Day 22 - Having a Look Around Istanbul

Istanbul Travel Blog

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From the ground, Aya Sofia is both imposing and impressive

With the Australians safely into the World Cup Cricket final and the kiwi’s out of it, it was safe for us all to emerge from our hotel and truly enjoy a day of sightseeing around Istanbul. 

First stop was Aya Sofia, the Church of Holy Wisdom.  It’s absolutely enormous and very grand.  Unfortunately, the view of the central dome is obstructed by scaffolding in place for restoration work.  However, the same scaffolding has been in place for almost ten years, so it wasn’t like we were particularly unlucky.

Like a lot of grand old buildings in this part of the world, its has been re-created a number of times.

It still looks huge from the Gallery
  Built originally as a church, it was later converted to a mosque and then finally to a museum by Ataturk in the 1930’s.  The conversion of most buildings leads to destruction of art but in this case the Christian mosaics were simply plastered over when converted to a Mosque, allowing them to be uncovered and restored now the building is a museum.


From the Aya Sofia we walked through the Hippodrome and past the Obelisk’s of Constantine Porphyrogentius and Theodosius and the spiral column to the Blue Mosque.  We were asked to remove our shoes (standard procedure for entering a mosque) but Rebecca was deemed to be too scantily clad, so she was draped with a sheet before being allowed to enter, a continued source of amusement to the rest of us for the remainder of the tour.  Entry to the Blue Mosque was free but at the exit there was a bloke collecting donations, hailing that a donation of 50c would buy you a ticket to paradise.

The Two Obelisks
  Michelle and I got two each and offered them to Rebecca, to save her under dressed sole. Hilarious!!


Then we were led to the first “sales pitch” of our holiday.  Apparently, all these package tours drag you around to a few producers of typical local products.  Our first stop was a Leather shop.  We were treated to a fashion parade and then guided through a number of floors of leather jackets, trousers, handbags, etc.  Aside from a couple of ladies jackets that cost in excess of £1000, nothing really caught our eyes, so most of our group spilled out onto the street empty handed.

Then it was off to a Turkish Rug shop.

The Domes of the Blue Mosque
  After a quick demonstration of the weaving technique a small army of assistants tossed rug, after rug, after rug on the floor in front of us while our host explained the virtues of each type.  Then we were softened up with some apple tea and the sales pitch began in earnest.  Those eager or unfortunate enough to show an interest in a carpet was accosted by Turkish rug sales men.  Michelle was one such customer.

It took a good 40 minutes or so for us to narrow our choice down to two carpets but a further 10 agonising minutes of deliberating lead us to decide that we weren’t sure what we wanted, so we walked out carpetless.

The afternoon was our own but we simply wandered about a little before returning to the Hotel to relax.

Everyone met back up at the hotel mid afternoon, for the next stage of our tour, a trip to the wharf for a river cruise.

The Blue Mosque, from the outside
  We arrived at the river bank a little early so whilst we stood around waiting for the boat to return, we bought a couple of kofte kebabs from a street vendor.  No sooner had we tucked into them than everyone else started to order them as well, the guy must have thought his xmas’s were all coming at once. 

The river cruise itself was disappointing.  It was cold and windy upstairs on the open deck so everyone sat downstairs, inside.  The guide was providing a commentary over a sound system but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the raucous noise of everyone chatting and drinking.  We took a couple of pictures but eventually gave up and decided to join everyone else, giving up being tourists and getting down to drinking. 

As we spilled off the boat Mish bartered with a street seller for some “Turkish hats”.

One of the few sights we bothered to see on the river cruise. The drinking was better than the weather.
  Having bartered a better price than others were able to get before us, the cry of “three for five” went up and then it seemed like everyone wanted a hat. 

Then it was back to hotel to freshen up and then out for big topdeck dinner at a local restaurant, everyone wearing their Turkish hats.  The dinner was pretty average  but there was Turkish music and belly dancer.  All in all, a bit corny and the staff were far to focused on prising money from us than from providing great service but we’d braced ourselves to expect as much, so we weren’t really disappointed.  Michelle and I turned in early (at about midnight) but my brother Scott and host of others were out until the wee hours.
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From the ground, Aya Sofia is both…
From the ground, Aya Sofia is bot…
It still looks huge from the Galle…
It still looks huge from the Gall…
The Two Obelisks
The Two Obelisks
The Domes of the Blue Mosque
The Domes of the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, from the outside
The Blue Mosque, from the outside
One of the few sights we bothered …
One of the few sights we bothered…
Our Tour Group
Our Tour Group
Our gang and tour leader Claire (f…
Our gang and tour leader Claire (…
photo by: Memo