Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ah.... İstanbul!

So this past two weeks saw me playing tour guide to my friends who blessed me with their presence for the holiday. I LOVED it!! I think my favourite time though was in Istanbul. We just had such fun seeing such amazing places. That city is beyond wonderful and magical. Please enjoy the photos and small explanations. I am hoping to make more entries about Istanbul and our other adventures soon, but gotta wet your appetites first!!

One of the places that we visited that I liked the most was the Basilica Cistern. It was built around the 6th Century as an underground water source. It's simple beautiful when you go. It costs about 10 Turkish Lira to get in but it is well worth the price and you don't even need to stay all that long. Morning time is best, it opens around 9. That way you miss the hordes and the school groups. It rains in there and there is a ton to see. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't do so well in dark places, so you just have the shot above and the one below to get your imagination going.

This is one of the Medusa heads that help hold the cistern up. They say it was placed on it's side on purpose and the other one is upside-down. They also think that they may have come from another location and were brought to Istanbul.

Raymond and I eating at our favourite restaurant, Pasha. It's just on the main street and it's wonderful... best coffee (although that was expensive... the other items were reasonably priced and it was the best seat in town for watching people).

Inside the Grand Bazaar... oh my... the shopping to be had here, but like the guide books tell you, shoot for paying 1/2 of what they first quote you. I don't think we paid more than half of their asking price for just about anything we got. You gotta be prepared to wheel and deal in there!!
The crowds entering the Grand Bazaar... one shop keeper told us that there are 4,000 stalls in there and about 25,000 workers in total. YIKES!!!

One of the mosaics inside the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia). It was remarkable how well maintained they are. They were stunning and will remain to be stunning if more tourists would heed the signs NOT to use flash photography. I was shocked at how many people ignored it and used their flashes... angry, angry on the inside was I...

More of the frescoes inside... and even though my old, decrepit camera really needs the flash to make it clear, I didn't use it... so deal with the blur! ;)

Looking down from the second floor. The Aya Sofya was built in the 6th Century also as a church. They say it was the greatest seat of Christendom at the time and that no building anywhere else in Europe (yes, this is on the European side of Istanbul) could rival it. I believe it. Once the Ottomans came into power, they converted it to a mosque (camii) and covered many of the paintings and mosaics with plaster. It was Atatürk who then converted it to a museum when he came to power and now the place is under constant restoration. It costs 20 TL to get in, but it is worth it.

More mosaics inside... simply stunning.

Aya Sofya from the outside. Best to hit this in the morning if you can too, it opens at 9 and is fairly empty for the first hour or so.

Inside the Blue Mosque. Here you can't wander all around like you can in Aya Sofya, but it is worth a visit and it is FREE!! Bear in mind though, that it is a working mosque and people are praying and worshiping there. So come dressed respectfully and don't take pictures of those praying... that's a no-no.

The Blue Mosque from the outside.

Sorry it's sideways... but I am sure you need to stretch your neck to the side right now anyway!! ;) This is part of the Hippodrome. There are only columns left and this Egyptian import was brought at the time of Alexander the Great, I think... my memory for these little facts is disappearing. There were other columns to see, but this was the best one... and I love the fact that the minaret is right behind it!

Cat man... just near the Hippodrome there was a little park and this man had a bag of cat food and was putting out food for the street kitties. They are everywhere in Turkey and they are well loved and cared for by locals and tourists alike.

My first picture of the beautiful city... I highly recommend the place and winter isn't a bad time to see it. There are still crowds, but less of them and it's easy to get around.
Look for more posts to come... I haven't even started with the Spice Bazaar, the trip up the Bosphorus and the food... yum!

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