Yesterday Richie and I took our first trip to Asia! It is so easy and cheap to travel from the Asian to European side of Istanbul. Tokens for the ferry are only 1.50 TL, which is about €0.75. And I really thought it would take a while to cross the river, but I think it was only about ten minutes!
We traveled from Sultanahmet, just near the Galata bridge, over to Uskudar, one of the areas or neighborhoods of the Asian side of the city. It was a lot different from where we're staying now. It was a pretty quiet residential area, and there didn't seem to be loads of things to do. We did walk through a pretty impressive fish market though. As soon as I get a kitchen to cook in, I would definitely travel to Asia and back again to buy these fresh fish!
After much wandering, and a little of getting lost, we stopped for a cup of tea in a tea garden/cafe overlooking the Bosphorus. Later we stopped for another of Istanbul's lovely fish sandwich specialties (balik ekmek). The cafe was right on the water, and we had a lovely view. It seems that on every bit of space available at waters edge and on every bridge, there are tons of men fishing. They have buckets and pitchers and plastic cups full of sparkling little fish and rosy pink prawns. I'd love to join them sometime, but it is clearly a man's activity. I haven't seen a women at it yet.
Another thing I have enjoyed observing is the various headscarf fashions on displayed by women in the city. Maybe sometime I will be brave and ask some of them if I can take their picture, but that will have to wait until my Turkish is a lot better. I've seen women in the full burka, women in a more traditional countryside style headscarf, and women and girls with beautiful, colourful, stylishly arranged scarves. They look fabulous. I've been told that some headscarf styles make a political statement, some are purely a fashion statement, and some are a combination of the two. I hope to eventually be schooled in the art of wearing one and to try it out to see how I look in one.
Anyway, after our Uskudar experience, as we were heading to catch the return ferry to Sultanahmet, we were caught in the middle of four mosques, all sounding the Muslim call to prayer.
Traditionally, Muslims pray five set times a day, and a singer called a muezzin recites a prayer from the minaret of the mosque to remind the people that its time to pray. This prayer is called the adhan. Where we were, there were four mosques all in sight, and it was as if the four muezzins were competing with each other, pausing to allow the next to sing a verse before continuing. It is quite a remarkable sound. I think for anyone, it is a great opportunity to be brought back from your own private thoughts or whatever activities you're doing, and just to be in the moment and wake up to what is going on around you. In Istanbul, I think things are quite different from what I've heard this prayer time is like in other Muslim countries. Life just goes on and people just continue, walking, shopping, eating, drinking. I'm looking forward to learning more about Turkish people's experience of religion in the future.