Sunday, October 08, 2006

Constantinople, Part 7: The Blue Mosque

After the Cistern, we headed to the Blue Mosque, which was again just a few hundred meters away from Agia Sophia. (There's a lot to see in this little square!)

There was, somewhat surprisingly, no fee to go into the mosque -- we only had to remove our shoes. Fortunately, there was an enterprising local businessman there to greet us and try to make a buck. He introduced himself as 'not a licensed tour guide' (these, you see, are quite omnipresent and quite expensive), but he did tell us some interesting and helpful things about the mosque. (For example, as non-Muslims, we had to enter the mosque through a side door.) I couldn't tell if he was angling for a tip or what, but as we walked away he happened to mention that he had a carpet shop and that he would wait for us at the exit so that he could take us there, if we like. Being Americans, we of course couldn't be blunt and say no thanks but instead sort of half-committed to it. Not surprisingly, when we exited, there he was.

He led us down a covered ramp (at this point, I was getting somewhat nervous) which did, in fact, lead to a shop. But this wasn't his shop. His shop was the wholesaler further away, if we would like to come. At this point, I said 'enough,' thanked him for his time, told him (again) that we were poor students, and left.

Fortunately, he had led us to a neat little market on the side of the Blue Mosque where they had some very fine hand-made bowls, which Pelagia enjoyed browsing through. There, we found a local merchant who not only spoke excellent English but even had the audacity to price his items at their actual price. He told us he couldn't stand the normal Turkish system of bargaining down to half-price and hard-selling. Instead, he took his time and gave a very helpful, low-sell, explanation of the different grades of pottery. Pelagia didn't end up buying from him but instead she finally found a beautiful hand-made, hand-painted bowl at the shop next to his for only about $25. This was our souvenir from the trip. If you come to visit us, you'll likely have salad out of it!
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