Travel: Istanbul Part 2

Tuesday, 10 May 2011
After the car rental saga in Greece, we were glad to arrive safe and sound in Istanbul. Lil Bro has been looking forward to Turkey for years and was determined to visit every ruin, church, palace and mosque. Oh, did I mention that he's one of those irritatingly chirpy people who wake up singing (not very well, in my opinion but he thinks otherwise) and chat non-stop before you even take one sip of your coffee. Realizing he's not getting much response other than grunts, he launched into a detailed description of how one does a full rectal examination - just to get a reaction. *sigh* Yes, I'm Ms Grouchy particularly in the wee hours of the morning (read: please don't make inane conversations with me before 10am).

Istanbul is truly a marvellous city. A unique one at that, being the only city that straddles between two major continents, Asia and Europe. There was so much to see that 3 days barely covers Sultanahmet, the main tourist area. Our hotel is located within minutes' walk to Topkapi Palace, Agia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Main Bazaar and Galata tower.

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Agia Sofya (in front) and Blue Mosque (back)

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Inside the Blue Mosque

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Beautifully tiled ceiling inside the Blue Mosque

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Agia Sofya

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Agia Sofya was once a church before it was converted into a mosque. Note the paintings of Virgin Mary and Jesus right next to the Arabic writing.



Personally, I think going up to the Galata Tower is a waste of time and money (11 lira) when you can capture most of the beautiful scenery once you've crossed the Galata Bridge. Once you reach the top, there's only room for one individual to walk so there's lots of squeezing and giving way. It was fun checking out the avid fishermen on the bridge. Most of the fish caught were tiny, no bigger than sprat.

galata tower

Galata Tower


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Galata Bridge

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Istanbul is a busy port of call with dozens of ships going back and forth every minute of the day. The Topkapi Palace is built on a hilltop overlooking the Marmara Sea and city, a convenient location to locate enemies before they reach the shoreline. Thank goodness I read up a little about the palace before I went (thank you, L for the Rough Guide). There's a separate charge to get into the infamous harem. Thanks to the encouragement of his ambitious and devious mother, Roxelana, Sultan Selim the Sot went on to father 103 children from countless wives and concubines.

topkapi - harem queen mother

The apartment of the Queen Mother

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Topkapi Palace in the background



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topkapi  - tulips

There's an explosion of every variety of tulips in and around Sultanahmet.


I've heard a lot about Turkish coffee but to my surprise, most Turks drink tea or otherwise known as Çay (pronounced chai). The shopkeepers would order a glass of Çay and tea is brought on a round metal tray. I must say that I got hooked on Turkish tea and never bothered to tried coffee after my first sip.

main bazaar - turkish tea


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We had a quick look at Main Bazaar but most of the shops sell pretty similar items. After hearing hundreds of konichiwas and ni haos, I was ready to wear ear muffs. Every Turk we met were indubitably mystified by our response that we're from New Zealand. But but but you look Oriental. It wasn't until I came up with a better explanation - there are 3 million people of Turkish origin in Germany before I get the ohhhh ahhhh.... I see response.

main bazaar - bags


main bazaar - coffee pots


main bazaar - tap


I've had strangers walking up to me requesting to have their photos taken. It's a first for me. Normally, I'm the one asking permission. Take example this young man below who was thrilled to see his image on my camera.

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Sister in law and I managed to palm off the kids to the two men. We did a spot of window shopping before stopping for some dessert and a glass of Çay.

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candies

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We stumbled upon a hole in a wall type restaurant off the main touristy streets right outside our hotel. The food was incredibly delicious and cheap. We were probably the only tourists that ever stopped by.

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Next stop - Uchisar.

5 comments:

  1. I was very fascinated with the arabic writings next to the Christian icons when I visited Hagia Sophia. It's amazing how when it was in use as a mosque that they maintained the Christian symbols. As someone not well versed in the architectural history of mosques, my assumption is mosques are designed/constructed after the Hagia Sophia.

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  2. DA, I had trouble distinguishing the mosques as they're so similar, minarets and all. I've only read little tidbits here and there about the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia but would love to find out more about them when I have the time.

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  3. such such such beautiful photos. *sigh*

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  4. Thank you for your continual support, Terri. Means a lot to me.

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  5. Thank you for being such an appreciative audience. I love exploring the town and talking to the locals more than visiting all the ruins and tourist attractions.

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