September 7th, 2008 – by: Auditarchi
Ok, after some little sleep I woke up again at 5 am because of the call for prayer I wasn't used too untill now. I also got into bed way too late because of some socializing with my fellow travellers and it had been very hot at night , soo a short night. Had a first Turkish breakfast, Afiyet Olsun! Our plan was to visit some highlights of Stambul ( the old city). Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofia, and the Blue mosque were on our list and itwould take me a day. All these are situated in the Sultan Ahmet district : the first marks of the islamic religion on European soil.
Topkapi palace is a must and has an excellent location! It lies next to the bosporus and it's a huge complex that used to be ruling center of the Ottoman Empire.
entrance of blue mosque
The Aya Sofia and blue mosque are at walking distance. The entrance gate is astonishing. Topkapi shows you the wealth of the sultans and the oriental magnificence in art and architecture. On top of that, it can be considered as a great first meeting with the city and oriental culture. The entrance fee is about 6 euros I think. the palace area is large, and surrounded by the city, the bosporus,and beautiful gardens. A visit to the harem is really worth it ( but there is an extra fee). We went kinda early at about 9am, think this is a good time to avoid a huge crowd of tourists. We were there for like 3 hours and more people came to show up. Topkapi was the former palace owned by the sultans.
We retraced our steps into the direction of Aya Sofia and after the quest for some pide (bread) and vegetables we took a picknick in Gulhane-park, a long park that leads to the Bosporus and where a lot of Turks take their midday break.
A good place to observe at ease the Istanbul inhabitants. It became clear to me that it is a very busy city but i didn't have the impression that about 16 million people actually live here. I felt kinda strange actually because we were eating and the people taking part of ramadan were just sitting down without food or drinks, respect!
Aya Sofia is said to be one of the 7 world wonders so I also visited this ancient Byzantian church. this church was the most important one for christianity. It was quite busy when we got there and a man convinced us to take him as a guide, turned out to be a good choice. In my opinion, the blue mosque is more worth a visit because there you really experience the religious belief people have in the Islam and you get to see the locals in their natural surroundings doing their daily prayers.
Aya Sofia is also quite expensive to visit but forgot the exact price. On the other hand it's also worth it because of the architecture, the history around it and so much more. I also visited the Cisternes ' Yerebatan Saray' near blue mosque, this used to provide the entire city with water, now there is still water in it and you can see the fish swimming in a kind of 'pool' below surface level. Do consider a little stop at the snake Obelisk. It was so busy in this part of the city in the afternoon. Not too surprising as people went praying 5 times a day in the mosque because of Ramadan. After sunset the squares and gardens in SultanAhmet
were full of people having their evening meal which was soo delicious off course because they weren't allowed to eat during the day. Ended the day with an introduction of the Turkish waterpipe called Shisha and again with a turkish beer in order to sleep well ;).