This one will certainly be one of those Sundays which we will never forget. It certainly doesn’t happen every day that one walks through the Istanbul market, or that you find yourself talking to the Imam of the Blu Mosque, yet this is part of what our team lives on the warm day of June.
Once we are through with our breakfast, we decide to go directly to the Sultan Ahmed I Mosque, best known as the Blu Mosque, which is certainly the most important and evocative of all Istanbul. There is eight of us, so we need to take three taxis, yet, because of communication problems (either you speak Turkish, or they won’t understand!) we have been dropped in thoroughly different and opposite places. Rubens, Giannino, and Silvano are even 3 km apart from us; so, let’s say that a good healthy early morning walk can’t be but the healthiest thing to do!
So, we gather the group back again, and we enter this magnificent Mosque whose name comes from the turquoise ceramic tiles that cover the walls and the dome, as we have learned by now because of the numberless different mosques encountered in this journey. Just imagine that there are 21,043 tiles which make this color the predominant shade in the temple. The majolicas in the inner area then change from blue to green and decorate the rest of the mosque in a game of lights and colors created by the sunrays which, by penetrating the 260 windows in the prayer room, create a really special illumination. It happened that in this place Filippo was taken by a “Qur’anic curiosity” and approached the Imam trying to get him on a chat on Islam and placed some questions about his religion. He wants to know more … He wants “to understand,” but his attempt fails. He only gets answers without justified motivations to his questions: “It is so because the Qur’an says so and the Qur’an is unfailing.”
Aware of the stiffness of this religion, we leave the Mosque and gaze once again at the majesty of this construction wanted by Sultan Ahmed I: it is the only one in the world which has six minarets, the Ka’Ba’s in the Mecca has seven. By the way, the minarets were supposed to be golden made, to be distinguished from others, but when the Sultan ordered the construction to a French architect, the latter understood the word “Higher” in Turkish “six” instead of “Altin” or “Gold.” Nevertheless, it is still a truly unique beauty!
We can’t possibly visit everything around Istanbul, so we would like at least to have a vision on its total extent! Hence, we head to the Galata tower, a 63-meter height stone tower dating back to the Middle Ages, from which one can oversee the Bosphorus Strait and from which one can have a breathtaking view of Istanbul.
After searching for some time on the web, we found out that there are some neighborhoods which are hardly stridden by tourists, thou really fascinating. As we fancy going around looking for the charms of the places we visit, we decide to take a look to one of these and choose the one that is supposed to be the most distinctive.
Taking our usual taxis (we managed this time to have them travel one behind the other) we reach the Balat district, the historic Jewish neighborhood of town, which hasn’t changed from the Byzantine and Ottoman times, showing the peaceful coexistence of religions that have always been present In Istanbul. Today, the Jewish minority has moved elsewhere, but the neighborhood has kept its charm that must be lived, breathed and discovered.
It has its own identity, quite perceptible. You can feel just by walking through its narrow streets and by roaming amid its small fancy and antique shops, among its renovated bars, yet always keeping a well-defined character. And among the “clubs” where groups of men more or less old, surrounded by clouds of cigarette smoke (now we know why they say, “to smoke like Turks!!!”), play a strange game called “Okey,” and by using something similar to dominoes. It is a place where you can certainly get lost forgetting about time problems and mingle with its inhabitants so to better understand it and know it. For sure one of us will come back… Maybe to spend some holidays!
So, we find solace in a “small” bazaar not too far from there. You can also get easily lost here among the maze of tiny streets and floods of people crossing it. It was by separate groups that we get back to the hotel.
Time has flown away, yet it was long enough to understand that Istanbul is one of those cities which one should put on the list of places to see at least once in a lifetime.