Istanbul - domes and spires

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Blue Mosque
We arrived in Istanbul around noon the following day. I don't recall much of the trip there as I was busy catching up on some much-needed sleep from the night before. We hopped on the metro at the airport and then transferred onto the tram to take us to Sultanahmed, the area in Istanbul where the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia are located.

Istanbul is a fascinating city because of all the history centered around this almost legendary town - plus it's also the only city in the world straddling two continents. During the various phases of its history, this city has been known as Byzantium and Constantinople, and served as the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.
Hagia Sofia
Originally dominated by Catholics, the city houses many magificent cathedrals, including the largest cathedral at its time, the Hagia Sofia (which was subsequently converted to a mosque). Another structure almost synonomous with Istanbul is the Blue Mosque (officially named the Sultanahmed Mosque), so called because of the blue Iznik tiles used in the interior. The Iznik tiles were highly sought-after at the time and was actually largely based on the Chinese ceramics of the era. One interesting note about the Blue Mosque was the fact that it had 6 spires (called minarets apparently), which caused quite a stir at the time because the only other mosque with 6 spires was the holy Kaaba at Mecca. The Sultan overcame this by funding the construction of a 7th spire at Kaaba.
Hagia Sofia


Anyways, we arrived at the Sultanahmed Square shortly after lunchtime and the place was packed with tourists and tour buses. Fighting our way to the square, I was blown away by the sight of the Hagia Sofia on one side of the square and the Blue Mosque on the other - two of the world's most recognizeable buildings literally side by side.

Our hostel was only a very short walk away from the spire and the people were amazingly friendly. The Turkish guys definitely had no problems cracking jokes at their own expense. We got along fabulously! That same day we decided to just go out and explore on our own. Without a map to guide us or a set plan, we ended up walking through the park housing the Topkapi Palace (the place where the sultans used to live, now convered to a museum) without knowing it was there, and then walked along the waterfront to the New Mosque (new meaning it is less than a thousand years old I suppose) and the Spice Market.
Famous turkish coffee....definitely an acquired taste, but I thoroughly enjoy them!
The Spice Market was quite the energetic hustle-bustle of a place, with venders laying out all their exotic spices and fresh turkish delights. Later, we would meet the Turkish Jackie Chan at this market, but that's a story for another day!

On our way back, we had some amazing fresh pomegranate juice. One thing I loved about Istanbul was the sheer amount of street vendors out on every corner. Most were selling either corn on the cob (not recommended), the turkish breads (make sure to look for the ones carrying huge spirals of bread on their heads - much more fun taking it off there as opposed to buying from the carts), roasted chestnuts (never did get around the trying this), and stuffed mussels (must try - they make this by mixing rice, herbs, and mussels and then splashed with fresh lemon juice).
Blue Mosque at night
One other highlight is the fact that every stand along the street pretty much has a juicer and makes fresh orange, grapefruit, or pomegranate juice on the spot for you.

Rounded the evening out with some turkish ice cream, which was very interesting because it is super stretchy (almost like eating melted cheese) and I swear those things do not melt! At supper, our server, Nadim, actually turned out to be a fellow who spent like 7 years living in Edmonton. He used to live in the Chinatown and the Tin Pan Alley region, so almost like my neighbour!

Great start on the trip. We decided to tackle the Grand Bazaar the next day!
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Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
Hagia Sofia
Hagia Sofia
Hagia Sofia
Hagia Sofia
Famous turkish coffee....definitel…
Famous turkish coffee....definite…
Blue Mosque at night
Blue Mosque at night
I love the way they make their pit…
I love the way they make their pi…
Istanbul
photo by: Memo