|The view of old town Istanbul from our balcony!|
Istanbul, Turkey has always been some place I wanted to visit ever since my brother went there during his stent in the Peace Corps. After he raved about it, my interest has just grown the more I hear and see things about this city. With a population of roughly 15 million, it is the only city in the world that actually splits two continents; Europe and Asia!
We left for Istanbul at 12:30pm out of Seoul on August 25th. We then had two different stops in China, and after a kind of miserable 17 hour journey, we arrived to Istanbul at 2:00am. We found the cutest little Bed and Breakfast, Hotel Deniz Houses, located perfectly in Sultanahmet and within a short walking distance to all of Istanbul’s most famous sites and restaurants. It was a great ‘home base’ during our time in this majestic city.
|Me outside the Blue Mosque|
|Andrew in the Mosque|
August 26 Being 98% a Muslim nation, we were woken up earlier than expected at 5:00am, by the call to prayer from the mosques; something that is blasted over an intercom system all over the city. After going back to sleep, we woke again at about 8am and decided to get up and start our exploration. Our first stop was the famous Blue Mosque. Constructed between 1609 and 1616, this mosque is still is use today, but it is also one of Istanbul’s most visited sites by tourists. It gets it’s name because the interior is made up of more than 20,000 handmade ceramic painted tiles that are predominately of different shades of blue. It is a gorgeous work of art. The tiles are stunning and what an amazing, historic place for worship! Being a mosque, when we entered, we had to remove our shoes and women had to cover their knees and heads with scarves., which is why I have one over my head. There were so many people in there trying to take photos that it got ridiculously hot! But it was gorgeous!
|Some of the beautiful tile|
Our next stop was the Topkapi Palace and Harem. The Topkapi Palace was built in 1478 and was theresidence of the Sultans for 380 years. Can you even fathom?! It was built in 1478…so crazy to me! The line for tickets was a bit ridiculous, and we had to wait outside for about and hour and ten minutes before even getting in. The wait was worth it. I think I took about 150 pictures of tiles alone! Every quarter we went into the tiles were painted differently. The treasury was unbelievable! Of course pictures were not allowed, but the jewels they had on display were stunning! Emerald, rubies, sapphires, and diamond covered everything from crowns to drinking glasses. That is truly how the ‘other half’ lived.
We paid the extra money to see the Harem, which literally translates to “a place forbidden.” It was the area of the palace (300 rooms) where the Sultan and his family lived. Once again, more tile pictures! A camera cannot do the beauty justice. Andrew and I were truly in awe of the beauty in the detail.
Our last stop of the day was the Grand Bazaar. Consisting of more than 3,000 shops, it’s one of the largest and oldest covered shopping districts in the world. You can buy pretty much anything there. Items ranging from Turkish souvenirs, to clothing, spices, purses, handbags, shoes, and household goods. We weren’t really in the market for anything other than taking it all in! Much like the Silk Market we experienced in Beijing, but times about five!
|Inside Hagia Sophia|
At 2:00pm, we booked a half day tour. We were taken to the Rustem Pasha Mosque, and then aboarded a boat for an hour and a half cruise along the Bosphprus; the body of water that splits Istanbul between Europe and Asia. The boat ride was wonderful! Gave us a totally new perspective on Istanbul and the sites were beautiful! Andrew and I could not get over how beautiful and enormous some of the homes and private yachts were…..gorgeous! It was a cool feeling to be on a boat and the scenery on our right is Asia, and on our left was Europe!
After the boat ride, we spent about an hour waling around the Egyptian Spice Market. Similar, but on a smaller scale than the Grand Bazaar, we sampled some Turkish treats and just did some window shopping. The ride back to our B&B took longer than expected due to rush hour traffic, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed seeing another, less touristy part of the
|Cruising the Bosphorus|
and mosques that are thousands of years old!
August 28: Our first stop of the day was the famous Basilica Cistern. An underground water system built from 527-565 AD. It is 9,800 square meters and has the capacity to hold 100,000 tons of water storage. You enter the Cistern through such a small little building on the site of a busy street. It’s so unassuming to think that just underneath a bustling modern city, there are 336 beautifully carved columns holding up the city streets!
After visiting the Cistern, we decided to do the super touristy double-decker, hop on-hop off, city tour bus! It was such a nice view of the city from the open air deck! We each had head phones so we could listen to the English audio tour guide which enabled us to get so much more out of it than just looking at the beautiful structures. We also got the chance to cross over the main bridge that transports the citizens from the Europe to Asia side! Being on two different continents in a matter of minutes was pretty cool.
We hopped off the bus in Taksim Square. This may sound familiar to you because it’s the area where
|Connecting Europe to Asia!|
We had a wonderful three full days in Istanbul! The city is so rich with culture and history! It's incredibly clean and we felt very safe. The people were nice and always willing to strike up a conversation. Turkey is a place I would love to return to. There is so much to see here outside of the bustling city of Istanbul and I know we only scratched the surface!
|Inside the entry to Hagia Sophia|
|On the Bosphorus boat tour|