Exploring Istanbul – Hagia Sophia

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!

Almost there!

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.

Gorgeous mosaics

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.

Beautiful Hagia Sophia

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.

The stunning Hagia Sophia

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.

A peek from the first floor

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.
Hagia Sophia

Netherlands – Keukenhof

The most beautiful spring garden in the world – Damn right! When we planned our trip to the Netherlands, the Tulip fields were definitely on the bucket list. Given that it’s open just 8 weeks every year, we were lucky enough to spend an entire day at Keukenhof!

Tulip fields

I actually did not know that there were over 3000 varieties of tulips, and sure as hell did not know that it originated somewhere near Turkey..

Yet somehow the Netherlands rule hands down with a marvellous variety of tulips spanning over 30+ hectares ! I’m not even pollen your leg… (Geddit?)

A full day is ideal to enjoy the tulip fields. Known as the largest flower garden in the world, the place comes alive once every year for a few weeks with working windmills, stunning flower beds and Instagram worthy clicks every step of the way.

So.Many.Tulips

Bloomin’ heck!

You can even purchase the bulbs (which we did, but didn’t really work out in Sri Lanka where the temperature reaches 30* degrees ! It probably deep fried the bulb I planted…

During our visit, the Tulip fields were around 80% in bloom and even the indoor flower exhibitions were lively and crowded.

Don’t forget to book your ticket early, visit during the end of April if you want to see the Tulips in full bloom and carry a map of the gardens with you. It’s far too large and you are bound to get lost, (You wouldn’t mind it though since it’s such a breathtaking place to lose yourself), but if you want to cover some good ground, then a map is necessary. (Or if you are directionally challenged like I am!)

The Darwin Hybrid tulips were one of my favourites with its pyramid shaped blooms. You really can’t explain how magnificent these tulip fields are.. Just visit and make sure you bring home a souvenir and kudos if you actually grow it!

I would plan ahead and go along with a tour company to Keukenhof. It’s around 40-45 minutes from Amsterdam, they drop you right at the entrance and allow you ample time to stroll the tulip fields as well as drop you back in the City Centre. I found this to be rather convenient. We booked ours via www,getyourguide.com and it was very professional and well timed.

So get ready to spend an entire day or a good half day since it’s well worth it!