The big day! The wedding is here!
Except first, let’s go see some really awesome things to drive home how great of a city this is.
We got started on Turkish Time again, leaving the hotel around 11. We had breakfast at a nearby restaurant, sampling more local fare. This included an ottoman style omelette, known as a menemen.
After we headed to one of the major tourist destinations that we had been saving for this day: the Hagia Sofia. Tourism has been down tremendously, and while we feel for the hurt this does to the local economy, there was hardly a line to get in, and very small crowds inside. On a weekend.
The Ayasofya, as it is called in Turkish, is huge. Shocking, right? Despite seeing it at all times from the areas we had been in, it’s scale is lost until you walk up to, and then into, it. I won’t bore you with details on history that can be learned from Wikipedia, and for a million photos just click through the Instagram feed. But it is easily one of the most awe inspiring places I have ever seen, and in a way that I don’t think will be beat easily.
If that wasn’t enough significant cultural visitation for one day, we then proceeded to the Blue Mosque. We had actually tried to go there first, but didn’t time our visit appropriately and visited during a time of prayer. Our second attempt brought us inside to the beautifully blue tiled interior lending to the mosques name. To get inside you must pass through a massive courtyard that is equally as splendid as the interior. The scale, again, is hard to grasp when you are that close.
We were by far in the extreme minority, ethnicity wise, in the crowd visiting. But visitors, those there for prayer, and the staff facilitating visitation were all incredibly welcoming. The admiration for the graciousness of opening such a sacred place of worship for all to see definitely added to the experience of the visit.
With two of the big “must dos” crossed off our list, we had a few hours until the wedding. Some last minute souvenir shopping was followed by a trip to our “regular” spot for a small snack and beer before beginning wedding prep. We ended up having a lengthy discussion about politics (which very few people would talk about, so we were enthralled) and once again found more similarities than differences.
Cleaned up and dressed up, we made our way to the rooftop terrace a bit later for the cocktail hour before the wedding. It was great to meet such diverse families and catch up with old friends. Time flew by and we quickly went into a brief, but memorable, ceremony. Delicious Turkish cuisine followed, everyone at the table fighting between the desire to finish everything in front of them, and still being able to fit into formalwear. Eventually it as time to dance, which was kicked off by some excellent solo and then family group dancing on Nadeems side of the family.
Following the wedding, merriment and dancing continued on a large party boat in the Bosphorus. Dancing and drinking with strobe lights going is enough of a challenge, the boat element made it even more daunting. But all prevailed, and almost 4 hours later we pulled back into port at nearly 3 am, grinning ear to ear from the excitement and happiness of the day (and night!).
Exhausted, we crawled into bed knowing that we had to say goodbye to Istanbul tomorrow, and begin the most challenging leg of travel.