Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Blue Mosque - October 19, 2013

After a delicious Turkish breakfast (more about that later), we were off to the Blue Mosque.  Click here to read all about it's history. My duty here is to tell you through pictures and a few words how incredibly beautiful this building is.  

First of all, it is huge!

The interior columns are gigantic!

Everything is in shades of blue, but the most impressive blue material are the tiles which cover the walls casting the entire building in a lovely blue light.

The windows are perfectly placed to capture light and bounce it from wall to wall.

The carpet underfoot adds yet another element of blue. 

 Ladies have their own praying area, but we did see a woman in Western dress leading an educational seminar.  The variety of dress we saw women wearing as well as their roles in the community was astounding.  Obviously, this is another area where stereotypes can be very deceiving.  There doesn't seem to be a "typical" Muslim. 

Speaking of the dress code for women, we saw very few burkas complete with the eye covering.  A few more women were wearing the style seen above, and many others wore plain coats in varying lengths with colorful scarves.  Most women we saw were wearing clothes that would be equally at home in the United States. 

All in all, the building was spectacular, but the human interest story was even better. 

I am so sorry this picture didn't turn out better.  You will just have to take my word for it that even though the guy on the right has my heart forever, the one on the left was one of the best looking men I've seen in a while. His job was to befriend tourists on the street and offer to show them a secret way to enter the Blue Mosque, therefore avoiding the loooooooong line at the main entrance.  Of course, I was game. 

As promised, he took us to a side entrance and showed us how to enter the line discretely.  We were inside the building before you could say, "Peace by with you." 

When we exited, he was there waiting for us. "Now," he said, "would you like to see my carpet shop?" There was only one answer.  Certainly!  We would love to visit the carpet shop.

 One last photo and we were on our way.

We looked at hundreds of rugs, but none intrigued me as much as watching this woman at her loom.

Her smile was enchanting

We finally agreed on a small tree-of-life rug, paid for it, and we were on our way to Haiga Sofia.

Istanbul - October 18, 2013

Arrival at the Istanbul airport was quite a shock to my system. We had just left Zagreb, the capital of Croatia and its largest city with a population of fewer than 800,000 people. Istanbul is the second largest city in the world by population. The latest census counted 13.9 million people, and I don't think anyone has moved away.

We were met by a representative of the hotel who escorted us to our shuttle and off we went to the Hotel Romantic.  Again, we had decided that everything we wanted to see in Istanbul was in Old Town and the Hotel Romantic was a great place to start.

If didn't take long to explore lower levels of this tiny hotel, but once we reached the roof-top terrace, we were spell-bound. This was our view from one window,

And this was the view from the opposite direction.

After settling in, we went for a walk around the neighborhood,

Found a great restaurant

Featuring fish so fresh they were still wiggling.

By the time we finished dinner, it was already dark.  Back to the hotel. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Zagreb - Day 3 - October 17, 2013

We spent the morning on Ulica Tkalcica, a famous street lined with shops and coffee bars.  So much to see! Take a look!

It's hard to over emphasize what a pleasant morning this was.
One of the best shops was a small gallery of Croatian Naive Art.
It was a great place to buy prints!

These young ladies were all dressed up for Halloween.  A little early perhaps, but they were drumming up enthusiasm for a Halloween party.

A name like Dona doesn't show up very often - at least not outside of Mexico.  In Zagreb, I saw it twice.  I need to find out what it means.  I'm sure it's something sweet.

This was our third visit to Zagreb, but the first two visits were limited to the train station.  We had had the idea that Zagreb was a big dirty city, light on attractions and heavy on industry.  What a nice surprise the Old Town was! We will definitely plan to come back, but for now it was time to get back to the hotel and pack up. Tomorrow we will be on our way to Istanbul!

Zagreb - Day 2 October 16, 2013

In all honesty, we got a bit of a late start this morning. We had decided not to do anything in Zagreb except the old town and today was dedicated to Kaptol Hill.  That meant the cathedral and its environs, another look at the square, and dinner.  

First, the cathedral. The tallest building in Croatia, it is Neo-Gothic at its most extreme.  So tall, that it is hard to get it all in one picture and made even taller by the scaffolding on the northern tower.  The cathedral has been under renovation for several years as efforts are being made to reverse the years of neglect during the Nazi Occupation of Croatia followed by more neglect during the time of Communist control

These two pillars serve as a good example of the ravages of time on the soft limestone used in the construction of the cathedral.  The one on the right is a recent copy of what the one on the left looked like originally.  (Note to self:  Choose building materials wisely. Pay a bit more if necessary.)

The occasional earthquake doesn't help.  This clock shows the time of the quake in 1880. 

The history of the cathedral reaches all the way back to 1093, but it was after the 1880 earthquake that the cathedral took its present form.
The cathedral is dedicated to Assumption of Mary and to St. Stephen and St. Ladislaus, both former kings.

It is also the resting place of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac.

 I thought the main entrance was beautiful!

The nave
Little details

 The altar

And this dramatic presentation on the back wall.

Fortification walls and towers

And then there were the gardens.  With spires towering above the trees . . . . . 
Majestic trees!

Wide leaf strewn paths.  It was quite a garden.  We each had our favorites.  

For Stanley it was this tree which he declared to be the largest yew he had ever seen.

I chose this demure little maid entitled Modesty.

Across the way was the great city market, Dolac.

The fish market was just closing.

But the vegetable and fruit stalls were still open for business.

And, did I mention flowers?  This was only one of about twenty stalls selling fresh flowers and potted plants. I wanted more than anything to trade my hotel room for an apartment.  It would have been so much fun to walk down the street with a bag full of that beautiful produce topped with a bouquet of flowers.  Not this time.

Back to Ban Jelačić Square.  That's the man himself on the horse. He cuts quite a figure.

Mimes are a common sight on the streets of Europe, but most of them choose very rigid poses that require standing for long periods of time, but this guy was pretty smart.  Behind that black cloth is a very comfortable chair.  

On the way to dinner that evening, we met this group of people. I'm not very good at estimating crowd size, but we met five different groups with at least this many people. They were headed for St. Mark's church where we had seen the political posters the day before.  When we left the restaurant we could hear what seemed to be long, impassioned speeches.  I didn't really need a translator.  

Another fabulous dinner at the Triology.  Robert, our waiter made it all the more interesting with his banter.  He even apologized for not having a more Croatian sounding name.  

Back to Hotel Ilica, one of the funkier places I've found for us to stay. The location was great, and the service was special, but the manager was STRANGE!

Forget the manager.  We slept!  Soundly!