the first great one we took was to the princes islands, last saturday. almost the whole group came along -- we were all craving a bit of sun and sand to remind us of home, i think. so we got on this huge ferry, immediately hit the top deck, and took over the rails for the best view of the 2000 year old coastline as we drifted away. as our IDO (abbreviation of some kind for the istanbul public ferries) left shore, i finally came to understand how the magnificence of the hagia sophia, suleymaniye camii, topkapi palace and theodosius' walls would have impressed byzantine and later, ottoman power on any visitors. we were quickly reminded our judith herrin's description of this approach:
"the power of the church's profile dominates the skyline, the sheer bulk of the immense structure grows as one approaches by sea. Its great dome is amazing at a distance and becomes even more striking as the enormous buttresses that support it are revealed..." (for more, see Judith Herrin's "Byzantium.")
as usual, my pictures can't do justice.
after the skyline faded into the distance, the first of th princes islands came into view. i don't think i've ever seen a beach as crowded. though in retrospect i regret this, we chose to stay on and try another island in efforts to find somewhere a little less crowded to go swimming.
we got off at heybeli island, as recommded by our coordinator yasemin, who was kindly accompanying us on the trip. most of the tour books suggested buyukada, but we just got off at heybeli and went for it. unfortunately, our excitement QUICKLY disseminated into dissapointment and for me, a bit of disgust, as we explored the island's coast. the island's only free-access beach was not a beach, not not not a beach. it was a cement landing, which you could hop off of, or crawl off of into algae-covered yuckiness. needless to say, we moved on. to get to the beach which we'd seen from the ferry, we had to traverse the island -- everywhere we went we encountered horse-drawn carriages that were uncomfortably close to running us all over. more disturbing was the treatment of the horses. just like the horses which draw touristy rides in the states, these animals were obviously malnourished, being frequently whipped, and just so sad to see. i really, really hate seeing such beautiful, majestic animals being subjected to this kind of treatment. sorry for the tirade.
anyways we finally made it to a beach, and just as we were walking down to the water, the rain started coming down. we found refuge under this gazebo, and quickly got to WORK! (we ahve an enormous workload on top of the whole discovery-of-istanbul thing). a funny picture of us reading in the rain:
well, after a disappointing day of gloom, we decided to just head back early to istanbul. we caught an earlier ferry, which made a stop in asia. we took a necessary azn-tourist pic with the necessary azn hand gestures. someone else took the pic :(. i snapped this one, of asia with an interesting blend of a minaret, the turkish flag, the crane, etc.
a parting view of asia, as we moved through the bosphorous toward europe:
and that concluded our trip to the princes islands!
part two of the ferries ferries ferries post is about our second excursion off the european continent into uskudar, a district on the asian side of istanbul. this was our visit visit to a mosque, so SUPEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR exciting! but first, more ferries :).
and a quick pic with rohan (aka colgate model) as we took our first steps in asia:
after we docked, we climbed up a big hill to get to the atik valide mosque. on the way, our tour guide rabia saw a hamam and hooked it up so that we could each feel the EXTREME heat in the hamam! jeff, rohan, josh and i in front of the entrance:
so finally we got to the top of the hill and entered the kulliye (complex) -- often mosques can be found within larger complexes that include madresas, hospitals, public kitchens, gardens, mausoleums, etc. this one was no exception. we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the mosque, though, so we just have to skip the visual on that one. we spent some time in the mosque itself, just admiring everything and learning a bit about the structures, prayers, etc. jeff and i got excited and wanted to go through the complicated washing ritual, which you are supposed to complete before you enter the mosque. so we left the mosque, partook in the ritual, and re-entered for some more contemplation time.
when we entered for the second time, just the two of us, the guard came in and showed us his favorite things in broken english. he pointed out, for example, the original carvings on many of the ceiling fixtures, the massssssiiivveee candles (like, my size) surrounding the mihrab, the original tile (original means 16th century), etc. his enthusiasm for the complex he looked after was heartwarming.
jeff and i then rejoined the group for a break in the medresa :). we sipped 50 kurus limonata, while all the locals smiled and wondered what on earth we were doing there. then we took this group pic and it was time to head back to europe.
it was a wonderful trip into asia, full of very kind people, and as our motto persists, "a whole new part of istanbul."