Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Istanbul holiday is a step back in time

I’ve always wanted to visit Turkey. With the country being at the intersection of East and West means that the history and culture is spectacularly amazing.  

After a long flight from Australia, my parents and I hit the ground running with visits to the Blue Mosque or otherwise known as the Sultanahmet Mosque. It was opened in 1616 originally compete with Hagia Sophia with 20,000 blue tiles and 260 windows plus 6 minarets. It is extraordinarily beautiful and guaranteed to take your breath away even if you are not Muslim.  

After a good night’s sleep we started our sightseeing properly. Mum and dad were keen to take day trips as they didn’t want to spend lots of time finding the places and, more importantly, hours queuing up to get in. The down side is that often we got taken to their “bother-in-law’s shop” to buy souvenirs but it was ok.

Our first full day included visiting Topkapi Palace which was once the royal residence but now is a museum and keeper of many beautiful historical objects such as Jewellery and gifts.

Next was Hagia Sophia and this site reflects Turkey’s place between east and west. Hagia Sophia or Aya Sophia was originally built as a Greek Orthodox church in 537 and continued to be used as such until1456 (except for a brief period between 1206 and 1261 where it was became a Roman Catholic Church) when it became a Mosque until it was made into a museum in 1935.             

What made it so special was Hagia Sophia’s age and how it has stood the passage of time considering that Istanbul suffers from earthquakes. Apparently, there have been several during its life but Hagia Sophia has only ever been partly damaged.

I loved looking at the steps as they looked so warn despite being made out of stone and I couldn’t help but wonder how many people have walked over them.

The Cisterns was a final stop of the morning and a sight that several people told me not to miss. Unfortunately it was too dark for my iphone to take any good photos but it was great to see this Roman underground reservoir that include fish. It is a little eerie but not in a bad way.

No trip to Istanbul could be without visits to the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. The key with any market is to be prepared to bargain (walking away works wonders) and to go early as well as to focus on the smaller places away from the main drag.

I almost brought a Turkish Carpet and brought the price down from $1500 to $300 but in the end the carpet didn’t really ‘speck to me’.  

Finally we squeezed in a visit to Istanbul’s Archaeological Museum. It is maybe not as swankyly presented as those in Australia or Britain but you still get to see some objects that are unbelievably old.

What trip to Turkey would be without trying Turkish Baths as well as Coffee. In between checking out the Mosques and Museums, Papa and I did a Turkish Coffee Tour which was so cool and left us feeling a little wired.

I also managed to visit a Turkish Bath which was like being a kid again. After stripping down and lying naked on this slab in this empty chamber which was kinda freaky as there was no one else there and there were all these strange noises. After what felt like ages a lady came out and scrubbed me like then slapped my fat and finally leading me to a fountain where she poured water over my head. Mum did after a full day’s play outside as a 6 year old.   

Istanbul is an amazing place to visit and has enough to keep you engaged for days. There are so many things to see, eat, drink and enjoy that one visit doesn’t seem to be enough so I’ll be back.             

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