Without doubt, Istanbul is one of the world's greatest city. The oriental sky line with domes and minarets is just magical. The city was historically known as Constantinople and Byzantium and is the most populated city in Turkey. What more? Unlike any other city in the world, it is split between two continents - Asia and Europe.
Turkey was on my list for a very long time and when I finally boarded the plane from Dubai, I couldn't resist hiding my excitement. I got down at Ataturk Airport in the afternoon and headed to Sutanahmet where the room was booked. It was drizzling a little and I hoped for some sunlight because rain can dampen the spirit. By evening, it was a full blown rain. But I didn't care. I loved the atmosphere. After check in, I roamed the streets and was fascinated with everything. The cobble stones, small cafes, litter free and clean streets, chilly weather. Finally, this is just what I wanted.
My first stop was at a small restaurant as I was famished. Later on I just walked around the streets trying to get familiar with the locality. The people are polite and hospitable. Historic sights Sultanahmet district steal the show. Especially the Hagia Sofia or Aya Sofya and the Blue mosque. The Grand Bazaar is an awesome place to visit for the first day.It is one of the largest and oldest markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops which attract around 400000 visitors daily. The rain made the streets look beautiful at night.
Got to eat first, most important thing ever
Tea at the bazaar
The Grand Bazaar. A good day to unwind
Sorry for the potato quality pics, but I just wanted to give you an idea
The next morning, I woke up early and visited the Hagia Sofia first. Hagia Sofia was a Greek Orthodox church, later converted to an imperial mosque by Mehmed the Conquerer of the Ottoman Empire. It is now a museum. There were a few Greeks who were waiting in line and they told me how it belonged to Greece and the Turks lie that it is theirs. My Greek friend would approve. Hagia Sophia is famous for the light that reflects everywhere in the interior, giving the dome the appearance of hovering above. The minarets were an Ottoman addition, and not part of the original church's Byzantine design.
When it stops raining, Hagia Sofia
When I came out, it had stopped raining. I then visited the Topkapi Palace, a large museum. In the 15th century, it served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, only the most important are open to public. The museum collection includes Ottoman clothing, weapons, armor, |miniatures, religious relics, and illuminated manuscripts. The complex is guarded armed guards of the Turkish military.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque is another important attraction. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue light. The many lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems. It was so peaceful inside. I sat there watching others pray.
The Blue mosque
I spent rest of the day looking around, roaming the street in search of food and finding good Turkish tea.
Check out the next part for my experience in Cappadocia. That place is completely different from Istanbul. See in there!