I have well and truly fallen in love with Istanbul. The colours, sites and sounds of this city are rather intoxicating- words and photos cannot really do this city justice. After having experienced so much in such a short time its hard to pick a favourite, but watching the sunset over the Sultanahmet is something I will never forget. One of my favourite experiences was walking through the bright and vibrant markets- my only regret was that I didn’t take my camera with me to the Grand Bazaar. However, I have no shortage of photos of the many other sites of Istanbul!
The first thing that stands out when you walk on to the grounds is the sheer scale of the palace. Having never been to a palace myself (there are not too many of them in Australia!), I was pretty excited to visit my first one. Topkapi Palace is where my new obsession with mosaic began. Each room was so beautiful and unique, full of bright colours, patterns and textures. We spent hours strolling the grounds, marvelling at the beautiful mosaic work and painted ceilings. Located on the Istanbul Peninsular one of the highlights is definitely the spectacular views of the Bosphorus and the city.
The spectacular building that stands today is actually the third church to be built on the site. The churches built on the premises have belonged to a variety of different faiths, having been used both as a church and later as a mosque. It is a great way to see how Istanbul has evolved over the centuries.
It is hard to find the words to describe Hagia Sophia. I felt quiet overwhelmed by the size and history of the place. Ever inch of the church has been beautifully detailed- its is not an experience to be rushed, but one to be savoured.
What can I say about the Basilica Cistern other than I found myself speechless most of the time we were there. 20 lira will buy you entry into the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul. If you are wondering what a cistern is then don’t worry, Lucy and I didn’t know either. In fact, there were no signs at the site explaining what it was so we had to resort to trusty Google to find out. Turns out a cistern is just something used to store liquids! This particular one still has water in it. Built in 532, it consists of 336 columns and was originally called Basilica Cistern because it was build under a basilica.
On a day when we saw so many amazing historical buildings, this was my favourite. I found it to be majestic and yet strangely eery and sinister. Unfortunately I do not possess the photographic skills to do the Basilica justice so you will just have to make do with the few I took.
High on our list of things to do in Istanbul was to visit Istanbul’s iconic landmark. It was a sticky and hot day, not ideal for waiting in a loooong line with a head scarf. We were given longer skirts to cover our legs before entering. Like with many of Istanbul’s other historic buildings and sites the first thing you notice is the size. Walking around inside it was hard not to bump into people as you want to look up the entire time. Everywhere you look in this city is a real treat for your eyes!
The Blue Mosque receives its name from the blue tiles that surround its walls. Completed in 1616, the Mosque took 7 years to complete. As it is still an active mosque we had to be careful to visit it outside of daily pray times, which are held five times a day. It is definitely a site you need to do a little research for before you visit so that you make sure you go at the right time and are dressed appropriately.
On our final day in Istanbul Lucy and I treated ourselves to a Bosphorus boat tour. I use the word ‘treat’ as the tour we booked was slightly more expensive option. However, we were driven to and from our hotel and lunch was provided. Taking a tour along the Bosphorus is a great way to see Istanbul and see the difference between the ‘Europe’ side and the ‘Asian’ side. The day we went the water was a little rough and it did get a little cloudy towards the end. However, being able to see Istanbul this way was incredible! It was the perfect way to end our stay in Istanbul.