The day we met the Turkish Prime Minister

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Aya Sofya sloped hallway and stone ways
8.30m start after a fairly late night was not so tough.  I was feeding off my excitement of seeing Istanbul and all the sights.  Even the pitter patter of rain against the window wasn't going to put me off today.  The breakfast selection at Suite Home was fairly basic.  A selection of breads, cheese, ham, spreads, salads and cereals.  The day didn't start off so well as all the girls were late getting up.  We wasted an hour just waiting around for everyone to get ready.  I decided to take a quick walk to Taksim square to see if there was anything interesting happening up that end.  As the rain was gently pittering down on us we could see a couple of kids, yes kids around the age of 8, were selling umbrellas for 2TL.
Aya Sofya paintings


Mehmet at reception was a great help, he gave us directions of how to get to Sultanahmet.  We took the funicular to Kabatas and we changed there for the metro.  Each ride cost 1.50TL, jetons can be purchased in the stations and tobacco windows located closest to the station.  Cheap as chips and fast, perfect.  It does get quite busy a bit like London underground so be prepared to get squished.  We got there in no time and the rain was still only a slight drizzle.  We tried to go to the Blue Mosque first but the whole road seemed to be closed off and there was security all over the place.  When I asked a police officer what was happening he said that it was closed for prayer time and I should return at 2pm.
Aya Sofya paintings
  So seeing as we were only across the road from the Aya Sofya we decided to go there first and then return to the Blue Mosque at 2pm.       

The queue for entry was busy and unorganised, people all over the place and no concept of a queue.  We waited for about 10mins and paid the 20TL entry price.  You have to go through a security gate and place your bags on the conveyor belt into the scanner, like the airport.  It is very unorganised and a huge jumble of people and stuff bundled in the security gate is common. 

Eventually when we made our way in we were greeted with a film crew with there huge cameras and ladders.  We were guided away from them and stepped through the main entrance.  The huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and the detailed pattern designs on the ceiling were quite captivating.
Aya Sofya ceiling detail
  As the day was dreary and miserable it was quite dark inside the Aya Sofya.  The little natural light that we did have was beaming through the stained glass windows.  The mix of Christian mosaics and Arabic calligraphy sit happily complimenting each other. 

Interesting little features like the 'Wishing hole' keep all the visitors interested.  A whole bundle of tourists gathered at the hole in the wall causing a bit of a chaos, while the young school children waiting and formulated an orderly queue.  You are supposed to put your thumb into the hole and twist you hand all around the hole and make a wish at the same time.  Harder than you think.  Try not to dislocate your hand while you do it.

We walked the whole perimeter of the Aya Sofya.
Sultan sumet
  We saw the alter with the marble arch, the Arabic inscriptions and the Arch Angel Gabriel mosaic on the wall.  The Sultans lodge up above the ground on the second floor and the upper gallery.  The pigeons trapped in here perched on the ledge of the window sills.  A cat napped quietly on the alter under the spot lights.  There was scaffolding in the building with workmen carrying out repairs or maintenance.  It ruined the ambience of the church.  We went up the upper level of the church and the corridor leading up was a bit like a cave.  The stone walls and steepish slope.  A collection of mosaic type paintings on the walls, no flash photography to preserve the paintings.  Here we had access to the windows and could see the rain really lashing down hard now.
The Prime Minister


The exit of the Aya Sofya was completely blocked by people sheltering from the rain.  I came prepared and had an umbrella.  We ran across the park to the main strip and had lunch in Cafe Bodrum as we waited for the rain to stop.  I had the Sultan sumet.  It was a delicious lamb meatballs and aubergine dish, cooked perfectly in a tomatoey sauce in a clay dish.  This was a perfect dish for this crappy weather.  I ate the whole thing and even lapped up the sauce at the end.  The group had a selection of shish kebaps, lamb casseroles and meat and rice dishes.  It took the whole course of the meal for the rain to stop.

After our meal it was around 2.50pm, we headed back to the Blue Mosque to get a glimpse.  The road was still closed and the police and security was still everywhere.
Queue into the Blue Mosque
  This seemed a little unusual that all this security would be required on a regular day.  We walked around to the tourist entry and floods of people were practically banging the door down.  We tried to stop and ask staff but they either didn't want to stop or couldn't.  A huge kerfuffle of people were running around.  We then over heard some some tourists talking about the Prime Minister being inside.  We waited... impatiently.  Then... security men with ear pieces came bursting out of the double doors.  They ran through the middle of the crowds and parted everyone.  Then... he came strolling through with body guards all around him.  He walked at a good pace, smiled and waved and let people take pictures of him.

