11/26 – No rain this morning, and a double rainbow! It’s going to be a good day!
Up early and back to the Metro for another run to the Chinese Consulate. This time, the office was open, and, after standing in line and going through two metal detectors, we got into the visa office. Although the room was full of people waiting, some with newborn babies, we walked right up to the window, slid our paperwork under the glass, and asked for tourist visas. The young woman behind the glass spoke some English – hallelujah! She looked over our applications. Where is your invitation from a Chinese official? Where is your proof that you are not a criminal? Where is your plane reservation and detailed itinerary? Where is your proof that you are a resident of Turkey? We had none of those things. We explained that we were traveling overland and that train reservations can only be made 20 days in advance, and you must have a visa to make a reservation. We explained that we were not criminals, and that Americans have no form to prove that this is so. Our Turkish visa says we are residents for 90 days. She took our passports, photos, Turkish visas, and four page applications to a room behind a door.
We sat and waited. She came back after a while with more questions. If you are retired, what income do you have per year? Who will pay for your travel? How much money do you have in the bank? We were prepared for these questions and provided financial statements. Sounded like we were getting close!
We sat some more. Finally, she came back with all our stuff. Without a plane or train reservation and a detailed itinerary of where we plan to spend each day in China, and extra copies of our passports, we were not getting visas. We reminded her about the train reservations – would a hotel reservation suffice? She allowed that it might, if it was all we could get. We sadly took our pile of papers and retreated home to fabricate an itinerary and get a (cancelable) random hotel reservation from booking.com. On Friday, we will try again.
To cheer ourselves up, we had a delicious lunch, and went to see the Blue Mosque. The first thing you will notice is that the outside is not blue, but grey. Why did I think it would be blue?
Like the Suleiman, this is an active mosque, and we take off our shoes, and I cover my head, before entering. Tourists are only allowed in a small area, to enable the faithful to pray in peace.
The inside has some blue windows and tiles – I guess that’s why it’s called Blue? The carpet is definitely orange-red… The official name is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and the whole area where we live is called Sultanahmet.
Of course, I notice that the women’s praying area is all the way in the back, behind where the tourists put their shoes.
Although we always endeavor to show reverence in holy places, there are so many people taking selfies, including a man in the prayer area who is taking a pic of himself prostrated in prayer, that we figured, what the heck? Here is our Blue Mosque selfie: