When my mother and I visited Istanbul in February 2013, we were unprepared for the cold. I don’t know why but we thought 8 degrees was something we could withstand. To make things harder, there was also a constant drizzle during the first three days of our visit. We always over-pack for winter vacations now.
On our first day there, after spending time in Sultanahmet square, we decided to visit the Süleymaniye mosque. When we asked for directions, a restaurant worker pointed ahead. Can we walk it up? we asked him. Sure! he said. I didn’t get his sarcasm then.
We walked in the cold drizzle, in sweaters and jackets that were no match for the weather. And as we walked, we kept checking with shopkeepers and passersby if we were headed in the right direction. Thankfully we were, but what the restaurant guy also never warned us about was that the walk was going to uphill.
If you’ve been to Istanbul, you know the Süleymaniye Mosque is not at a walking distance from the Sultanahmet square. It’s at a trekking distance. Maybe on a pleasant day, it would make for a nice long walk. But in that weather, as two unprepared tourists, we were beginning to wonder if we would ever make it to the mosque that night.
I don’t remember how long it took until we finally got there but I remember seeing the wet stony pathway that led up to the mosque and breathing a sigh of relief. I remember that the rain had stopped and the sky was a magnificent midnight blue. I remember that the mosque looked eerily serene surrounded by bare branched trees. I remember entering the mosque, gazing up at the giant chandelier and simply being grateful for the warmth.