Once he passed we rushed through the double doors and scaled the stairs up towards the Blue Mosque.
Blue Mosque interior
  Queues and more queues all over the place.  Once you get to the entrance you have to take your shoes off and this was what was making everything go so slowly.  When I reached the top I knelt down to take my shoes off and way nearly knocked out by the smell.  OMG!  You can only imagine the smell of cheese central.  I almost threw up the pungent feet smell was horrific.  People falling over each other and pushing by this point now.  When I walked in I was prepared to be bowled over by the decor or the feeling of the place... but I was sadly disappointed.  The awful smell consumed me and the crush of people annoyed me.  I couldn't really enjoy the place after this.  I think if I had the opportunity to see the separate part where locals go to pray, that might have been more inspiring.
Feet feast
  We didn't stay long as there was not much to see.

We decided that it wasn't worth trekking to the Palace at this time of day and everyone was getting tired and restless after the ordeal of the Blue Mosque.  Instead we headed to the Arasta Bazaar, only 5mins walk away from the Blue Mosque.  Here we wanted to look at what goods were on offer and the kind of prices that they were asking.  This would help us with our negotiations when we hit the grand bazaar.  The main things on my list were a tea set of six cups and saucers with brass spoons and turkish slippers.  The vendors here were friendly they were willing to spend time with us and went through their goods that they had to offer us.  As everyone was craving sugar, we decided to head back to Taksim and have dessert.
Stained glass windows, Blue Mosque
  We stopped at Suti's on Istiklal and we all tried a traditional turkish dessert.  I chose the pastry with pistachio and cream, this was a bit like a baklava.  Very sweet and very tasty. 

Evening events planned was a pink themed party night.  We got all glammed up in our pink dresses and headed out to club 360.  The guy from reception, Murat offered to walk us there as it was located on Istiklal.  We walked for ages down Istiklal and attracted what seemed like the whole male population of Istanbul.  People were following us and trying to talk to us and trying to touch us.  This was unacceptable! Murat  did his best to fend off the majority of them but it was getting ridiculous.  They seemed to just stare and follow us, that is not attractive to a women, its creepy!  Murat didn't quite know where he was going and ended up passing the venue then we had to walk back on ourselves.
360 special
  The girls were not pleased with that at all. 

Eventually when we reached the club there was a queue as the club was on the 8th floor of the building.  Only one lift and a limited amount of people could get in the lift at once.  We had to split the group into two journeys.  The entry price to the club was 25TL, which included a drink.  We walked in with a bunch of locals and they said that it was pricey but they always had a good time.  The ticket covered any drink on the menu.  We chose the house drink.  It was very grainy like a cinnamon type of flavour, not so bad to drink.  They played dance music.  It boomed around the room.  Everyone in the club was very casually dressed, we were probably the most dressed up group in there.
Drummer girl @ 360
  There was an eclectic atmosphere, the people were a mix of old and young people.  The roof top terrace was a great location to get some air and enjoy the views of the city.  The waiters gave table service outside and served fruits as snacks.  The shots girl pushed her trolley selection around trying to attempt as many people as possible.  The drinks were expensive and the service was slow.  Each drink was over 20TL each.  Shots on the other hand was only 5TL each. 

The entertainment was a lady dancing on the table wearing her underwear, full body on show.  There men crowded the table and watched with their tongues hanging out for air.  A drummer girl bounced onto the stage shortly after the dancer disappeared.
Exotic dancer
  The drummer banged out a 30min set and got the crowd all excited.  She played a very mix of spanish/electro mix.  She had a little fan club forming on the dance floor. 

The club started to slowly clear out around 3pm, the usual time for London clubs.  This place was supposed to stay open until 6am.  As we started to leave at 3.30pm, more people were still entering.  So I guess the party does still continue.  We walked at speed to get back to the hotel as we did not want the attention that we had earlier.  The street was just as packed at night as it is during the day.  The noise just as loud if not louder. 

Again as we were exhausted by the events of the day, we blocked the noise of the street out and fell asleep almost immediately.


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Aya Sofya sloped hallway and stone…
Aya Sofya sloped hallway and ston…
Aya Sofya paintings
Aya Sofya paintings
Aya Sofya paintings
Aya Sofya paintings
Aya Sofya ceiling detail
Aya Sofya ceiling detail
Sultan sumet
Sultan sumet
The Prime Minister
The Prime Minister
Queue into the Blue Mosque
Queue into the Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque interior
Blue Mosque interior
Feet feast
Feet feast
Stained glass windows, Blue Mosque
Stained glass windows, Blue Mosque
360 special
360 special
Drummer girl @ 360
Drummer girl @ 360
Exotic dancer
Exotic dancer
Istanbul
photo by: Memo