So when a friend asks me to make sure I post pictures of the Blue Mosque, the informal name of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, I take these assignments seriously. Especially so, when it comes from a fellow San Francisco Giants fan. However, unbeknownst to me, this was going to be tougher than I anticipated. In fact, it took me most of the early morning and afternoon, before I would even sniff the Blue Mosque.
What happened? Let me count the ways . . . First and foremost, there is a language problem, where my Arabic language skills suck. OK, OK, they’re non-existent. I can barely pronounce what I am trying to find, much less insert what I am trying to find in a coherent Arabic sentence. The only good news here is that I have a new appreciation for the Spanish language skills I acquired by studying Spanish for almost 5 months in anticipation of my S. and C. American trip last year. I felt down right confident while in Latin America.
Not knowing how to say anything in Arabic or the various Turkish language dialects is quite difficult to overcome, since most Turkish people don’t speak English. In short, I was “flailing” away like a Pee Wee baseball hitter against Cy Young when trying to find a train or bus that would take me in the general direction of the Blue Mosque. I spent an hour and a half literally going from the Bus depot across from Taksim Square, where the train station was and vice versa. I went back and forth at least 5 times. Why didn’t I pull the trigger? Why not just take a train or a bus that at least 6-7 Turks told me to take? Simple. I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD THEY SAID WHILE GIVING ME DIRECTIONS. My uncertainty paid off in the long run, since any of those earlier potential choices probably would have had me located on the other side of the city.
I finally found someone at a Taksim Square Information kiosk – I have no idea how I missed this place – that gave me two bus numbers to look for (one going toward the Blue Mosque and one that would bring me back to Taksim Square). Bingo! I got on the bus and sure enough it did seem to be following the map I was looking at. Nevertheless, I had no idea where to get off. In fact, I had seen a couple of large mosques and was wondering if I should have gotten off the bus. This is how unfamiliar I was with the Blue Mosque. I had no idea what it looked like, except I knew it had to have a round roof and minarets around it. Oh yeah, and probably have a blue exterior paint job. Wrongo I would learn later.
My decision about where to get off the bus was essentially made for me, as it came to the end of the line (bus depot), where everyone had to get off; and since the area did look like a big, big tourist area, the mosque couldn’t be that far away, right? Wrong. I started walking and before you could say Indiana Jones, I was right in the middle of the Grand Bazaar. Wow! This was totally cool, but I was on a Mission From Snarkk and shopping wasn’t in my plan today. Yeah, I did look a bit, but I was planning on doing this another day, so somehow I was able to extract myself from the madness and chaos that the Grand Bazaar is and found the main street again.
While walking a few kilometers, I came across every manner of Mosque, a University, and quite a few tombs, but no Blue Mosque. I thought I was close a couple of times. Visiting at least two Mosques that were magnificent in their own right. Ironically, I met other westerners that were dealing with the same frustration. For example, I asked this one German couple about a mosque we had just visited and they were stumped like I was. They had no idea if what we saw was the Blue Mosque.
I did discover one potential issue though, and it had to do with what I was wearing. I had shorts on and no one that entered the mosque had shorts on. In fact, each mosque had a prominently displayed sign indicating with an X through the offending shorts that I was probably not wanted. However, I was spared the embarrassment of being turned away by nice security personnel that provided me with something akin to a blue dress, where I could enter each mosque. So, I continued on my quest for the one and only . . .
So, how did I find the Blue Mosque? I was in this park with an amphitheater and I was sitting on a bench, when this women and her teenage daughter sat next to me. I overheard them speaking English and I said to myself, what the hell? I asked the mother, “Do you know where the Blue Mosque is?” She sort of chuckled and said, “It’s behind that tree over there.” I answered idiotically, “Ahh haa! I knew it was somewhere around here.” Duh!
So, that’s how I found the Blue Mosque. Before walking to it, I decided to take some pictures of my discovery from where I first saw it. I asked a young Russian student, Irena, if she would take a couple of photos of me posing in front of it. Afterwards, I didn’t immediately go to the mosque, but chatted with her. I found out she was a student in Turkey and wanted to live here. She was quite friendly and I told her about my RTW trip. I also told her about my blog and gave her my email address and blog site HTML. No guarantee, but she seemed to be interested in showing me the city. We shall see if she contacts me. I hope so. 🙂
Anywho, these are the rest of the pictures of the Blue Mosque. By the by, directly across from the Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sophia. Too funny, huh? Unfortunately, my tablet battery was almost dead. More important, I was dead tired and although I took some long distance photos of this magnificent shrine, I will undoubtedly return tomorrow or the day after to ensure that I give it my full energy and attention.