Coming from the far north of Queensland, Australia, there is a certain wonder that you can fly 2.5 hours and not only be in a different state, but in both a different country and a different culture. So we made our way to the Frankfurt airport that was sending planes in every direction of the compass, and took our flight to Istanbul.
Istanbul was a little warmer than Frankfurt. We caught a shuttle bus to our hotel, The Crown, in piyerlotti street. Out of tourist season, the hotel was not too busy. The rooms were small but warm and the showers hot. Breakfast was substantial in the middle eastern style of having cheese, olives, tomato and cucmber but also with cereal, toast, eggs. The hotel was central to key tourist sights and the tramway which connected to the metro.
Our first day was spent finding our way to a house that is situated at the place Baha’u’llah lived when exiled from Baghdad to Constantinople in 1863. This house is considered a holy place for Baha’is and a place of pilgrimage. The day was cold and rainy, and it took us an hour of walking from the tramstop, up one of the hills through a suburb. Local folk went out of their way to find us someone to speak english to give us directions. We were surprised to find that the people of the suburb in quite a central area, all seemed to know each other. It was like being in a small rural town and suggested to me that here were generations old residents who have stayed as the city has grown. Much different to the cosmopolitan character of our western cities and even to some extent the rural town I live in, where neighbours are newcomers and like strangers.
After visiting the Holy place, we walked to the Mosque that Baha’u’llah attended. With prayers five times a day we occasionally managed to arrive at a Mosque to find prayers were called and we had to wait until they were over. We were impressed during this time of waiting to observe numbers of young men walking briskly to attend the Mosque and sometimes meeting friends. With a late lunch stop we walked on to the Suleymaniye Mosque near which were entombed a few of the old Suleymaniye kings. These mosques are certainly magnificent in architectural form and size.
From Suleymaniye we walked back and through the Grand Bazaar. Finding our way through several streets of enclosed shops, we made our way to an exit that was only about 15 minutes back to our hotel. By that time the evening was drawing in although it was only 5pm.