So our first full day here in Istanbul was packed full of going over the most famous sights and landmarks. When traveling you should always prioritize activities in case something comes up to prevent you from carrying out your well thought-out minute-by-minute plan. I’m not the only one who travels this way right?
First up was the Hagia Sophia, an old Byzantine church (now museum) of gigantic proportions and dating back to the mid-6th century. Everything inside is wondrous, from the 184 ft dome, to the mosaics of Jesus posing with Constantine and his wife, to the Viking-era graffiti etched into the marble balcony railing. Here are some of my favourite shots from inside.
Next we went underground to the Basilica Cistern, which used to store 100 000 tones of water brought from a forest 12 miles away. There were access vents in the Hagia Sophia and it was an important source of fresh water for the city. Apart from being an amazing example of Byzantine engineering, the cistern also features two late Roman Medusa-head columns. It is a creepy and beautiful spot.
Finally, we took in the Blue Mosque, an active Islam place of worship. We went in right after prayers, had to take our shoes off -which seemed like a bit much considering visitors are only allowed in the back section. But then we got inside and saw the beautiful lush carpet we were all walking on. It was nothing to the stunning ceilings and breath taking chandeliers. A very peaceful place regardless of the crowds and the fact that my headscarf kept shamefully slipping off.
Liam and I also visited a 300 year old Haman (a Turkish bath), which was incredible and needs its own post at some point when I have time to write it.
To finish the day we grabbed dinner in a place with a backgammon board and water-pipe at every table. We were disinclined to take pictures as there were lots of locals around and we didn’t want to appear touristy. It is every tourist’s dream to get “the authentic” experience and be mistaken for a local. In the end I blew our cover (which was probably nonexistent anyway) by becoming sick from the tobacco and running out of there pale as a sheet and leaving a characteristically giant tourist tip. In the fresh air of the street I immediately started to feel better and was able to properly boast about winning most of the backgammon games and go over the plan for Day 2.