Back from my holiday abroad but not yet back home. Had a great time with family but I don’t know why holidays tend to become so hectic and I some how always return tired rather than rejuvenated! I think I can blame, a little bit, the fact that I try to squeeze-in a lot of sight seeing. My mind thinks in ways like – “whether/ when/ if I will ever return to this place…so might as well make most of what I have now”. But the bottom line remains that I had a blast and two relaxed days at home will wear off the exhaustion and jet lag.
Today’s post is not about food. My next few posts will be about the places I visited. So you guys feast your eyes on the sights and scenes of Istanbul. But first take a bird’s eye view of the city that I captured from theGalata Tower built in 1348.(the quality of pics may not be that good coz, one, it was cloudy most of the time and second, it is the first time that I used my camera for outdoor shoot!)
The Galata Tower
I couldn’t help clicking this pic for its facade
Hit by jet lag and tired to the bone but allured by the beauty of the city, we couldn’t stop ourselves from hitting the streets of Istanbul as soon as we landed. My tour of the city began at the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar, located inside the walled city of Istanbul, is one of the oldest covered markets in the world. The centuries old bazaar has over 4000 shops that sell goods and crafts ranging from furniture to leather goods, jewellery, gold, antique shops, utensils, clothes and hand painted ceramic (the famous blue pottery). There are 18 gates to enter and exit the bazaar.
Nuruosmaniye Gate of the Grand Bazaar
The streets of the bazaar were packed with locals and travellers like me. The bazaar with its maze of roads and lanes can leave one totally lost…you may find yourself entering the bazaar through a particular gate but exiting through a completely different one! However, this was not to happen in my case since I had a guide to escort us out the same gate that we had entered. Being tired meant that I couldn’t devote much time exploring the market place. (The bazaar is open all days except Sundays and bank holidays) After purchasing a few things of my interest, we headed back to the hotel.
Road that leads to the Nuruosmaniye Gate of the Grand Bazaar
Next day we decided to visit the Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya and the Topkapi Palace. Erstwhile, Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church) and later an imperial mosque, Hagia Sophia is now a museum and a splendid specimen of the Byzantine architecture. I would rather let the picture speak the thousand words…
I could manage to take pics of only a part of the inside of the Hagia Sophia since there was some major restoration work going on and the area had been covered and left inaccessible to visitors.
The Dome inside the Hagia Sophia
The vision of Christian and Islamic faith
Virgin and Child flanked by Justinian I and Constantine
Mosiac at the Gate
Adjoining to the Hagia Sophia is the Topkapi Palace. Now a museum, Topkapi Palace was the home to Ottoman’s for nearly 400 years. The palace occupies an area of 700,000 square meters and was used for administrative and residential purpose besides addition of the harem, which happened later. The museum holds a collection of weaponry, robes, porcelain, silver ware, glassware, manuscripts besides the exquisite jewellery section. In certain sections, photography wasn’t allowed inside so I bring to you just a few glimpses of the palace. (I did notice people were taking pics even inside, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that)
The Gate of Salutation
The entrance to the Imperial Divan
Columns of the hallway of the Conqueror’s Pavillon
This pic is a personal favorite
Opposite to Hagia Sophia sits the Sultan Ahmed Mosque popularly known as the Blue Mosque. The famous mosque that happens to be the iconic symbol of Istanbul was built during the reign of Ahmed I. It got its name, due to the blue paint used for the upper levels of its interiors and also the blue tiles that adorn the walls of its interior. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the interiors of the mosque as it was closed to the visitors for over two hours for the daily prayers. I strongly recommend you check the prayer timings beforehand. Here are a few shots that I took of the mosque.
The Gateway to the Blue Mosque
The Entrance door to the Prayer Hall
The Arcade of the inner courtyard
The Arcades of the inner courtyard
Near by these iconic monuments of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern. (Cistern is a waterproof reservoir that holds the water.) The cistern, is located near the Hagia Sophia (It is at a walking distance) and was built in the 6th century. The reservoir has 336 marble columns arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each. The reservoir was fed with water from the Belgrade forest 19 kilometres away. With a capacity to hold 100,000 tons of water, the reservoir currently has only a few feet of water. (Just for the feel, I have deliberately clicked the last two pics of the cistern in its natural environment)
A very interesting feature inside the reservoir are the two, upside down and side turned, faces of Medusa at the bases of two columns. Apparently no one has been able to figure out why the heads, that are believed to have been brought from a building of late Roman period, were kept that way. One belief is that the orientation of the faces was changed to negate the power of Medusa’s gaze.
I am so glad that we saved the best for the last on our itinerary i.e. the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace. The imposing palace was the home to the late Ottoman empire and later became the home of the founder and the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who eventually breathed his last here. The spectacular and opulent palace is a complete contrast to the Topkapi Palace, the previous residence of the Ottomans, which lacked in luxury. The sheer size and opulence is awe striking. It is the home to Europe’s largest chandelier. The Crystal Staircase, Ambassador Hall and especially the Ceremonial Hall will make your jaw drop! It is definitely something to be seen, so as to experience its grandeur. Unfortunately (again), photography isn’t allowed inside and personally, I believe that no camera in the world can capture the beauty and opulence of the insides of the palace.
Clock Tower near the entrance
The Entrance Gate to the Palace
The Gate and in the background, the Palace
Fountain in the Garden and the Palace Facade in the background
For long, this beautiful city had been on my bucket list of places to visit and it goes without saying that after my tour of the city and being totally mesmerized by its beauty, I bade farewell to Istanbul with a very heavy heart. And its my belief that after a tour of the city (through this post) you too would have fallen in love with it J
As a footnote I will add just a few snippets.
The locals are friendly and its a safe city(I speak from my experience and its my perception).
Language is a bit of problem; a translation app would be helpful.
The weather was lovely but I recommend carrying light woollens.
You may want to hone your bargaining skills before you hit the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Market (the place was packed and it was impossible to stand there and click pics hence you see none here).
Lira is the local currency but euro is accepted as well. (but get an idea of the conversion rate)
You will find yourself many euros lighter when you are done visiting these places of tourist interest since ALL these places demand an entry fee.
Do try and visit both the sides of the Istanbul, European and Asian, but drive down one of the bridges to do that (even a cruise isn’t a bad idea).
Thanks for visiting and see you soon again!
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