Intriguing Istanbul

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September 14th 2008
Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: 41.0245, 28.9881

Istanbul is an intriguing city. It is full of the old and the new and around every corner there are more sights to see. The first thing that struck me as we drove in to the city were the number of mosques clearly defined by their minarets. This, of course, is not suprising, but coming from western countries where church spires are more common, it is a reminder of the prevalent culture.
We had had a long day driving from Sofia. After a great night in Sofia with Steve and Jenny at an Italian restaurant, we had left our hotel at 7-30am. We had stopped on the drive at a couple of service statons but nothing of great note had been seen or done. I did text to Jo Armour to wish everyone well as I knew the Yr 11 Informal was in progress. It was geat fun when Jo rang me at one of our stops to say Hi and express how much fun the Staff were having at the dance!!!!
We arrived in Istanbul about 5-30pm. That evening Fletcher and I headed down to the Bosphorous. This is a very busy waterway with boats of all sizes and shapes, from luxury liners to a small dinghys plying the strait. We hopped on a ferry that crossed to the Asian side at Uskudur. This only cost us $1-40 each and took the place of the promised sunset Bosphorous cruise that didn't eventuate. It only took 10 minutes to cross. We had a quick look at that side and found a long queue of people of all shapes and sizes. They were queuing for free food. During Ramadan, local municipalities give out free food at sunset to those who have fasted all day. We returned to our side, Beskitas and had a good meal in a local waterfront cafe. Back at our hotel we were going to have a nightcap in the lobby bar but when we saw the price of a glass of wine, $20,we changed our mind. It is great to stay in 5 star hotels but they charge 5 star prices!!!
The next day we "did" Istanbul. We started at the Grand Bazaar where everything is on sale and if you don't haggle you will be ripped off. I did spend some money there, particularly on a nice silver bangle, but not too much!!. Fletcher and I played "godcop,bad cop," with me walking away from the seller and then Fletcher negotiating a better price. It seemed to work!! From there we visited the two most famous structures in Istanbul, The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. The first is still a working mosque and we had to take our shoes off and be repectfully dressed to go inside. It is beautifully decorated with elaborate tiles, mainly in blue colours, hence its nickname. A huge interior, capable of containing over 4,000. Hagia Sofia is a unique building as it has in turn been an Orthodox church, a Catholic cathedral and a mosque according to who was in control of Istanbul at the time. It is now solely a museum. It was originally built by Justinian 1 in the 6th century and is constantly being renovated. It has some very old mosaics of Mary and Jesus as well as the Archangel Michael. It is decorated in yellow with patterns of flowers and other designs. The interior has many varieties of marble and overall it is very impressive.
From here we walked to Topkapi palace. This is stunning. We were here back in 1994 and since then they have changed the treasury rooms. There is still the magnificent emereld dagger and a diamond made as a turban ornament that is the size of a cricket ball!!. There are jewel encrusted thrones and magnificent jewellery. We had a lovely lunch at the restaurant overlooking the Bosphorous, Konyali, and then went into the decorated meeting rooms and some of the sultan's private rooms which we hadn't seen last time. Fletcher decided that the Sultan's bed was so large he could have entertained the Australian women's soccer team in there!!!
That night we were driven to the Kumpara district to a great street which was lined with restaurants. This was our farewell dinner to end the tour. We had great fish and a pleasant evening. On returning to the hotel we did go up to the 14th floor to the roof bar and admired the stunning view, but it did cost us a fair bit for one glass of wine and a beer!!
We have now said goodbye to our fellow Insight tourers. Once again we made many new friends and enjoyed their company. It will be rather nice, though, to be able to return to our own schedule and not have to get up at 6am and have our bags outside the door at 6-30.
We now head for Venice!!


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