Istanbul is actually not a bad city! I thought it would be like Morocco with no major shops and dirty, dingy streets. Okay, the streets weren't exactly the nicest but they were well made streets and Istanbul even has trams... that surprised me. Apparently though the trams are quite new. I went to the Grand Bazaar which is known for its jewelry and many other items of shopping... remembering that I am on a BUDGET... yeah.. well... after the Grand Bazaar I walked away with my budget completely shattered to smithereens... I think I spent about 3/4 of my budget in one day.. and what did I buy, I can imagine you asking - pfft... let's just say that yes, I got ripped off.. but my theory is I LOVE what I bought and so far on this trip I haven't spent loads on tacky souvenirs so that's how I justified my lack of budgeting control. Oh and I also loved the shop assistants who had conversations with my breasts... I really liked a piece of jewelry at one of the shops but the assistant would not look at my face so I decided against trying to even barter with him!
Istanbul isn't the kind of city that gets my pulse racing though. I went to the Blue Mosque which was actually really nice inside. I'm cathedraled and churched out from Europe travels and most recently Spain and thought I was also mosqued out but the Blue Mosque was cool. Lots of bluish tiles inside and a huge dome in the middle. Very pretty. You had to take your shoes off to go inside so the mosque stunk like smelly feet which was not overly pleasant... Mosques are meant to be sacred to muslims - and in Marrakesh, the main mosque there is not open to anyone who is not a muslim because it is a sacred place to them... Turkey does not appear to have that same level of commitment as Morocco!
We also went to an underground cistern which was cool. It was dark and there was lots of water and I don't think it is still used today as anything other than a tourist attraction but it was fun to see. There are 300 pillars used to secure the cistern and towards the back there are two medusas heads which no one knows why they are there. It is thought that they were brought from an ancient building from the late roman period.
I skipped the Hagia Sofia which was another mosque/church thing that I honestly never even heard of so I figured I could skip it. I figure the main attraction in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque - seen that so not going to pay to see another mosque which looks the same. I found an internet cafe and checked the damage to my bank balance and the guy behind the counter tried to rip me off for the internet cafe, telling me I owed 4 Euro when it stated that the minimum charge was 2 Euro for an hour - and I was less than an hour... so I told him so and he looks at me, huffs and says 'oh ok then, 3 Euro'... lol, I had to BARGAIN to pay the SET price at this internet cafe... I couldn't help but shake my head and laugh.
After that I found the group and we spent what felt like forever at Topkapi Palace - but it had nice gardens and good views of the city. We looked in some rooms that had pretty, sparkly jewelry and I saw an 86 karat gold ring with diamonds. Pretty. I'm not a gold girl though... I prefer white gold or silver. I used to like gold but not recently...
Back to the hotel after this exhausting day and after dinner a few of us decided to head out and smoke some shisha... was I up for that? Like you even need to ask! Apple flavoured shisha is fun to smoke. It can get harsh though and is not fun for the throat but when they make it right and it's smooth it is so good. Not a late night because tomorrow - Gallipoli!