Today in Istanbul, we went on a boat ride, we visited the mosque named Rustem Pasha, we strolled through the spice market, and had a grand, but bizarre, visit to the Grand Bazaar.
First, we went on a private boat cruise which went from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul. Our guide, Cem, (pronounced “Gem”) told us that the Asian side is much greener and usually families with younger children live there. But the bad thing about that is all the jobs are on the European side, so a lot of people take ferries across the river or cross by car. We learned many interesting facts about the Bosphorus River. Here are some of them:
- The Bosphorus River is 20 miles long
- The river connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea and then the Mediterranean
- The depth of it is 200 feet
- The narrowest point of the river is 400 feet
- The water speed is 5 knots and runs from north to south
- 55,000 container ships move through the river every year
- Half the day the ships go north to south, and half the day the ships go south to north, so they have to queue up if they are not at the right time and wait to cross
- The Treaty of Montreaux made the Bosphorus River international waters – so Turkey does not get any tax money from all of the boats and ships traveling up and down the Bosphorus
- Dolphins and jellyfish live in the Bosphorus River
After the boat ride, we went to the Rustem Pasha mosque which is located on the top level of the spice market. The mosque was built to get away from the mayhem of the spice market. In all mosques, you have to take your shoes off before you enter. You are also supposed to come in to the mosque clean after you’ve washed your legs from the knee down, your arms from the elbow down and your entire face. The women have to wrap their heads in scarves and they have to pray separate so they pray upstairs or in the back.
Next, we visited the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is a huge marketplace where you can buy almost anything. The coolest shop I saw (and went into) was the shop that sold warm scarves that were amazingly fuzzy and soft cashmere. The ones I loved the most were made of only the neck fur of the goat, which is the softest part. The Grand Bazaar was built in 1461, has 22 gates, 52 streets, and over 4,000 shops. It was where the Silk Road ended and where all of the great traders went to trade everything under the sun. To me, the Grand Bazaar was overwhelming, but exciting at the same time.
The craziest, and most bizarre, place we went was a secret store. We had to get an invitation from our guide, who got a cell phone call, and then we got ushered into a store that sold pashmina scarves… only it was only a fake pashmina store. It was really a secret store that sold really, really expensive purses and things in a secret room. Once you were in the fake pashmina store, you had to look into a security camera which then sent a message to the sales person who then opened up a secret mirror which you stepped through and into a hidden elevator. The elevator went up two floors, and opened not in a store, but in someone’s kitchen. You had to walk through the kitchen then through a maze in a closet, then down a flight of stairs and then into the most beautiful and fancy room filled with bags and shoes from Gucci, Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Chloe and really nice and expensive stuff. We aren’t supposed to ask or know how it got there, but it was bizarre. I cannot say if mom or dadd-o bought anything, but we were there a while. Funny. When we left, our fancy salesman asked dad if he was a movie star and thought he recognized dad from movies and then asked us to not tell anyone that they were there… so keep it a secret.
When the day ended I felt like it had just begun and I didn’t want it to end. Istanbul made me so intrigued to hear more about Turkey. A really funny fact is that people of Turkey don’t really eat turkey. GOBBLE! GOBBLE!