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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

GAWA Day #28: My Day in Istanbul

Istanbul was founded in the 13th century BC, making it around 3300 years old.  My early remembrance is a Four Lads hit:  Istanbul (not Constantinople).  I once owned that album on the left.  How many remember that the song was written in 1953 on the 500th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople?  Who remembers that the lyrics also refer to New York City once being New Amsterdam?  Yes, this is getting ridiculous, but the inspiration was  Paul Whitman's C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-I-N-O-P-L-E in 1928.  If you are not too old and somehow recognize the song, it was covered in 1990 by They Might Be Giants.  That's a rock group, not the 1971 movie with George C. Scott imagining himself as Sherlock Holmes.  Here are the Four Lads on PBS four years ago.

The city was originally called Lygos, the Greeks arrived in 700 BC, and the Romans took over in AD 196, changing the name to Byzantium.  Then along came Emperor Constantine the Great, and the city was re-named Constantinople in 330 as the capital of the Roman Empire.  The population rose to 450,000 in the year 500, making it the largest in the world.  600 years later, in the 12th century, Constantinople remained the largest and wealthiest European city.  It fell to the Ottomans in 1453. Around this time, the popular name became Istanbul.  A lot of ups and downs, but in the 16th century, with a population of 700,000, Constantinople (still officially called by this name) became #2 only to Beijing, which had perhaps a million residents.  

Today, Beijing is #3 (21.5 million) to Shanghai (24.2) and Karachi (23.5).  Some reports indicate that Tokyo is #1, and it does have the largest municipality with 37 million people.  Seoul has 25.6 million and Shanghai 24.8.  New York City is #1 in the USA with 20 million, rating #11 in the world. 

The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 and the capital was moved to Ankara.  In 1930 Constantinople was officially named ISTANBUL.  What a history!  Today, the metro area of Istanbul is #17 with 14.3 million people.  Ankara is 218 miles away from Istanbul, and a brand new high speed train connects the cities in less than 4 hours, but, because of the terrain, is 331 miles long.  It is said that plane travel between these two cities can take up to 5 hours when you include getting to and from the airports.

Ankara is where the deadliest terroristic act ever in Turkey, the detonation of two human bombs, killed at least 97, injuring nearly 250.  ISIS has generally been blamed, but the body parts are so well strewn out that confirming evidence is lacking.

Here is a readable map of Istanbul, but you might need to click on it.  My hotel is located at the extreme left edge at seaside.

My tour took me to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar.  All three are within a few minutes walk of each other and, because of logistics, the Blue Mosque was our first stop.  Just outside is the Hippodrome, with various obelisks and the Serpent Column (above), which was brought to Constantinople in 324 by Constantine from Delphi.

No one in Turkey refers to the Blue Mosque as the Blue Mosque.  This is an alien's term referring to the blue tiles.  The official name is Sultan Ahmet Mosque (left), for he built it from 1609 to 1616.  There are 200 stained glass windows and the mosque is still actively used for praying.

This scene above shows the direction to Mecca, or more accurately, praying is focused on the Masjid al-Haram, or Sacred Mosque, around which Hajj pilgrims circle, and close by where 244 were trampled to death last week.  Never publicized, but 272, in addition, died of natural causes, for many are elderly and anyone who passes away during this pilgrimage goes straight to Heaven.  This belief is essentially universally for Muslims.  My greatest benefit was talking to the guide about Islam.

Here is something from Pew:

The coming of Mahdi will coincide with the return of Jesus.  But the Mahdi is not Mohammed.

I learned that:
  • Jesus and Mohammed are prophets of Allah (another term for God).
  • Mohammed is related to the clan that started with Abraham.
  • Mohammed was the last prophet, who for 23 years received revelations from Allah for the Qur'an, which consisted of around 600 pages
  • The Qur'an was revealed in Mecca, read in Egypt and written in Istanbul.
  • Mohammed was an environmentalist.
  • The Qur'an is scientifically unchallenged.
  • Angels have no gender.
This is what you get because I bought a selfie camera:

Hagia Sophia was commissioned by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (lefthe selected a physicist and a mathematician to duo-design the edifice) and completed in 537, serving as a Greek Orthodox Cathedral until 1453--but a Roman Catholic Cathedral from 1204 to 1262--and a mosque from 1453 to 1931, when it was secularized as a museum.It was the world's largest cathedral for a millennium, until the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

In many ways--wars, earthquakes, floods--it is remarkable that this marvel of architecture has stood for 1478 years.  The U.S. Geological Survey earlier this year reported that the risk of "The Big One," earthquake, that is, during the next 30 years, is 62%.  A 7.6 moment magnitude struck Istanbul in 1990, and this structure survived.  But the Big One?

The Grand Bazaar portion was truncated by our group sitting in a salesroom with a bunch of professionals providing a tutorial on how their rugs are made.  Why SHE Tour does this is a matter of maximizing profits, I guess.  However, this portion almost totally negated everything.  Mischievously, I asked how many actually buy a rug, and mentioned to one of them that 5% would be my guess.  They sell 5,000/year and have 75,000 tourists come through, so that's 6.7%. Congratulating myself, I got out as fast as I could, and only had a few moments in the bazaar:

I asked about saffron, and was told 5 grams would cost $85.  I settled for one gram at $10, and I'm sure I paid too much.  The quality in Turkey is supposedly suspect.  One ounce of marijuana in Colorado goes for around $200, for which you should be able to make 28 joints.   There are 28 grams in an ounce, so one gram would be worth $7.  Interesting to note one ju-ju (that's a joint) in a coffee shop in Amsterdam costs $10.   I won't really know what to do with my saffron when I get home, although I know you can't smoke it.  So, thus far, my only souvenirs are the smallest Burj Khalifa statue in Dubai and one gram of saffron in Istanbul.  That's the flower from which saffron is made.

I should mention that I showed up for the tour in what I thought would be warm weather.  It was in the 80's when I walked around Istanbul yesterday.  Today, it was in the high 50's with a cold wind and a slight drizzle.  Thankfully, most the tour occurred indoors.

When I returned to the Sheraton, it was 2PM, so I walked over to the Galleria to get some lunch.  I finally found spaghetti bolognese and a Caesar salad, which I took out and had in my room with a bottle of red wine (and fruits) provided by my hotel and beer from the Club Lounge:

Total cost to me?  Less than $10, and that was a lot of spaghetti and salad.  They provided four sets of plasticware, which must mean something.  The lunch was wonderful and relaxing.  Tomorrow, I'm booked for a fancy Turkish lunch.

Tropical Storm Nora has suddenly appeared close to the Big Island.:

However, most models show Nora not attaining hurricane strength, and taking a path south of the Hawaiian Islands:


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