I’m leaving Uganda and I have 10 days before i meet the IMG team in St Petersburg – where do I go? Istanbul looks like a good choice, it is on the way north to St Petersburg, after that I had no idea what I was in for.
Incidentally, in the end I booked all my travel with Emirates and with Dubai as their hub the trip to Istanbul required a three hour flight north and then I returned to Dubai before returning north again to St Petersburg.
I think it’s fair to say I was well underprepared for my experiences in this enormous city of 18million people (officially). One day I took a trip to one of the offshore islands and climbed a small hill to look back over the city. Essentially as far as I could see to the left and the right was Istanbul and on the trip back in the evening the city lights flooded the horizon.
My two lasting memories of the city –
- the age of the city and the history,. I based myself in the Fatih area – the Old City.
- the people, so many, so friendly, some very well off and others that scrapped together an existence.
So here are the links to blog entries I made about my time in Istanbul – I hope you like them.
Suleymaniye Mosque – on the northern side of the Old City Peninsula this mosque is one of the main visitor attractions in the area. I made several visits to the mosque and was just blown away by the architecture, the age an complexity of the construction.
The Grand Bazaar is exactly that GRAND! 3,000 shops in a relatively small area. From my personal experience, If you don’t have time to shop around or you want to experience wall to wall shopping this is the place to go. Be prepared to barter and don’t be surprised to her “big discount for you, you are my first sale today” even at midday you’ll hear that. If it’s the best price, you want, regardless of how much walking you might have to do then shop outside the bazaar area.
A courtyard mosaic that’s been buried for hundreds of years. Almost sounds like paint drying but something made me walk the 50m from the cafe I was in to the Mosaic museum and what an amazing experience. On the ground, surrounded by walkways across you could wander and view the works at will were the most amazing mosaic, pictures that had once been a LARGE courtyard. Equally amazing was the story boarded explanation of how the mosaics had been located. moved and restored to get them to their current condition and location.
A royal palace to top them all. Location alone wins top prize. On the north eastern corner of the Fatih peninsula and overlooking the Bosphorus this palace has it all. Intrigue, history, architecture and the royal jewels. You have to see it to believe it.
You’ve got to “do the museum” – but when I saw he crowds forming into the queue at the gate and heard that 5,000 people per day visit the Hagia Sopia I was questioning whether I had made the right decision. Once again, with a few minutes of entering the building I new that this was something special. Built in 597, used as a church and then converted to a mosque when the Otterman’s took control. The artwork and decoration in this building is, dare I say it amazing!!
An underground water tank! Quite a novel idea and if you want an chance to cook, of on a hot day this is one place to go. One the water supply to the old city the Basilica Cistern used pillars brought from all over Europe. And then tucked away in a far corner are two lillars with the sculptured heads of Methuselah – and nobody can provide a good , robust reason for why they are there.
Istanbul’s “go to” landmark. The Galata Tower can be seen from just about everywhere in the city – now that’s no mean feat given the size of the city! On more than one occasion I used it to reconfirm that I wasn’t really s lost as maybe I thought I was. The restaurant and the actors in period costume didn’t do it for me but the 360 degree views of the city from the viewing platform were well worth the climb up the hill.
And a cruise on the Bosphorus – Asia for breakfast and Europe for lunch as the tour guide kept telling us – quite a catch phrase though. The traffic on the waterway is never ending, a steady stream of boats are heading through and there’s more queuing at both ends waiting for there alotted slot.
And that was my 10 days in Istanbul – looking back on it now I’m very glad I made the decision to visit this city. I’d love to be going back there again to be honest.