Monday, October 20, 2014

Yeni Cami (New Mosque).


First morning in Istanbul. I had a great night's sleep. Though our neighborhood is bustling with activity during the day, it's dead quiet at night. I opted to sleep on the living room couch so I could open the window. The temperature during the night was perfect for me.

Yesterday, I had asked Pelin for a recommendation on where to go to have a *real* Turkish breakfast.  So far, Bro has only had tourist meals.  I want him to have a taste of the real thing.  Pelin recommended a place called Van, named after the Kurdish city in Eastern Turkey.  Located just around the corner from the apartment, we had passed by it on our walk yesterday. Turns out it's a very popular place for locals to come for breakfast. Perfect!



The full name of the restaurant is Van Kahvaltı Evi. It's a charming, little restaurant with some outdoor seating. Inside, it has a very cosy, rustic feel to it. We sat inside.

From the menu, I ordered a few items for us to share but the main dish was sucuklu menemen, a dish of eggs scrambled just until barely set, mixed with tomatoes, chilies, and sucuk, the iconic dry, spicy Turkish sausage.  The eggs were served in the classic Turkish metal serving bowl. 


The menemen came with a basket of crusty bread and I ordered two cups of Turkish çay which of course came served in their traditional tulip shaped glasses.  This meal was as traditional as it gets!


After breakfast, we decided to walk to Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Passage), a covered arcade with rows of historic cafes, winehouses and restaurants.  Originally called *Cité de Péra*, the building is located right on İstiklal Caddesi in the heart of Taksim. I had read that behind Çiçek Pasajı is a fish market.  We love to explore fish markets and the best time to go is in the morning so off we went.

I've been here for less than 24 hours but I've already decided that Cihangir is a lovely neighborhood.  The streets were quiet as most of the commercial establishments had yet to open up for business.



We had walked past Çiçek Pasajı yesterday.  You can't miss the building.  It looks like something you see walking down the streets of Paris.  Just goes to show you how *European* Istanbul can be.


We entered the building and walked through the arcade.  Just from the linen table cloths and silverware that had been set out, you could tell these were very upscale restaurants we were passing by.  The other exit took us to Sahne Caddesi.  The short block long street is flanked on both sides by seafood restaurants and vendors.  There were a number of produce vendors as well as shops selling meat and dairy products.  


It looked like a nice  place to come for dinner but sadly, the *fish market* part consisted of less than a handful of shops.  We did stop at one seafood vendor because he had a very unusual looking fish for sale.  Our best guess was that it was some sort of a snapper.  Bro and I agreed that we would not buy any fish that we could get at home and this was the only one that stood out.  Unfortunately, the guy want 75TL for it and that was much more than I was willing to spend on a fish, especially one that I had no idea how it tasted.  We tried to bargain him down but he was only willing to drop a few lira; still not enough for me to want to fork over the money.  It was disappointing to not have gotten any seafood.

On the other hand, Bro found a produce stand selling some delicious looking persimmons.  Those we bought.


We made a quick pit stop back at the apartment to drop off the fruit.  Then it was off to the tram station!

Today, Bro gets to really delve into historic Istanbul.  He finally gets to see the place that millions of travelers before him, including his Istanbul obsessed sister and many a travel magazine consistently rave about.  The plan was to take the tram over to Eminönü and from there make our way to Süleymaniye Cami and then walk to Rüstem Paşa Cami. From there, we would visit the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar and Yeni Cami. We would end the day by walking across the Galata Bridge, stroll through Karaköy and then back to the apartment. Of course, that was the starting plan. I am always prepared for nothing to go as planned :-)

Bro's first challenge of the day was to purchase our tokens for the tram ride.  It's been a while since I've had to buy a token but it didn't take long for me to remember.  But Bro's the kind of person that needs to figure things out on his own so I let him take his time.  Of course, in the end, it was a lot simpler than he thought.


We boarded the train when it arrived.  It was rush hour and the train was packed with commuters.  Lucky for us, it was a very short ride; barely 15 minutes later and we were getting off at Eminönü.  I led Bro across the street to the small plaza area that fronts one of my favorite places in Istanbul, Yeni Cami.

Out came our cameras.  So what was he taking a photo of?


Me, of course.  Standing in front of Yeni Cami!


Yes, the original plan was to visit Yeni Cami later in the day but since we were already standing in front of it, Bro suggested we might as well go inside and so we did.


We headed up the steps and entered in to Yeni Cami's courtyard.  This is a beautiful little mosque.  Although it's pretty much laid out like all the other mosques, with an ablution fountain in the center of the courtyard, prayer hall to one side, I find the architectural details to be far nicer, far more delicate in the decoration....perhaps this reflects the fact that the person who ordered its construction was a woman.




It has beautiful Iznik tiles adoring the exterior walls.  I took this photo on my May 2008 visit.


I'm pretty certain that this was Bro's first visit ever to a mosque so I'm glad he's visiting a very nice one!  We took off our shoes, I covered my head and we went inside.  The ever so lush carpet's changed but everything else has remained the same.  This place is as stunning as I remember it to be.

Before Bro had a chance to spend much time looking at the main prayer hall and the magnificent painte4d domes above, I took him to the side area to see the part of the mosque that I took a winning photo of.

In December 2012, I entered my photo, taken inside Yeni Cami, in a online contest held by AFAR magazine.  It was a four week long contest.  At the end of each week, they would pick a winner who would be awarded an iPad mini.  I won the first week!  Since I already had an iPad, I gave the iPad mini to Bro. 


The ultimate prize of the four week contest was for the photo to be published in the magazine. Not to brag or anything but I thought my photo was better than the other three and apparently, so did the editors at AFAR.  I won the contest!  The announcement came in January but I had to wait several months before seeing my photo in print.  Here's my published photo in the May 2013 issue of AFAR magazine!  Yes, I did some post processing to saturate the colors but you have to admit, it's a winning photo!

 
Okay, with that bit over, I let Bro loose to see the rest of the mosque and to take photos.  I'm sure it all looked pretty amazing to him; after this, I can see he'll have a taste for just how magnificent Islamic architecture is!  Myself, I've got dozens of photos of this place so I barely took a handful on this trip.  My only wish is that I had a wider angle lens to fully capture the expansiveness of this place.

I caught sight of Bro taking a few pictures but for the most part, he was doing as I was - just walking around and soaking it all in.

The really nice thing about Yeni Cami is despite its central location, it's stone's throw from the Spice Bazaar, there are relatively few tourists here as compared to the Blue Mosque.  Perhaps it lacks the notoriety of the Blue Mosque but it more than matches in beauty. 







We weren't inside for long.  There's nothing to see but the main prayer hall.  Back outside, I took a photo of Yeni Cami from a distance.  Of all the photos I had taken in 2008, surprisingly, none showed the entire building from the outside.  The things you miss.  So lucky, I had an opportunity to make up for that oversight!


Next, it was off to the Plant Market and Spice Bazaar!