20 April - Istanbul
Well here we are in Turkey and have hit the ground running.
Breakfast at the hotel and it is a fabulous traditional Turkish buffet. Pickled roast peppers, a variety of cheeses, humus, dolma, some cereal, tomatoes (what Turkish meal doesn't include tomatoes?), cucumber, variety of meats, boiled eggs, tomato onion and chilly salad, a variety of breads etc. etc. both enjoyed a variety of items.
We then walked up (our hotel is a fair distance down the hill from the main tourist sights in Sultenahmat) to the hippodrome and Blue Mosque.
The mosque is just stunning, enormous by any standard and took only seven years to build. In comparison with European cathedrals that often took hundreds of years it is quite some feat. Queued up to look around inside and completed the whole shoes off,attire check drill. The only attire issue that may have been questionable was Dads "Paddington" hat but he removed it so no problems.
Inside, with all the reverence it deserved Dad did suggest I jump the barrier and enter the worshipper only area in order he could get a photo. I, I'd like to think sensibly, declined, hence no photo of me praying.
Like all magnificent places of worship you can't help but feel something of the history and beliefs that resonate in the space. Very different to a Christian church as with no seats it is in fact a large cavernous area with lights hanging quite low over the prayer area. But in its own way truly beautiful.
After the Blue Mosque we wandered over to the Haghia Sophia which was initially a 6th century Byzantine church that has been rebuilt numerous times and in that time been both a Christian church and Muslim mosque. Again, like the Blue Mosque, the scale and majesty of it leaves you awestruck.
We climbed the ramps to the second level and again were amazed at the solid marble floors supported high above the main chamber.
After leaving Haghia Sophia we walked up a city street and sat beside the road at a small table for lunch of döner kebab (meat cooked on a long rotisserie and cut off the outside). Really nice and good introduction for Dad to street food!
We then walked a bit further up the street until we got to the Grand
Bizaar where we wandered through one road (we'd decided to keep tHe bazaar until tomorrow) and then returned the way we'd come to the Cistern.
The cistern is a vast underground water storage reservoir built by the Byzantines in the 6th century. It is about a hectare in area (2.5 acres for those over fifty!) and the roof is supported by 336 marble and stone columns, some very ornate , two renowned ones with the Medusa head carved on their bases.
Even though I'd been there previously I like dad was in awe of the engineering involved in building this so many centuries ago. A truly amazing place!
We then returned to the hotel for a rest (well deserved) before heading out for dinner.
Dinner in a recommended seafood restaurant not far from our hotel. Meal not bad but probably a it less than we expected. Nevertheless we retuned home satisfied and happy after a really great together exploring this magnificent city.