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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Edirne,Turkey: City of Minarets & A Knitters’ Paradise

Left Plovdiv at 9:30 for the 4 hour journey to Edirne on the very swish Metro Turism bus. It was like being on a plane from decades ago with a hostess serving complementary coffee, assorted snacks, sealed cups of water and wet wipes BUT no bathroom facilities. The lack of on board bathroom facilities has been the norm though on all the intercity buses we've taken since the great Student Agency Buses we were on back in the Czech Republic.

 I’ve omitted mentioning previously that the major highways we’ve traveled on from country to country have generally been very good, certainly on a par with much of the US interstate system. I say that because I had previously thought we might be on a lot of back roads and not comfy superhighways by and large even in the former Eastern European countries. The area of Eastern Bulgaria en route to Turkey we traveled through was evidently much poorer than we had seen before that. Conversely, once we crossed into Turkey, the homes, villages and stores appeared far more affluent and remained so all the way to Edirne.

Turkey was the 1st country this trip we needed visas for and also the 1st to x ray everyone’s bags at customs. We were dropped off at the bus station about 5 miles outside of Edirne but were told that there was a free shuttle coming soon to take us downtown. After making our way three minutes away by taxi to the Damla Pansyion where the friendly but non-English speaking owner escorted us to our small dimly lit room, we dumped our bags and walked the few blocks to the world of one massive camii or mosque after another.
In no-man's land with our first view of the Turkish flag.

Even though we were only going to Edirne, we had to buy tickets all the way to Istanbul.
Our first stop was back to Selimiye Cami where the shuttle bus had dropped us only a bit earlier. But this time we entered through the Kavaflar Arasta or Cobblers’ Arcade (below), a covered market full of household goods, thick, plush embroidered towels and cheap clothing. Every day, beneath the prayer dome, the shopkeepers promise to conduct their business honestly.

Gaudy but thick Turkish towels.

Turks must love their candy as we saw stall after stall selling gobs of it!

 Coming up from a small stone staircase in the arcade, we entered a huge courtyard, the center of which was a huge area for men to wash their feet. The mosque, which is bigger (if only a few centimeters1) than the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, was designed by the 80 year old imperial architect Mimar Sinan in 1569 and is considered one of the finest mosques in all of Turkey. 

Immediately below the spectacular dome is the muezzin’s (similar to a priest or rabbi, I believe) platform. I could walk underneath it with ease but anyone a lot taller than I would have difficulty. Thought of you again Cheryl there! In the center of that open space is a small drinking fountain symbolizing life under the dome of eternity. There were only a few worshippers in attendance.
The positively stupendous dome.

I could reach up and touch the celing of the muezzin's platform, it was so low.

Love this photo showing the minarets from just Selimiye Cami; imagine your looking around the city and seeing minarets from 6 or more mosques PLUS hearing the Iman's Call to Prayers being broadcast over loudspeakers all over the city
Saw a number of signs for Bulgaristan, not Bulgaria. Didn't realize we were so close to one of the 'stan' countries!  

Coming to Edirne meant for us the chance to visit lots of mosques so off we were to Eski Camii next, the oldest mosque in town with construction having begun in 1403. Camii by the way means mosque in Turkish.

Every mosque has very strict rules that must be adhered to just as was the case when we visited temples in Cambodia last fall. As I mentioned before, no shoes can be worn inside the mosque but, even stricter than that, shoes cannot even touch the carpets outside the entrance per Muslim religious law.
Immediately upon entering you notice how very different it was from the Selimiye Mosque with the Arabic writing on the columns and elsewhere.

A different location for the muezzin's platform.

Eski Camii has no round fountain for men to wash their feet just the taps above.
Walked a couple of blocks to Uc Serefeli Cami whose name means 3 balconies, each having its own stairway, to the monumental 67.62m high minaret. The minaret seems to move because of the red zigzag stones surrounding the diamond shaped white stones.

Noticed that some of the mosques had a green vinyl with brown leather trim cover parshly rolled up  obscuring the wooden door; again, no idea why.   
As soon as we entered Uc Serefeli Camii, we were struck by the magical maze of very low lying lights, again unique to this mosque.

I stupidly didn't pay attention to the No Photos policy at the Military Police barracks above. Not my smartest move, I must admit, as Steven reminded me.

Saw shoeshiners on all the streets around the mosques; they were doing a great business too, it seemed while we were there.
Edirne's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
 Since it's the beginning of a huge Muslim holiday, Bayrim, tomorrow (10/4) we had to scramble to find the city's information center so we could buy the bus tickets for our onward journey to Istanbul tomorrow afternoon. Didn't factor that into the travel planning but so far it's turning out OK. Exciting being here in Turkey at long last although it also symbolizes we're on the last third of our trip with 'only' a month to go. Somehow can't imagine you've got a whole lot of sympathy for us though, huh! 
Each mosque, just like each church, of course had its own beauty, but we decided we’d had enough of mosques for the day and wandered through the 15th C. Bedseten,
Edirne’s 1st covered market, a portion of whose rents helped maintain the nearby Eski Cami. It has 14 domes made of lead but I quite frankly was more interested in the items for sale and not its historical importance! Couldn’t believe seeing stall after stall each selling hundreds of skeins of gaily colored yarn that was only a dollar a skein. I itched to buy some and start knitting again but luckily reason won out. My fellow knitters: do you remember noticing how much of the yarn we buy is made in TurkeyI wish I could have brought lots of yarn home for you, Darlene, Janina, Suellen and Kay!

Hadn’t had enough of this new exciting shopping quite yet so we wandered through another covered bazaar, Semiz Ali Pasa Carsisi, and then along a pedestrian mall where we picked up dinner at one of the omnipresent 'doner' restaurants we’d first seen in Berlin, our 1st stop of the journey 2 months ago now. A doner is an open air place where you buy a sandwich made to order in front of you from meat shaved off a tall piece of meat on a rotating spit; then cooked onions, peppers and fresh tomatoes are added to the meat which is either put in a pita, a small baguette or roll, etc. The cost is normally all of 2 Turkish lira, about .85 for a fairly filling meal depending on what meat you choose.
Turkey is the first country this trip that so fervently displays its love of nation; there are flags flying from stores, homes, buses cars, everywhere it seeems.

Began walking down a very busy pedestrian mall called Saraclar Caddessi. The fountain is called 'The Fountain of Love.'

What can be more Turkish than Turkish Delight?!
Bet you can guess the title of this sculpture! It's called 'A Craftsman Making A Broom.' Traditional handmade broom manufacturing has been maintained in Edirne.
 Daresay you'll be seeing lots of this scarf as I'll need to have it with me daily here in Turkey in case we enter any mosques. I hope to buy a new one in Istanbul as this one has seen better days since I was so generously given it in a Russian Orthodox church last year in Ulan Ude in Siberia as I recall.