Sultanahmet and Taksim
Istanbul Travel Blog› entry 490 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Derya and Hakan (Turkey), Eric and Dave (USA)
On Friday i just about managed to pull myself into the shower around 10.40 and then caught a bus down to Taksim and from here walked to Neverland Hostel to meet the guys. We were all feeling a little weary, so decided to head to Istiklal to get some lunch at a buffet style restaurant. Once we had finished our food we opted to take a walk along Istiklal, but it was such miserable cold and rainy weather that it wasn't too pleasant.
After some time we made our way to Galata Tower, which we were told offered some nice panoramas of the City. On the price list it said in English 10YTL, but in Turkish they wrote besh Lira, which i knew was 5.
Next port of call was the Bosphorous River, which had the Galata Bridge spanning it. On the far embankment we could see some large Mosques, but decided not to visit them today, and instead settled for a walk halfway across the bridge.
Feeling a little revitalised we made a move back to the Neverland Hostel and passed the impressive Nusretiye Mosque along the way. Having temporarily got lost in the winding streets, we finally got back to the warmth of the reception area, where we played cards for some time and just enjoyed not been rained on for a bit! It was the first time i had played the game Big2 or whatever the hell it was called, but i had lots of beginners luck and gave the lads a good thrashing.
Originally we had hoped to meet Derya later on in the evening, but she was sensibly staying at home where it was dry and cosy. Therefore us boys went out for Dinner together, but none of us could really muster the energy to do much afterwards, so we all decided to go home and get an early night. I jumped off my bus in Ortakoy to have a quick look at the Mosque and the Bridge lit up at night and then went back to chat with Derya and a friend of hers who was visiting.
Even though i had gone to bed quite early the night before, i didn't wake up to my alarm the following day and as luck would have it nor did Derya or her friend, who also both had to be up. I had arranged to meet Eric and Dave around 10.
I caught a bus down to Kabatas, which is where the very handy tram starts its journey all the way to Sultanahmet, which is far quicker than sitting in the traffic jams that the bus is subject to. I had decided to stay in the Cordial House Hostel which was only 12.5YTL ($8) per night for a dormitory room, which came with free wireless.
I made use of the wireless to check my emails and arrange a place to meet Eric and Dave later in the day. With this out of the way, i went for a walk down to the Hippodrome and Blue Mosque, which is also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque. The Hippodrome had some incredible monuments including the well preserved Obelisk of Theodosius, which had been carved in Egypt more than 3500 years ago. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was a replica, it really is in such immaculate condition. Another pillar in the vicinity is the less aesthetically appealing Spiral Column, although its History is still captivating. Having been built in 478BC, it stood at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi for the first 800 years of its existence, before Constantine the Great carted it off to Constantinople.
The simple fact is that any country that had such power throughout History, abused this for their own material gain. It is incredibly blinkered of people to just look back at the last couple of hundred years and forget about what happened before this. But most people prefer this line of approach, as it excuses their country of all the crimes that it committed, long before the Brits or Americans came onto the scene. But try and explain this to a Turk, a Persian, an Italian or a Greek and they will tend to scoff at the thought that their sweet, innocent, non aggressive nation could ever have committed such deeds.
I entered the courtyard of the Blue Mosque from the Hippodrome and struggled to find an angle to take a photo from, as it was just too big to fit in the frame! I guess that gives a good idea of the scale of the place, which really is a bit mind boggling. The Mosque was built between 1606 and 1616 by Sultan Ahmet I, and it was conceived by the Sultan as a place of worship that could rival, if not surpass Aya Sofya. I was pointed to the side entrance along with all the other tourists, whilst Muslims entered through the front door, which was fair enough.
Inside the Mosque, you really needed to crank your head to get a good view of the place. The ceiling was so high and all the walls were ornately decorated, with the colourful red prayer mats laid out on the floor. It was a strange sensation to have so many vivid colours in view and coupled with my head moving back and forth and up and down, it started to make me feel a bit dizzy, so i decided that it was time to go!
I used the Sultanahmet Park exit to leave the grounds of the Mosque and this gave me some fantastic views of Aya Sofya.
The other reason that i think people should refuse to pay entry to Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace, is because there are limitless other things to see in Istanbul, where you won't be treated like a complete fool. I decided to take a walk around the Sultanahmet district which was nice enough and it gave me the chance to find out bus prices and times to Bodrum and also to take my camera to get fixed. I was told to come back on Monday for a quote which wasn't a problem and then went for lunch in a little cafe. The food was decent, the waiters attentive and friendly and for a kebab, a sandwich with fries in and a carton of ayran i paid $2.
In the evening i had arranged to meet Eric and Dave, who were going to be with fellow Travbuddy's Fatih and Nargiza. We exchanged greetings outside the Galatasary school and went to a club to drink a beer, but it was a little too early and the music was too loud to stay for too long. Thus we went to a teahouse for our next drink, and the conversation improved now that we could actually hear each other. With all the locals playing Tavla, we decided that we would have a game of cards, but the waiter told us that cards were banned, as we were within a few hundred metres of a school, which i found rather ridiculous, but rules are rules - and obviously Turkish people always stick to the rules - just look at their driving ;)
The Turkish Travbuddy's left us at 22.
We ended up visiting a couple of trendy bars, but then a couple of Hakan's Turkish friends became intent on finding the ideal bar, which led to us walking the streets for half an hour in search of somewhere to drink. In the end Eric, Dave and I became a bit tired of all the walking and just decided that we would stay in a bar regardless of what everyone else was doing and i was happy that Hakan decided to stay with us and let the others wander off.
Around 03.30 we called it a night and went our separate ways. Even though it was drizzling i decided to walk home, which took about an hour. I was really happy that i did though, as i got the City streets to myself and also saw the fishermen at work on the Galata Bridge. Sultanahmet looked particularly appealing lit up at night, but by 05.00 I'd had enough of wandering around and went home to bed.