day se heard the call to prayer from the minaret, now complete with loudspeakers so the meuzzin(sp) need not climb to the top!
I prayed that the people of Istanbul would have open hearts for the Gospel...the majority are only nominally Muslim.
We walked across the square to the Haggia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom) that was built as a church in Constantine's reign, but converted to a mosque during the time of the Ottoman takeover. Now it is a museum, and is being restored to it's former beauty. At one point, it had burned and been rebuilt...thankfully, the Turks covered the ceiling murals with plaster, so they were well preserved. Green marble columns from the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, and salmon colored pillars from Babylon support the high domed ceiling. It's imposing sillouette takes prominence in the city and skyline as we tour the area.
We broke for lunch at an authentic Turkish "fast food" restaurant (which was anything but) and we all agreed that it was a delicious meal...beans, greens, eggplant and meal cassarole, veggie stew on rice...and Mario was thrilled to have permission to order a Turkish coffee. You would have thought we handed him a gold coin!
Afterwards, we walked to Topkopi Palace, the habitation of the sultans in the Ottoman Empire. It consisted of a complex of buildings hidden behind ancient walls, reminescent of The Forbidden city or the Kremlin. Inside, we strolled in the open courtyard, where processions would be held, through the Festival Gate, where we saw the court and buildings where the sultan would recieve guests...on a truly "sultan sized" bed (think three king beds attached together). Three of the buildings held Ming dishes used to serve the over 800 residents, an kitchen, displays of silver treasures, and the gifts and spoils from various countries. Wherever we looked, we saw cats...Mario was pleading to take one home!
Then the Bazzaar...it was a cold, cloudy, damp and windy afternoon as we made our way through the maze of covered streets (4 miles total) studying the variety of neatly displayed and brightly colored goods for sale...glass lamps, textiles, dishes, jewelry and clothing. The labryinth of shops seemed endless. We discovered a few replicas of Aladdin's lamp to admire. We were told that it was the custom to barter...asking half of what we were willing to pay. I was shocked to have my first offer accepted (much less than the asking price, or what others in our group paid). I think the shop owner felt sorry for me, as I returned twice to examine the scarves, and was afraid to insult the shopkeeper with my low bid. Mario was tickled to find a small dagger for 1/2 the asking price.
Three times we were asked (by a shopkeeper, elderly Russian woman, and two Turkish young men) our nationality. I was please that we were not immediately identified as an "Ugly American", since we as a whole can have that reputation. Dan thought it was because of M&O's appearance...hailing originally from Soviet Georgia, (which borders Turkey), they blended with the Turkish. I, on the other hand, stood out with my silver locks. Very few if any Turkish people had grey hair from what I could see.
All in all, it was a wonderful adventure...but, I was only able to pass out 7 or so tracts. I completely forgot them in my purse. Please pray, as we tour Turkey for 3 more days, that I will take the opportunity to pass on the Good News.
Tommorrow, we head for Pergamum and Sardis. Good night!