If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.
–Alphonse de Lamartine
Istanbul (Constantinople is only a small part of it) was a bit overwhelming. I’ve been to places that felt like they were the middle of nowhere but spanning both Asia and Europe and bordering the Middle East, Istanbul feels like it can be a portal to everywhere. It has at various times belonged to the Greeks (Byzantium), the Romans and the Ottoman Empire and in its populace, architecture and style it incorporates all of these and more.
We visited the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) which was moving in its scope and ceremony and then we went to the marketplace. Everywhere are people selling their wares whether they be flutes, guidebooks, yoyo tops or carpets. It can be very difficult to resist the natural charm, persistence and sheer sales ability of these street vendors. I asked one for directions to the nearest bank machine and found myself in possession of three small carpets.
After the bazaar we went on a cruise around the Bosporus Sea and then in the afternoon visited the Topakapi Palace and the Agia Sophia a beautiful building that has housed both Church, Mosque and now a combination of the two during its long history.
Someone told me long ago that the most important phrase you can learn in any language is Thank You. Over the years I have made a point in learning how to say it in as many languages as possible. This trip has brought home to me how a simple expression of appreciation to someone in their native language can open doors and make people smile. If you add to that true curiosity about their culture, faith and lives you can make friends almost anywhere
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