|Sarcophagus detail at the Istanbul Archeological Museum|
I'm going to go slightly out of order describing my days in Istanbul just because I had pre-written more about Day 5 and less about Day 4. Day 5 was kind of a clean up day getting to a few sights I had missed around Sultanahmet and Eminonu. Remember, all photos were taken by me and are clickable for larger versions. More can be found on my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9905418@N05/sets
Archaeological Museum. I wasn't quite as impressed with this museum as I expected but the collection of sarcophagi found along the Aegean coast is stunning. The collections of artifacts from the rest of Turkey is not as extensive or interesting. (Much of the cool stuff from Turkey is in Berlin, after all.) On the way here I walked through Gulhane Park from the entrance behind the Sirkeci station railroad tracks. The flowers were blooming and the park smelled really nice! Not exactly like Istanbul's Central Park but popular with the locals and tourists alike.
New Mosque. I got to the New Mosque by the Galata Bridge right at 2:00 on Friday afternoon as the midday prayer service was concluding. There must have been 1,000 people in there, it took a while to empty out. Definitely worth the visit. The tilework here rivals the Blue Mosque and is less crowded.
Spice Bazaar. A little less aggressive than the Grand Bazaar with many of the stalls selling spices (or Turkish Delight). The standard tourist fare can be found here as well, ceramics, lamps, even rugs. The spice kiosks are an assault on the senses, with all the spices chiming in at once in your nose. Very colorful too! Outside the bazaar proper are several streets where locals shop for housewares, clothing, etc. I picked up a small brass coffee grinder (more decorative than practical since the amount you can grind in one load is fairly small) and also the Mehmet Efendi coffee roastery where I picked up a kilo of freshly roasted and ground Turkish coffee.
Mehmet Efendi Coffee: http://www.mehmetefendi.com/mehmetefendi/eng/pages/index.html
Rustem Pasha Mosque. Listed as a highlight on most of the travel sites. A little hard to find among the commercial hustle and bustle of the Spice Bazaar and surrounding streets. But once you spot the entryway -- up a low-ceilinged flight of stairs from the side street, it's like a refuge from the noise of the streets. I mostly had the place to myself with just a couple of other visitors. I'd even say the interior is bluer than the Blue Mosque. Like the Laleli Mosque, this would be a good place to bring a book or your lunch and sit outside in the forecourt enjoying the day.
|Rustem Pasha Mosque|
Süleymaniye Mosque. Up the hill from Rustem Pasha through a busy commercial district. A large complex with the tomb of Suleiyman the Magnificent (couldn't go in, not sure if you usually can or cannot). Given the size and importance of this mosque, there aren't many visitors here. Gives you the chance to walk around and enjoy it (compared to the crowds at the Blue Mosque).
|Borrowed this pic from their|
This section from the Wikipedia entry for the Mevlevi order kind of backs up what I said above about theatrical vs. spiritual: The Mevlevi Order was outlawed in Turkey in September 1925 by Atatürk's new Turkish Republic. ... In 1954 the Mevlevi were given partial rights to perform semâ in public but primarily because it was important as a tourist attraction for Turkey, but as a Sufi order they are still banned.
Mevlevi Order: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mevlevi_Order
Sema ceremony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sama_(Sufism)
Hodjapasha Cultural Center: http://www.hodjapasha.com
|Interior of the ablution fountain at the Süleymaniye Mosque|