When the Genoese were based in Istanbul they constructed a series of forts; Galata tower built in 1349 still survives from this time. It has served as a jail, fire tower, and even as a launching pad for early aviators attempting to fly. Today an elevator takes long lines of tourists to the top for great views of the city. When we got there we were glad to see our cruise ship had arrived.
The neighborhood around the tower was fun to explore. In the US if you want to buy a lamp you drive to a free standing lamp store or a mall or a hardware store. In Istanbul there are countless tiny lamp stores located side by side all in one neighborhood. This is the case for many other products. All the stores selling one product are bunched together. With this approach shoppers have many more choices than we do, since our inventories are often determined by a corporate type in a city far away. As we wandered away from the tower we went through lamps into plumbing hardware into baskets into kitchen stoves, but none of the stores were open.
This was because today was the second day of a four day holiday commemorating the story in the Old Testament when Abraham offered to sacrifice his only son to God. He was rewarded for his willingness to sacrifice what he valued most when a lamb wandered by and God told him to sacrifice it instead. Today Muslims sacrifice a sheep, goat or cow and donate most of the meat to the needy. This is supposed to be done in a low key modest way, meant not to humiliate the poor. Two years ago when we were in Egypt, no one warned us about this holiday and it was a shock to come upon a cow whose throat was in the process of being slit in the middle of the street. We did not see similar sights here and were told that you can conduct the purchase of the animal and its subsequent distribution to the poor online.
One things we will not miss when we leave here is the high volume blaring coming from the minarets five times a day reminding the faithful that it is time to pray. Many mosques are quite close to each other and the call to prayer is done by a live person. Sometimes if reminds us of dueling banjos and each imam starts shrieking at a slightly different time in a different key. We never see anyone react to the call; people just keep going with whatever they were doing. We have heard that most folks pray at home when they have time. Modern life does not have time to allow people to pop into the mosque or pull out a rug five times a day.
We’ve read that this city has traffic problems. On the taxi ride from our hotel to the cruise ship we experienced it for ourselves. A twenty minute trip took an hour and a half. There was total gridlock for no obvious reason except that there were too many cars on the road. Our cab driver tried different routes, but they all were jammed. It would have been more stressful if the ship was about to leave, but it will be in port again tomorrow.