I dedicated a post to the Hagia Sophia and Blue mosque and I still can’t do it justice.. However, I did spend a few more days in Istanbul. The constant beating of the wave of the East against the rock of the west. The Dolmabahçe Palace dominates around half a kilometre of the Bosphorus shorelines. With over 280 rooms and about 5-6 turkish baths, this beauty was constructed in 1843 and is an extravagant mystery. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures inside the building but you are more than welcome to stroll through the gardens and check out the interior.
You need to also visit the Topkapi Palace which was home to the Ottoman Sultans for almost four decades. The Palace boasts high walls and four courtyards and now serves as a museum.
Visit the courtyards and the harem which was once the quarters of the Sultan’s family which shows you a mix of many architectural styles.
The street side shops and the grand bazaar is just great! One of the largest and oldest markets in the world, with bustling shops and happy hagglers. From coffee sets to evil eyes, to some of the finest turkish sweets, this colourful and chaotic bazaar adds poetic charm to the city of Istanbul.
Oooh and the best sweets? Hazer Baba’s Turkish Delights in the Bazaar. You can mix and match, they even vacuum pack it for you!
If you prefer a sit-down kind of sweet shop, then head to Hafiz Mustafa . They have been around since 1864 and it’s a quaint but VERY busy store with locals. You can opt for the turkish tea along with a platter of sweets and the Baklava is just out of this world!
So there you have it. A part of Istanbul. Next up : The whirling Dervishes, dinner and lunch spots and cruises.
Alphonse De Lamartine – The famous writer and poet once said that “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”. How very true. Istanbul modestly boasts beauty everywhere. Istanbul boasts some of the best food in the world. Istanbul boasts majestic palaces overlooking the vast Bosphorus and Istanbul boasts mesmerising history, culture and heritage. Needless to say, wandering in Istanbul was just amazing!
We started our morning by visiting the “Holy Wisdom” – Hagia Sophia. Previously a Church constructed in 537 , an Orthodox Basilica which was then a mosque somewhere in 1453.
An architectural landmark in the heart of the city and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia is the perfect place to observe both the Byzantium and Ottoman effects all under one roof. The Christian mosaics and the black and gold calligraphy discs honours both religions in the most beautiful way.
During the period where this was a mosque, they not only ensured all the Christian paintings were in tact by plastering carefully over it, but when it was finally converted to a museum, the unearthing of these paintings resulted in both religions standing side by side – a depiction of harmony (something we sadly lack in this day and age).
Covered in multi coloured marble, the walls and ceiling are spectacular as you try to take this all in (while frantically clicking and capturing every single angle from your Phone or camera), the 100+ columns that lead you to the first floor shares decorative creations of the Byzantine Empire.
Listen to the stories unfolding around you as various tour guides share the mysteries and secrets housed within these walls. A peek over the wooden framed windows also give you a glimpse of the blue domes.
Needless to say, if ever you are in Istanbul, you really must spend a solid hour or more at the Hagia Sophia.
A ticket is priced at 40 TL (10 USD)
Your attire doesn’t really matter since it’s a museum and not a religious place of worship
A guided tour gives you all the information you need to know. If you cannot afford a guided tour – eavesdropping on other tour groups also works well!
Once you reach the first floor, don’t forget to take a picture right towards the middle which gives you panoramic views.
A few repairs are currently underway but you are certainly not marred by this.