12/2 – to update our visa tale, we spent Friday morning waiting at the Chinese Consulate while the Person Behind the Door perused our hastily fabricated itinerary and bogus hotel reservation ( we picked the most expensive hotel in town – why not?). After cooling our heels for several hours…. success! We were instructed to deposit $280 in the Consulate’s bank account, and come back next Friday to retrieve our passports and our two-entry visa for mainland China. Deep sigh of relief…
All roads here seem to lead to the Grand Bazaar, and we strolled through several times, not looking for anything in particular. The friendly sellers try to gauge where we are from by looking at our shoes. As we wear hiking boots, we are often pegged for either German or Australian. When we reveal we are from America (USA gets blank looks), we sense an increased desire on their part to sell us something. We are invited into many back rooms for tea.
The Grand Bazaar:
The Spice Market:
We bought some presents for the kids, and had to walk to the downtown post office where international parcels can be mailed. The postage cost more than the gifts, and they are expected to arrive in 20 days. Where is Fed Ex when you need it?
11/25 – I love our little Hotel Buhara. They provide a lovely breakfast of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, hard boiled eggs, grapes, clementines, olives, yoghurt, and Nescafé. This morning we met a young man from Malaysia and a couple from Iran. It’s nice to be in a place where people have a little English and we can share friendly conversation.
Today we had our pictures taken for the visas we will need as we move east, and learned to navigate the Metro so we could get to the Chinese Consulate to apply for a visa to mainland China. An hour’s ride north to the end of the Metro line was all for naught – the visa office is only open from 9am to noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There was no indication of this on the Consulate website, and they don’t answer their phone or email. Oh well, we’ll try again tomorrow.
We took in some sights and aromas of Istanbul. The Suleiman Mosque:
We noticed that stray cats are well cared for here – welcome inside the mosque and fed by passersby. This mosque has ostrich eggs included in their light fixtures to keep away spiders, according to the helpful mosque volunteer who answered our questions.
The female volunteers said the question they are most often asked is why females can’t pray in the same area as males. They explained that when fervently praying, they don’t want to have to worry about brushing against a man. It is more comfortable to pray with other women. The Qur’an says: “do not annoy women as to make their lives miserable.” Well said.
The Grand Bazaar:
Many people wanted to sell us blue jeans or carpets. You can buy everything from cheap trinkets to diamonds and furs. It goes on for blocks, with shops both inside and outside. I was especially attracted to the glass lamps and colorful ceramics.
There are restaurants one after another on our street, and we both love Turkish food. We are having a wonderful time here – Turkish Delight, anyone?