Hagia Sophia, and My Horrible Hat

July 10, 2007 started off lovely… but ended in me needing to learn a great many lessons about managing my own expectations when traveling.  I’m grateful for the lessons… it feels like they were hard-won.

My journal begins with some more praise for Hotel Poem: “Breakfast downstairs — a really nice set-up.  The tea is WAY too strong for me!  But the cheeses are AMAZING.  Cheese, bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, cake, and a yogurty substance with cereal… that we didn’t try.  Tomorrow maybe!  I’m such a wuss!”  My how the times have changed — I’ll eat that stuff GLADLY anytime, now.

Then we went to Hagia Sophia — so unbelievable!  What a place!  So old, rich with history — the Ottoman empire, Christian church, and Islam!”  Hagia Sophia is quite near to Hotel Poem, so it was an easy stroll over to check it out:

inside sofia

Right before entering Hagia Sophia.  Take note of the hat in my hand… it did not survive the day.

inside sophia

Looking up…

christ and constantine

Christ hanging out with Constantine and his wife.

hagia sophia

View of the Blue Mosque, from inside Hagia Sophia.  A brilliant photo by Andrew.

After seeing Hagia Sophia, we caught the red city sightseeing bus.  I really enjoyed it, until we got off.  I mean, it was a hop-on, hop-off kinda thing.  We’d done this with the same touring company in London with no problem… hop off at a site, then catch the next bus half an hour later or so, no big deal.

This is NOT how it appeared to work in Istanbul.  Once we were off the bus, we were OFF THE BUS.

At first, this wasn’t a problem.  We stumbled upon the Spice Bazaar:

spice bazaar


This was my first time trying Turkish Delight… which I’d imagined would be amazing, based upon Edmund’s love for it in the Narnia series.  Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar was probably the best place to try it first — so yep, I do like Turkish Delight!

Unfortunately, after this, both my attitude and energy began to flag…

Standing outside the Spice Bazaar, I realized my feet were burning from the sun… then panicked and immediately applied as much sunscreen as possible to the tops of my feet.  (It was HOT — I felt like we were visiting THE FACE OF THE SUN.)

We then visited the Blue Mosque… and I was FURIOUS when I had to cover my shoulders in that oppressive, sticky heat.  I understood why I had to, and was outwardly cooperative… but inside, I was very pissed off.  I pretty much wasted my experience inside the Blue Mosque by being very angry at needing to cover up.  I don’t think I even appreciated where I was.  It’s a real shame.  This was my first experience with this… and I was unprepared for my emotional response.  Though I did admit that being barefoot on those soft Turkish rugs was amazingly fabulous.

Having been abandoned by our sightseeing bus, we remained optimistic that we could just WALK to all the sights we wanted to see that day.

After what seemed like a few sketchy miles, we found a park to relax in… and soon realized this park was occupied by quite a few people sleeping comfortably under various bushes.  It felt weird for us to be there.  Nevertheless, we found a bench to rest on for a bit.  Suddenly, a little boy came up to me, took my hat, and tried it on!  I tried to look like I was charmed by this… but the truth is, I was actually quite annoyed.  I was tired, abandoned by our bus, uncomfortable, apparently wearing the wrong thing, and frustrated that I’d managed my preparations all wrong.  I hate being unprepared.

Resuming our journey, we left the park.

By this point, I was cursing that hat.  Why had I insisted on bringing that stupid thing?  I had lugged it all over Europe!  This was the first day I’d worn it!  And it was all wrong, wrong, wrong.  We were NOT at the beach.  We were running around a city!  Argh I was SO STUPID to have brought that hat.  I very much hated it.

In an effort to make our way toward the Galata Tower, we suddenly found ourselves navigating a turnpike — ON FOOT.  We were confident this was both incorrect and dangerous… but we were becoming exhausted and hungry and just weren’t that sharp at this point.

It was on that turnpike, that I let that hat go.  I just flat-out littered, I guess… by setting my hat free.  GOOD-BYE, STUPID HAT.

As we walked, I was becoming hotter, stickier, and increasingly more tired with each step.  Shopkeepers were harassing me a lot, and I was finding it ever more difficult to ignore them.  It was making me very very irritated.  I was very much ready to tell them to fuck off.

It was at this point that Andrew decided we should call it a day.  We never did make it to the Galata Tower.


Though we made it far enough for Andrew to take this photo on Galata Bridge.

It was on this day that I learned to manage my expectations… that is to say, I will never forget being abandoned by that bus.  From now on, I always half expect that I might have to walk 20 miles in the hot sun while being yelled at by shopkeepers.

These things can happen.

You just never know.


2 responses to “Hagia Sophia, and My Horrible Hat

  1. I LOVE Istanbul. We also stayed in a hotel on the Hippodrome/near the Hagia Sophia. Great place, great views. About Turkish Delight–it’s fabulous when fresh (in the Grand Bazaar, at Parisian markets, etc), but not as impressive when from a box. I spent a lot of time in Turkey, and here’s my advice about managing expectations: abolish expectations, and you’ll be amazed at each turn. Don’t expect easy, fast, smooth, or sparkly clean, and you will allow yourself to see generous, unusual, simple, ancient. It’s really a great place!


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