Merhaba from Istanbul, Turkey!

As you will read in my blog below, I fell in love with Istanbul, Turkey. It saddens me to know that unrest broke out just days after we departed the city I found to be so welcoming and peaceful. I know it sounds cliche to pray for world peace, however, I ask you to join me in doing just that. May we find it in our hearts to be good to one another and accepting of the differences that make us unique. Respectfully, Sarah

The last destination on our European Tour brought us to the unexpected and vibrant city of Istanbul. I am not certain what I thought this distant place would be like as a girl from Minnesota, but it was full of surprises and felt more like home than I could have imagined. The people were so welcoming and genuinely made us feel comfortable everywhere we traveled. With the exception of the scarves, long sleeves, and full skirts that some of the more traditional women wear throughout the city, the attire appeared to be like any other city in America. The food was also less spicy than I expected, and quite wonderful! The architecture was a blend of ancient mosques with domed roofs and modern glass skyscrapers.

Blue Sultan Ahmed Mosque aka Blue Mosque, opened in 1616

In the mid 1950’s Istanbul was home to 1.5 million people and today the numbers are closer to 17 million, with the majority of the growth commencing as recent as the 1970’s. The population is predominately of the Muslim faith; therefore, there are approximately 3,000 mosques in Istanbul. The more modern homes and low rise buildings are covered with red clay roofs. The sight as you fly over this sprawling city is a bit overwhelming and utterly beautiful.

Our accommodations at the Four Seasons were beyond stunning. We were located on the gorgeous Bosphorus, which is an important international strait for ships to make their way between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, which connect to the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea. It is also quite interesting to know that as we sat on the patio of our hotel looking across the Bosphorus, we were looking at Asia. Yes, we took the ferry across the strait from Europe to Asia for three Euro and shared dinner with my fabulous HBS classmate Mehmet Sencan, his lovely wife Renk, and their good friend Vedat.

Four Seasons Bosphorus, Istanbul 

Feleksan and Joe at the Four Seasons

This particular location for me was quite enlightening, mainly because I learned so much about a faith in which I knew very little. I found the five pillars of the Muslim faith to be more similar than dissimilar to my own protestant faith. The call to prayer, which is a chant that I found intriguing because of the tone, the melody, and the clarity no matter where we were, occurs six times throughout the day according to longitude and latitude, sunrise and sunset, and the geographical relationship to Mecca. Muslims are actually supposed to pray five times per day, however, those that were willing to share their religious beliefs with us admitted to some modifications due to progressive demands such as work.

Because their faith is about the way in which they live, it was also described to us that caring for the body through the process of the Hamam (or Turkish Bath) is common in Istanbul. So…when in Rome (or Istanbul)…Joseph and I decided to indulge in a couple’s hamam. If you have never tried this exquisite treatment for your body, let me just simply say, “DO IT!” One starts with a steam room, then moves into a warm room to lie on a heated slab of marble where your body is splashed with water, then one’s body is completely exfoliated with a glove, with another thorough rinsing. This is followed by a difficult to explain process of soap suds being poured on top of your skin, which I will describe as delectable. More scrubbing to clean the skin, more rinsing, mud is spread all over the body, and then one more rinse, which is topped off with cold water. All this is followed by a deep tissue massage, and life is good.

As always, I cannot say Thank You enough for the generosity of those who have hosted us around the world and supported all that I have tried to accomplish as Mrs. International this year. My sincere and deep gratitude to Mehmet and Renk for all that you did for us in Istanbul! And, to my dear friend and classmate Feleksan Onar for meeting us at the Four Seasons and sharing her talents with me in the form of a spectacular class treasure!

Please enjoy the photos of this truly amazing city, the second largest in all of Europe and the eighth largest in the entire world!

Hagia Sophia was built in 537 as a basilica later became a mosque and today is a museum. 

The mosaic in the entry, much as throughout the building, have depictions that would be found in a Christian Church of Jesus, Mary, and the faithful.

The sheer size of this building is awesome and it was built in five years with 10,000 slaves nearly 1,500 years ago!

A traditional Hamam outside and inside

The entrance to the Grand Bazaar

Inside the Grand Bazaar

One of the quaint shops within the crowded bazaar

Watching a Master at her craft of tying a Turkish silk rug

An amateur tying her very first knot!

Lunch at a local favorite Otantic Karaca Kardelen Café

One way to move things…

Gardens at the Four Seasons in Old Town 

From the Four Seasons rooftop 

Our trusted tour guide Bulent

Our hostess Renk serves up a delicious Turkish meal!

L to R: Renk, Joseph, Vedat, Shannon, and Mehmet

Nanny for the three well mannered Sencan boys

With Hami

A lovely view at sunset looking from Europe across the Bosphorus at Asia

Mr. and Mrs. International after our hamam experience and the most amazing journey through Europe!

With love and gratitude for all of you who have shared in our journey,

Sarah Bazey
Mrs. International 2012


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