If you go to Istanbul for less than a week, expect to run around like chicken with no head. This post is about stuff to see in this city.
The Stuff Featured on History Channel. God! The carpet store with an underground cistern was right by our hotel! The hippodrome that the History Channel dude explored! The giant aqueduct! We saw the underground water reservoir! With a head of medusa at the base of the column!!! Ah, the Cities of the Underworld and the thrill of diving under the concrete to discover layers upon layers of history!
The Touristy Stuff. Visiting Istanbul and not seeing Hagia Sophia is going to get you on a “you suck” list for the rest of your life. The enormous historical value of this Byzantine monument needs a bigger document than my blog, so let me just say that, “famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture” .It was built by 360 A.D. It has a monetary value too: entry fee was the most we’ve paid for any museum—20 Liras.
Facing the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque. As in every mosque, you are supposed to take your shoes off before entering (picture me struggling to take off my thigh high boots and wondering about the structural integrity of my socks—a.k.a. holes). It impressed me so much, every tile done in a unique way, people actually praying, the sense of presence... Avoid butting in during the prayer times.
The Palaces. Topkapi and Dolmabahçe. Make sure you pay additional fee and see the harem. Topkapi is where the Turkish rulers used to live before the 19th century and Dolmabahçe is more of a we-are-trying-to-be-European-over-the-top-baroque. Dolmabahçe palace has a beautiful garden and we were lucky to have the most amazing guide ever! He concluded the tour in the impressive ballroom, with the world's largest, Bohemian crystal, 4.5 ton chandelier. As we stood there, speechless, he said: “I just got married last month and I asked if there is any chance of me having a ceremony here. They told me, you can’t, because you’re not a sultan”. He was so serious when he said it too!
The Stuff in Bosporus. So, you navigate best you can past the people who try to sell you 50 Lira Bosporus tours, approach the last ferry on the dock and take a 10 Lira tour. You look around and you realize, wow, you could spend 3 days just walking and observing the streets that you see from the ferry. Including churches, mosques, city walls, castles and houses!
The Stuff We Discovered. Pier Lotti hill. So, this writer dude comes to Istanbul and decides to settle away from the city, on a hill with the view of the Golden Horn and the Constantinople. Of course, that hill is part of Istanbul now, and there’s a cute café with Turkish tea and spectacular view!
The Fancy Stuff. Finally, the Taksim Square and İstiklal Caddesi, the “Shardeni” street of Istanbul. Place to get Turkish coffee, wet burger, chain department stores, the cutest little cinemas (we saw Harry Potter there) and a crowd of tourists. Very busy during night—kinda cool, since the old city dies out after sunset. Looks like lot of other walking streets in other big cities, but with a Turkish flavor. Pretty hip!
Final Note: try to see more than one place; for example, don’t spend all of your time in the old city, and the Bosporus tour is a must!
pics: Giga took wonderful postcardish pics! Here you see: the view from the Bosporus Tour, Me by the Blue Mosque entrance, Hagia Sophia at night.