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            <<  Istanbul, 20-April-2014  >>

4 days in Istanbul

Just a normal easter vacation in Istanbul - a surprisingly modern and European town, just loaded with powerful mosques.

For the Easter we went to Istanbul. While obviously you donít see any Easter celebrations in a Muslim country and the city was loaded with tourists from all around Europe, it was a good chance to go somewhere for 4 days due to public vacation in Georgia.

Iím gonna keep this one short, because this was just a regular prolonged weekend big-city-trip and nothing extraordinary happened, so I think itís better to just show pictures.

The only thing I wanna write about is the overall feeling of Istanbul.
Itís been a long time since Iíve been surprised so much by my travel destination. I had always imagined Istanbul as sort of exotic, bit smelly and rundown city, something bit like India, although Muslim and naturally more developed, but still with spice bazars, and omnipresent chaos of Asia. However, we arrived to a completely modern, clean, 100% European city, just with mosques. I was shocked by modernity of Istanbul. Streets were clean, traffic well organized and efficient, buildings looked not different from Milan or other developed European trading cities. In fact I would have sworn I was deep in southern Europe if not for the magnificent mosques all around us. Millions of tulips were blooming. Did you know that tulips actually come from Turkey? They just imported them from Turkey to Holland. Parks were green and clean. In fact it looked like second Rome, just Muslim. Well, I should have known better it would be like this if I had spent some time thinking about it. After all, Istanbul WAS the second Rome, back then when it was called Constantinople and was capital of Roman Empire and later of Byzantium. The splendor of Istanbul is overwhelming. It is really on par with Rome.
So on one hand I was bit disappointed that it wasnít as exotic as I imagined it, but on other hand I was positively surprised how livable and simple pleasant that city is.

We did all the big things: cruise through Bosporus, cruise along Golden Horn, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, 20 other mosques, Roman cistern, walks across the bridges and central districts, sultanís Topkapi palace, kebabsÖ

I was hypnotized by the view of grand mosques lined up on top of the hill running across Istanbul, one huge Allahís house after another. I tried to imagine how in 16th and 17th century European traders arrived to the city and must have felt dwarfed by all this religious splendor. They must have felt that Allah is truly great and truly present in this city, and their own God, nameless father of Jesus was a distant and powerless second rate god here in Istanbul. Being far from protection of my own god, if I arrived here back then, I surely would fear Allah in this fortress of Muslim faith. Allah akhbar!


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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak