Istanbul

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Well after a full two weeks trip around wonderful Turkey we arrived back in Istanbul for a couple of days of sightseeing. This time we stayed in Sultanahmet which is the "old" part of town and where a lot of the touristy things are.

On our first night after dinner (and baklava for Chris) we found an amazing Turkish delight shop where we got orange, lemon, strawberry, apple, and cherry flavoured Turkish delight.

Breakfast was included at our hostel which was bread with a variety of spreads and an omelette cooked when you arrived for breakfast. The omelets was amazing!

The next morning we visited the hipodrom which was historically a track for chariot racing. It currently is a paved rectangle with only a few of the "statues" in place. Originally the middle of the track (which was "U" shaped) was full of "statues". Currently there are two and a bit remaining. The best preserved is the Egyptian Stele which looks to be in perfect condition.

Next to the Hipodrom is the Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Mescue in Turkish. Early European travellers called it the Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles.

As it was not prayer time we wandered through the mosque. It was amazing inside, a large courtyard then the prayer hall with its huge domed ceiling and lights hanging down. Very impressive. It was packed with tour groups do was very loud with lots of flashes from everyone's cameras.

the next day we walked up from our hotel through the Hipodrom to the Basilica Cisterns. Apparently under Istanbul are hundreds of cisterns of which three are open to the public. The Basilica Cisterns are the most popular as they still contain water in the bottom. They were largely forgotten about for years until someone thought to see how the locals were able to get fresh water and sometimes fish via buckets lowered into the ground.

They were amazing, very nicely lit up with very still water with fish swimming it in and the occasional drips falling from the roof. There is a large boardwalk around cistern running the length and width of the cistern. At the back of the cistern is two Medusa heads, one upside down and the other on its side. No one has been able to figure out why the Medusa heads aren't the right way up.

That evening we went for a stroll around the water front from our hotel back into "town". On our way we came across some sort of cultural festival featuring seven different regions' dancing. We were also able to see the Whirling Devishes perform.

Hana also visited Ayasofia and the Istanbul Archeological Museum. We figured that Chris wouldn't like the Museum quite as much and that as Ayasofia was 25 Turkish lira (we had 60 lira left and didn't want to have to change more) only one of us needed to visit.

Ayasofia was amazing, I thought that it would be busy like the Blue Mosque (as there was a queue outside) but the scale of it made all the people seem to disappear one you were inside.

The Ayasofia was built by the Emperor Constantine (as in Constantinople) as a Christian Church in the 6th century. Later in the 16th century it was turned into a mosque. Following the Turkish War of Independence Ayasofia was turned into a Museum.

As a result of all this it is an interesting mix of Muslim and Christian. There were some amazing mosaics on the second floor of Jesus and others. I spent 2 1/2 hours happily wandering around and people watching.

After this I headed to the Archeological Museum which was full of really cool bits and pieces. Lots of sarcophagi, mosaics, paintings, jewellery etc... They had mosaics which were from the gates of Babylon as well as two amazing Egyptian mummies and the Alexander Sarcophagi (it was for one of the men that fought under Alexander the Great and was decorated in battle scenes including Alexander on a horse - this originally resulted in the finders believing it was Alexander's Sarcophagi).

Before leaving Istanbul for Athens then Milos we stocked up on strawberry turkish delight for Chirs and lemon and orange for Hana.
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Comments

Alison on

Marvellous - it brought back very fond memories of Istanbul, including Ayasofia and the cisterns - fabulous photos too!

rosemary lewis on

I'm starting to think that I'd like to see those ancient sites in Turkey. I think it was in Trier that Mum, Peter & I saw, another cathedral which Constantine built after his wife persuaded him that Christianity was the real faith. It had been altered a lot but in some of the pillars we could see the original chirch fabric. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Susannah on

Great guys - great memories! xx

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