Istanbul in a day

Hi everyone
Wow, what a day. I don’t even know where to start… We signed up for a full day walking tour and as I am writing to you now, my legs and one knee are crying for mercy…

We met at 08:30 and walked from the tour guide’s office to the blue mosque. It’s an absolutely stunning building from the outside. A grand dome surrounded by 6 striking minarets, more than any other mosque in Istanbul. The courtyard was beautiful and we paused before we went in to remove our shoes and put them in plastic bags provided. The mosque is fully carpeted so shoes are a no-no. Because this mosque receives so many tourists, the ladies can get away with no head scarves as long as they aren’t wearing skimpy clothing. Inside the mosque, you are struck by 100 and 1000’s of blue tiles and mosaics. According to Islam, only Allah can ‘create’ animals or people so even people can’t draw them. Therefore all the designs around the mosque are flowers or geometric designs.

We then had a quick tour around the Hippodrome and then headed over to Topkapi Palace. This was just stunning… Rather than one impressive building, it was a collection of smaller buildings within a 5pm long boundary wall. The grounds inside the walls were beautifully manicured, lawns, flowers and trees added a real sense of calm (well until the 60000000 children arrived for their annual history outing!!!
We also did a beautiful tour of the harem where we learnt about how young girls were brought in from villages and trained and educated in arts, music and culture in order to have the possibility of catching the Sultan’s eye. These rooms were so ornate, mosaics, gold plating, mother of pearl, again just lovely.

We then took a break while the rest of our group explored the various costumes and treasury rooms. I didn’t fancy fighting millions of children in order to view something. However, fate decided that I had not paid the children enough attention and two young boys came over saying, ‘photo, photo’. I thought he wanted me to take a photo of him with his mate but before I could stand, he promptly sat down with us and his mate took the photo. When he showed all his class mates, who were now all starting to arrive, they ALL wanted their photo with us so we did a huge group shot. Nice to know that we provided the same entertainment as an huge Ottoman empire palace. :-)

Time for lunch (lentil soup followed by grilled chicken and salad) and then meet up with the group again for part 2 of our adventure. Aya Sophia (which means holy wisdom) looks impressive from the outside but it’s when you walk through the 2 massive wooden ‘imperial doors’ that you are taken aback by the massive open space inside. The huge domed ceiling (4th largest in the world) looms above you and everywhere huge circular brackets of iron hold lamps which give the whole interior a warmer atmosphere. Huge circular boards of Islam calligraphy are strategically place around the interior. We headed up a stone ramp to view the galleries upstairs too. I have never been somewhere where Islam and christianity have clashed and Aya Sophia was built as a church, then the christian mosaics were plastered over to make it into a mosque. Today that plaster has been removed in a huge restoration project and huge portions of the christian mosaics have been uncovered. Today the building is a museum and honestly quite incredible.

Now onto the Basilica Cistern which is an extraordinary subterranean structure. It once held over 80,000cubic meters of water delivered via 20km of aqueducts from a reservoir near the Black Sea. The columns were so beautifully lit with orange spotlights that I regretted not bringing my tripod but managed to get a couple of shots resting on a railing.

Last but not least, we were delivered to the Grand Bazaar, an enormous enclosed market place selling the most beautiful things from porcelain to scarves, traditional belly dancing outfits to gold jewelry to leather jackets and fur to apple tea and beer. We successfully navigated our way around before heading back into town for a drink and some baklava. If you don’t know baklava, please google it. My description would do it no justice. It is kind of layers of very thin pastry soaked in sugar syrup and with either walnuts or pistachios added. A very lovely treat.

Then a quick rest back at our hotel before heading back into town again for dinner. Lamb casserole followed by fruit platter and baklava :-)
A fantastic day filled with far too much history and far too many dates but it was all so very interesting and really beautiful.
Have no idea what we will do tomorrow now :-)
Take care, chat with you soon.

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2 Responses to Istanbul in a day

  1. Pingback: If 2011 was good, then 2012 is going to be GREAT… | Write Around the World

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