“Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night”
– They Might Be Giants
Istanbul is the 3rd largest city in the world with a population 13 million. It is so big because it is located in a very important area, which connects the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Did I mention it’s on two continents?
We (my friends and I) flew in on Turkish Airlines. Best flight ever! I got a full on meal, wine, and hazelnuts. I was treated like a sultan.
After the eating extravaganza on the flight, we settled into our hotel that was in the historic center of the city.
The hotel was perfect. It was quaint, but very homey. It had a courtyard in the center where we ate breakfast, free tea in the lobby, and my room had a balcony.
After taking some time to unpack and get our bearings, we headed over to the Blue Mosque. Built in 1609, the Blue Mosque is one of the most mosques in all of Islam. Since it is still in use, we (the girls) had to cover our heads with scarves. Worth it because the interior of the mosque is breath taking.
See the minerates (tall towers)? That's where the call for worship comes from 5 times a day. Yes, even at 4:30am.
Outside the Blue Mosque in the Hippodrome (large amphitheater for races) is an Egyptian Obelisk. It was brought to Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 390AD.
Next we ate. I had some lamb, the meat of choice in Turkey.
The meat is under all that cheese and eggplant. Yummy!
I washed my meal down with some Turkish Coffee, which is made by boiling coffee grounds and leaving them in the bottom of the cup.
After eating, we strolled down the street to a hookah bar.We smoked hookah, learned some Turkish dances, and tried Raki.
Reading my blog then most of you know that I will eat and drink almost anything, but I did not like Raki. It tasted like black liquorish, and to be honest, that’s one of the few flavors I can’t put down.
The next day we visited an even more important mosque, the Aya Sophia. It was a christian cathedral from 360 to 1453. Then it became a mosque and now it’s a museum. What is amazing about this structure is that 1) it is beautiful, 2) it traded religious hands and retains both decorations, 3) the dome is supported by the outside walls not by columns.
Writings from the Koran
Then we went to the Sultan’s pad. The Topkapi Palce was home to the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. There is amazing architecture, decorations, gardens, clothing, royal jewels, and relics from the prophet.
Some of the sultans many ladies. One sultan had 27 kids!
86 karat Diamond.
Inside the palace, outside the palace, and all over Turkey are these cats! Stray cats are everywhere. There is no control over them, well, except for the stray dogs that eat them.
After our day of tours, all the girls went to a traditional Turkish Bathhouse for some R&R.We were relaxing until 11pm! I guess we got carried away. Then we had a very nice dinner together.
Next day we traveled underground to the Basilica sistern. Istanbul has no source for fresh water therefore, they had to build elaborate aqua ducts to bring water into the city. The water would collect into these underground sisterns. This sistern was interesting because all the columns were different because they were taken from palaces all over the Ottoman Empire.
Don't worry this is a safe Medusa. She won't turn you into stone. Or will she?
After the Basilica sister we went to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. Both are covered market areas. The Grand Bazaar has over 4,000 merchants selling gold, silver, carpets, slippers, books, food, and much more. There you also get to bargain for the prices.
Spices in the Spice Market
Yes, it is always this crowded.
After shopping a few of us took a ferry to ASIA! Now, I can finally tell people I have been to Asia. I’ve been to three out of the 7 continents. I didn’t stay long in Asia, so I guess I will just have to go back.
In the evening we went to the modern area of the city around Taksim and Istiklal. This is an area filled with modern stores, cafes, and modern architecture. It’s pretty cool to compare the different parts of the massive city.
After our big day in the city, we went to bed to get good sleep for our travels home.
At the airport the next day, there were protest about the confrontation in Libya. There seemed to be a lot of confusion, so we quickly got through security to our gate.
I’m back in Prague (my new second home) safe and sound.