The Old City of Istanbul: Honeymoon Day 13
After falling in love with Istanbul yesterday afternoon after a much anticipated visit to the city, we spend the whole day sightseeing in the Fatih neighborhood – the historic and oldest part of Istanbul on the European side.
The Topkapi Palace
We began with the Topkapi Palace, the third palace built by the Sultan Mehed II. Now the palace is a museum with a series of exhibit rooms featuring Ottoman treasures, holy relics, weapons, courtyards, lavishly tiled rooms, and a sizable 300 room harem section for the sultan’s wives, concubines, children, and African eunuch guards. That last part should translate to the designated and formal orgy rooms, which were quite nice and socially organized!
After visiting the Topkapi Palace you will definitely need a break, so we planned to have lunch afterwards in a nearby restaurant to try some local recommendations that we received – all of which were great choices.
The Basilica Cistern
The cistern was one of my favorite sites. It can hole a whopping 27 million gallons of water and it’s the largest of the various underground water reserves. With 336 columns, and fish at the bottom, it has a very eerie and mysterious feel to it, especially after encountering two Medusa heads at the far end of the cistern, one of which is upside-down and the other sideways. One legend says that they were placed that way so that onlookers would not be turned to stone!
The Hagia Sophia
It’s a prime example of Istanbul’s history and mixture of cultures that were present in Istanbul throughout the ages. A hogpog of styles are immediately noticeable from the inside and out with Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Orthodox Catholic, and Islamic origins.
The first thing you notice is the immense black and gold Arabic calligraphy and marble on each corner. Taking a closer look, you’ll see detailed, gold images above the alter and in the upper gallery which are actually mosaics which were once plastered over after the church was converted into a mosque.
The Blue Mosque/Sultanahmet Mosque
An impressive structure, the mosque only took 7 years to complete in the 1600s! There are two theories as to why the mosque is known as the ”blue mosque”. One theory says the name derives from the beautiful 260 windows and 20,000 decorated blue tiles while the other attributes the name to sailors who viewed the mosque with a blue tint from the Bosphorus and simply began calling it the Blue Mosque.
I saw signs stating the dress code and since there was a large line, I got worried I wouldn’t be let in since I didn’t take a scarf with me to cover my head. Thankfully, they had head scarves and body coverings in case you were wearing shorts and a top bearing your shoulders – all blue of course!
Five times a day you’ll hear a booming call to prayer coming from the 6 minarets projecting an imam’s singing voice and for two travelers from the Americas, it was a sound that stopped you in your tracks but was a very pleasant and moving thing to hear, especially in front of the mosque itself.
For dinner we took a walk through Istanbul’s main and very lively pedestrian and shopping street – Istiklal Caddesi. We found a nice spot to have some flavorful, traditional Turkish kebaps.
After dinner, we got back to our hotel where a bottle of red, Turkish wine was waiting for us on the terrace courtesy of our hosts who gave it to us as a honeymoon gift. A perfect way to end the day under the a full moon and a view of the Bosphorus!