Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia and Topkapi Palace and more
Istanbul Travel Blog› entry 8 of 37 › view all entries
We had an early start because 5 cruise ships had docked along the piers overnight and that meant thousands of tourists would be descending and going to the same places we were going today!
We crossed the Galata Bridge where we saw people fishing from both sides and it looked like a fun place to walk on. Heading into the old city, we passed the train station made famous by the Orient Express and also the hotel where Agatha Christy stayed, it was under some renovation at this time.
We arrived at the Hippodrome just before 8:30am and looked at the 3 monuments there, the Egyptian obelisk, the metal Serpantine Column without its heads and the Brazen Column from which the bronze casing had been removed. The Hippodrome was a stadium at the heart of Constantinople, dating back to 3rd century. This was the site of several bloody events in history, one of which happened in the year 532 when a brawl between chariot racing teams got out of hand and developed into a revolt, during which time much of the city was destroyed, at the end, an army of mercenaries trapped and massacred 30000 people in the Hippodrome! The Egyptian Obelisk came from outside of Luxor and dated to 1500 BC. The obelisk stands on a base which had carvings depicting how the obelisk was raised: mounds of earth were erected on one side and then another side, the obelisk lowered to lean on one mound and then the other mound until it became fully standing.
Walking around the Hippodrome, we entered into the Blue Mosque courtyard. There was a moment of disbelief, I was in the Blue Mosque just like that? The rectangular courtyard was surrounded with arched columns. But inside the courtyard were also many temporary looking stalls, no idea what they were for, but they looked ugly and not belonging to this place. Then we removed our shoes and put them in bags and went into the mosque itself. The mosque had a huge and tall dome surrounded by shorter partial domes. There were huge columns inside the mosque and long wires hung from the ceiling of the domes to just above people's height supporting huge metal rings full of lights or lanterns in the old days.
Next we walked past the Haghia Sophia toward the Topkapi Palace. We went through 4 courtyards til the end of the palace ground where it meets the water. Across the water we could see the hospital where Florence Nightingale tended to the wounded on the Asian side of Istanbul. In the palace, we saw in the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle sacred relics of Islam. These included the mantle once worn by the prophet Mohammed, the staff of Noah supposedly, the hand of St John.
In the Treasury's collection were many precious jewels, including a daggar with 3 huge emralds, a diamond of 86 carats, lots of diamonds, ruby, emarld, jade, in medals, etc. all very impressive. We did not go into the first room where thrones were kept because the lines to see them were pretty long.
After a quick look in the kitchen, where large ceramic bowls and dishes were on display, we left the palace grounds and headed for Haghia Sophia. This former church was under restoration, and a huge scaffording was erected in the center hall.
Next we were brought to near the Galata Bridge for lunch at the Hmdi restaurant right next to the waterfront. After lunch, we had free afternoon, so Kevin and I decided to walk over the Galata Bridge to the Tower and then back to the hotel.
We first went into the New Mosque. It has a very beautiful interior, rows of stained glass windows, large rings of chandliers hung from the ceiling, red carpet covered the floor. There was a blocked off section where people were praying, and women were praying in another section near the entrance. Then we went out onto the Galata Bridge.
It was interesting to see all the people fishing from the bridge, and they showed us their catch, many fishes, not large ones.
Galata Tower was much easier to find from this direction because we could see its top and pick the correction direction. The ticket cost 10 TLR each, and we got an elevator ride to the 7th floor, then we had to climb 2 more flghts of stairs to the panoramic observation desk. The view was spectacular and we couldl wallk 360 degrees on the deck outside the tower. The tower was 60 m tall, apparently high enough so that in the 1700's Herzarifen Ahmet Celebi was able to attach wings to his arms and flew to Uskudar across the Bosphrus. There was a restaurant here and it's probably a popular spot for dinner and city lights view.
We then walked north and found the tram line on the pedestrian stree of Istiklal Caddesi.
For dinner we had heard about this restaurant near the airport called Beyti, famous for its meat dishes. We had made a reservation eariler and took a taxi there. The taxi ride took a LONG time because the traffic was just really congested, more than 1 hour for 25km (about 48 TLR) the driver wanted to wait for us so he can take us back so that's fine too. Our table was on the terrace and the service was superb. We had various lamb and beef dishes among the 4 of us (I had the mixed grill for the main dish), and it was definitely worth recommending to people going to Istanbul.