Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Hicks in Istanbul Part 2

For our second day in this bustling city we headed back to Sultanahmet square to take in Topkapi Palace.
The grounds were a breath of fresh air with a large lawn area and towering trees.
 There was detail in everything, even the walkways.
Our girls could have played in this meadow of clover for hours.
We have learned that sometimes travel with kids means taking your time and giving them a chance to run.
We eventually did convince them that a palace would probably also be pretty fun.
 I came out of this day with hundreds of pictures, there was beauty at every turn. 
Some of it seemed opulent like this ceiling.
 And others felt clean and simple like these mini skylights.
 When going through the pictures I found I was more drawn to the simple, even run down, aspects of this centuries old building.
I wouldn't say this surprised me as that usually seems to be my taste but at the time I don't know that I realized it.
I was awed by the intricate designs and over the top marble and tile but now find it falling short so am sharing very little of it.
I find that many europeans live with less than perfect architecture.  
Coming from a place where building code is strict and homes are built on sweeping expanses of land to fairly unoriginal specs, I find this refreshing.
It could, however, be that I feel this way to excuse my own home's imperfections.
Here is a little taste of that marble.
I wasn't originally going to share this picture since it shows my sweet Fiona mid meltdown.
"I don't want our picture by the tap, I want it on the stairs!" she cried.
Living in close quarters can make for a disagreement or two but it quickly resolved.
And yes Fiona did eventually get that picture on the stairs but it was much less interesting.
 And just look at this handsome boy sucking on his bottom lip.
This is Cedric's soothing method of choice.
I see braces in our future.
 In all our travels this is the first time we had the whole gang in a photo.
Next time maybe we'll get one with the whole gang smiling and looking at the camera.
 From Topkapi we headed to the Blue Mosque, first getting a glimpse of it out the window.
 It broke my heart to hear of the recent attack in this area.
 We felt very safe here and spent some time walking around the area.
I have been asked since if we would have gone to Istanbul had the attack happened prior to our visit.
I must say that when in Istanbul I had moments of doubt and my inner fear bubbled up time and again.
I try to appreciate my fear as a mechanism to keep me alert but wouldn't want it to rob me of such a beautiful experience.
So in the end the answer is yes, we would absolutely have gone.
 The Blue Mosque was beautiful of course but what sticks out in my mind about it was the glimpse at the Muslim rituals of prayer.
There were taps lined up outside for the ritual of purification.
We were also required to remove our shoes due to their retention of impurities.
 We were constantly aware of the 5 prayer times as we heard to call throughout the day.
The direction of prayer was made obvious since mosques had been built or retrofitted to face Mecca.
 Another ritual we were able to participate in was covering.
Men are required to cover from their navel to knee so no challenge there.
Women on the other hand are required to cover all but their face and hands.
Tourists were held to slightly different standards but were still given a head covering if needed upon entering.
They also had long wraps for those with short skirts or tight pants.
Children were excluded from the rule but Fiona was eager to participate.
I actually found that the kids were excited by the unfamiliar.
Quite different from at home where if I cut their sandwich at the wrong angle you'd think a fairy died.
Travel seems to bring out some adventure and a little bit of malleability in them.
Which begs the question, why have we not booked a trip yet this year?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Hicks in Istanbul Part 1

It's the time of year when we start to daydream about getting out of town.
Christmas is such a magical time and we had a great one.
We feel pretty thankful to have had a white Christmas since most of our friends and family outside of Alberta did not this year.
Edmonton has some amazing winter attractions going on this year. 
We can't wait to check out the Freezeway, Ice Castle and even just ski and skate right here in our neighbourhood.
Having said that we still love to have a trip on the horizon, a little escape waiting for us.
Well, all this has got me thinking of last year's getaway to Istanbul (via Düsseldorf) with the Eichelbergers that I have yet to share.

We got into Istanbul in the evening and walked through the narrow cobblestone streets with four kids, two strollers and all our luggage.
Good thing we pack light.
No doubt that it was worth it for our beautiful apartment with this view.
I just love these guys.
Day one started out with our usual graffiti photo shoot.
New and improved with our fourth member, Adeline.
Next time we'll get her in on the action shot too.
These kids were so happy to see each other and fell right into comfortable play (and, of course, bickering).
Next we got into the heart of Istanbul and loaded up with our first round of Turkish Delight and baklava.
We ate more of these beautiful treats than I care to admit.
We knew there were at least 5 main attractions that we wanted to see but with kids we had to have our strategy down.
Our recipe for success seemed to be a lazy morning, breakfast in, out by 10 or 11, one site/activity, lunch out, second site/activity, back to the apartment, guys go grocery shopping, dinner in, kids to bed, wine.
Something for everyone right?
On day one our morning activity was figuring out transport and wandering (you always need a little wandering in a new city).
So with one site left to see we went to the top of our list and made our way to Hagia Sophia (aka Aya Sofia).
We had been warned that from the outside this almost 1500 year old structure was underwhelming.
I disagreed, seeing beauty immediately.
I understood the statement though when we did enter.
You had the feeling of walking into a different building.
There was so much to take in, all of it over the top.
And then there's these sweeties, a whole other level of beauty.
And this handsome boy.
It was here that we first experienced the fascination that other travellers had with our kids.
Coming from a country where multiculturalism is taken for granted we were not expecting that their blond heads would attract so much attention.
For the most part the kids loved it but this first experience was a little startling.
I mean if a group of 10-20 tourists started furiously snapping pictures of me I would also be taken aback.
As our trip progressed we were able to embrace this cultural difference. 
I was particularly touched when young men turned to mush and would do anything for a smile and high five from our littles.
Back to Hagia Sophia though.
I honestly couldn't capture it all, eventually I stopped taking pictures because documenting it all was impossible.
There was much restoration work going on as 1500 years tends to take it's toll.
Hopefully that means this gorgeous structure will be around much longer than it already has.
I would definitely suggest putting Istanbul on your bucket list if it isn't already there.
As I said this was only day one of five, I will attempt to share the rest in a timely manner.
Who am I kidding though, we made this trip in March 2015.
Yep, 10 months ago, nothing timely about that.


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