Istanbul City Sightseeing
DAY 3 – Our morning visit was to the Hagia Sophia, noted to be the most magnificent of the Byzantine churches. Had a great time here checking out the mosaics depicting various religious scenes. The original mosaics had been destroyed during the Iconclastic period, however fortunately new mosaics had been installed in the 9th century.
After Hagia Sophia, we were deposited near the Pudding Shop and many chose to have an early lunch before their Bosphorus cruise. We did a very nice sunset cruise last year and so we opted to do our own thing this time. Nevertheless, we joined our fellow travellers for a nice lunch at the Pudding Shop before setting off on our adventure. Not knowing how big or small each serving was, I got a bit carried away and ordered too much food.
One of the best ways to see a place is on foot, as you can see, smell and touch things as you’re exploring. Our first stop was the Basilica Cistern, the huge underground reservoir that once provided Constantinople’s water supply. Having missed seeing this place during our past visits, we were really pleased to have made it this time. It’s an amazing place to visit – will do a more detailed blog when Tony uploads the photographs.
From the Cistern exit, it’s an easy stroll through a smart pedestrian precinct to the Grand Bazaar. Having a bit more time today, we covered more of the side lanes to discover many funky new cafes. I promised Tony’s mum that I would get her a kaftan, so we had to look for that. I found her a nice blue one which she was thrilled to receive. The main thoroughfare had all the gold and jewelry shops, but this time around, I resisted the temptation. With the astronomical gold price, it wouldn’t be hard to cause serious damage to my bank account.
A stroll downhill from the Grand Bazaar through the chaotic old town and we were at the Egyptian Spice Market on the waterfront. I love markets of all kinds, as they’re always so colorful and there’s so much to feast your eyes on. Certainly in the Spice Market, there were loads of foodstuff, including dates, Turkish delights, caviar, etc.
Next, we were at the two level Galata Bridge. On the lower level, there were newly done up bars and restaurants offering fresh seafood. On the upper level the favorite activity was fishing and we saw heaps of fishing lines cast to water. Be careful when leaning out to photograph the anglers from below as flying hooks and weights can get a little close at times. Occasionally, a bucket comes hurling down as someone’s trying to get fresh supply of water to store their catch in.
By the end of the afternoon, we were quite exhausted and at one stage Tony and I looked at each other and simultaneously quipped “I can’t feel my legs“. That was a signal for us to hop on the light rail and head back to the hotel. With a little direction from the guard at rail stop, who didn’t speak English, we sort of learnt that we would be able to get back to Taksim Square by rail. When we got off to look for our next connection, we discovered a spanking new Swiss underground funicular that ferries passengers from Taksim Square down to the waterfront, and vice versa.
It was a successful day’s outing but we were absolutely exhausted when we got back to our room. It is said that if you wish to feel that you’ve done more than merely scratched the surface of Istanbul, you’ll need a full fortnight, however few have the luxury of such a lengthy visit. We did the best we could today…