Monday, September 14, 2009


Saturday, November 3rd, 2007 Exploring Istanbul Museums and Mosques…

Woke with the start of a head cold so I took some Sudafed that I had fortunately stuck in the backpack for the weekend; do hope it’s mild and Jim doesn’t catch it from me. Breakfast at 8:30 was in the roof top restaurant that is enclosed in glass so there was a view in every direction. The best one was of the Hagia Sophia that rises above the other buildings in all of its grandeur.

By 9 am we were out on the street and walking to our first destination. The weather is dry but very overcast and cold. With our trusty new map we located the Hagia Sophia easily and entered one of Istanbul’s oldest surviving monuments. The site has been a church over the centuries; the current building was erected in 1065 after an earthquake destroyed the previous one. This building set the standard for Mosques in the Muslim world. The remains of many mosaic floors and frescos on the walls, especially one of Christ, the Virgin and John the Baptist were very impressive.

From the Hagia Sophia Mosque Museum we walked across gardens to the second most impressive site in Istanbul; the Blue Mosque also known as Sultanahmet’s Mosque. This Mosque is still used as a place of worship and so we had to take off our shoes but they did not make me cover my head. We were each given a plastic bag to put our shoes into as we entered. The name reflects the mainly blue Iznik tilework decorating its interior. It was built around 1600 and has six minarets and its architecture rivaled the architecture of Mecca.

Our next venture was to the state run carpet store in the former Baths of Lady Hurrem across the street from the first two sites. Amazingly preserved and every room is now used to display carpets for sale. I wonder how many they actually sell as everyone we saw in there appeared to be viewing the site and not the carpets; but no one asked any questions of us or attempted to persuade us to purchase a carpet.

On to our next quest: The Basilica Cistern. Built near the Hagia Sophia, this huge cistern founded in 527 is called a sinking palace because of the great number of marble columns arising out of the water. It is 140 meters by 70 meters and you descend 52 marble steps to view the vast underground cistern that has the capacity to store 100,000 tons of water. We walked over platforms built over the water to view the 336 marble columns and watched the fish in the water. At times we found ourselves under water dripping down from the ceiling into the cistern. Two special columns have the head of Medusa on the base for the column: but the face is on its side on one and upside down on the other. According to legend the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons’ gaze. For more information on what a Gorgon is check the following website:

Our final quest for today was the Topkapi Palace. A huge place, we entered from the lower entrance and didn’t realize we needed a ticket until we’d passed through security. Jim went back out and purchased the tickets. Walk, walk, walk; couldn’t believe how huge this place is. In the Treasury we saw jewel encrusted helmets, swords, and jewelry; one was the Kasikci Diamond that is 86 carets, drop shaped, faceted and surrounded by 49 large diamonds.

By this time it was nearly two o’clock and we headed back to our hotel; only a short walk but did find a small souvenir of our visit to Turkey on the way home. It will easily tuck into the luggage so Jim is very happy that I passed on the leather hassock that can be stuffed after you get home. Just couldn’t think of a place to put it.

As we walked along the street we purchased a large pretzel to share, only fifty cents so we really did get ripped off yesterday; and some water and cokes. We enjoyed a couple of hours of rest in the hotel before heading out for dinner.

Our dinner tonight was down the street at a place called Ozler Restaurant. We stuck with water and I had vegetable spaghetti: peas, carrots, mushroom base covered with spaghetti and cheese….delicious. Jim had peppery kebab on pita bread, roasted lamb meat and vegetables, plus a side dish of green beans. I went straight back to the hotel as it was cold, but Jim walked for half an hour…without the map…and managed to find his way to the hotel again!

Internet followed by making plans for our last day in Istanbul filled the evening. Of course the television has many English stations so Jim has been enjoying that also.


sultanahmet said...

I like this great city.
I will return....

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