Sunday, October 9, 2011

Istanbul Sights!

In spite of the rainy weather, we packed up our umbrellas and raincoats and headed out to Istanbul's historic old city. Eric's extensive tour schedule today included the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque and a bunch of boring museums that we scratched off the list in favor of an afternoon of Keeping up with the Kardashians and E! True Hollywood Stories, which I'll be the first to admit was definitely an afternoon well spent!

After stopping for breakfast at McDonald's (super creative, I know) where we all ordered sausage mcmuffins, and they came out with chicken sausage...something that was not advertised, but not entirely awful either, we trudged through the rain to Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman Sulatns lived.

Inside the Palace there was a lot of beautiful tile work.  The motifs were of nature and geometric designs, absolutely stunning!

Here we have one of the soggy courtyards.  Every last inch of the Palace was thought out aesthetically.  There is even tile work under the awnings.

We had to buy a separate ticket to go through the Harem, which was well worth it.

Here we are with more views of the building and tile work.

We took a little break at a conveniently located cafe, and enjoyed views of the Bosporus.  I bet it is gorgeous on a clear day.  After a warm beverage and a little rest, we wandered over to the museum, where we saw Moses' stick and Mohammed's beard, among other relics.  No pictures were allowed, but it was very interesting.

Next up on Eric's action packed tour was the Hagia Sofia (!!).  In college, I studied Eastern Christianity in depth as part of my major.  I have been waiting for years to see this building.  This was the seat of the Christian faith for over 1,000, where the Bishop of Constantinople did his thing.  Also, its central dome was the largest dome on the planet until St. Peter's was built in the Vatican.  Needless to say, I was crazy excited to go in.

The enormous central room of the Hagia Sofia.  There were some gorgeous Byzantine mosaics in the nave.  It was so giant, I can's even explain it.

Me with my thumb in the Wish Column or Sweating Column.  Legend has it that you put your thumb in the hole, and rotate it 360 degrees while making a wish.  If your thumb comes out damp, your wish will come true.  Though it was clearly unsanitary, I did it anyway.  My thumb came out damp, so that's good news.  No progress on the wish yet, but I'll give it some time.

A sample of some of the incredible detail in the building.

Here we are!  Say whiskey!

Remnants of the church's time spent as a mosque after Ottoman conquest of the Byzantines. Ataturk turned the place into a museum, which as allowed for a lot of the excavation of the building's 1,000 year Christian heritage.

Then there are the mosaics.   They were incredible.  I could have sat and looked at them all day.

As we were leaving we found one last mosaic.  Amazing.

This view of the Blue Mosque out of one of little windows caused many a tourist to jump up and down and scream.

After the Hagia Sofia we stopped for lunch.   Doner Kebab!  I am so getting myself one of these roasting contraptions.  I can make doner kebab, gyros AND tacos al pastor.  Money well spent, methinks!

This is a real life Egyptian obelisk carried off by some old empire and placed here where is was used as the finish line (I think) in chariot races.

Definitely in Turkey, with the Blue Mosque in the background.

The Blue Mosque is very photogenic.  It has 6 minarets instead of  4, and was built directly across the street from the Hagia Sofia.

Blue Mosque entrance, time to pull out my my mosque hat for one last use!

Courtyard of the Blue Mosque.

We were there, we really were!

After being inspected by an exhausted local lady for clothing appropriateness, we were let in.  When we got in there were many Western women that were not wearing their hats, despite the requests of the locals to please respect their traditions.  I found that fairly rude.  The Blue Mosque was very pretty inside, but I think I got spoiled going to the Mosque of Suleiman first, because I found it more impressive.

 We had so much fun in Istanbul!  I hope to return someday.  :)

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