Istanbul Day One

Istanbul Travel Blog

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 We overslept a little bit the next day, so we could only grab a quick breakfast before rushing to meet our group. Our first stop was the Hippodrome, which didn’t really look like a stadium anymore. There’s a fountain from Kaiser Wilhelm II there, and an ancient snake tower. The top part is missing, though, and there’s just one head remaining in a museum. An obelisk from Egypt is a few meters away - the Obelisk of Theodosius, carved in Egypt around 1500BCE and brought to Constantinople in 390CE. This was our first encounter with the street vendors of Istanbul, who are very persistent. We wanted to buy something from one, but the police came and scared him off. Our guide explained the wandering vendors aren’t supposed to bug tourists, but that the guy would be back - and sure enough he was just moments later. He wanted 20.000.000TL for two flutes, and we absolutely refused to pay more than 10 million. He tried to get us to compromise on 15 million, but when we refused and started to walk away he relented and sold us two flutes for 10 million lira. Our next stop was the Sultan Ahmet Camii (commonly called the Blue Mosque), the first time we had to remove our shoes. While in line to enter we encountered our first stray cat, of which there are hundreds in Istanbul. The highlight of the Blue Mosque is its tiles, which are from Iznik and worth a lot of money. We walked from the Blue Mosque to Aya Sofya (Church of the Divine Wisdom, known in Latin as Sancta Sophia and as Hagia Sophia in Greek), which is much older - it was originally a Christian church, but at the conquest of Istanbul it became a mosque. Its dome is unbelievably high, but there is scaffolding up to half of it so it’s only partly visible. We had lunch at the Pudding Shop after Aya Sofya, and spent the afternoon at Topkapi Sarayi (Palace). I was pretty tired at that point, but we made it through and back to the hotel. The first thing we did, of course, was nap, and then my girlfriend indulged me and we went to Pizza Hut for dinner. It was basically the same as in the U.S., though our vegetarian pizza did have corn on it. We spent a little while walking down Istiklal Caddesi (Street), a sort of shopping district, and bought lokum (Turkish Delight) to snack on back at the hotel.
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photo by: Memo