This is the oldest part of Istanbul. Also know as Constantinople. It’s where the bombing occurred a few weeks ago. However, when you visit Istanbul you must see the sites here. My tour consisted of our guide and a fellow from Xian. We started at the Blue Mosque. (Tip: women should have a scarf with them if you don’t want to use the loaners). It is called the Blue Mosque because of the lovely blue ceramic tiles inside.
Next stop wasn Aya Sofia. This structure started off as wooden church, burned and was recreated in a much grander style. Over time it became a mosque that was used for worship until about 1923. Today it is a museum. The Christian mosaics have been uncovered. It’s in a constant state of repair and restoration. Once again, it is amazing to visit. Just mak sure you go with a guide to tell you all about it.
The next stop was a visit to a crafts store where there was no obligation to buy. Someone forgot to tell that to the salesman who would not take no for an answer. My fellow tourist was no help as he was zoned out editing photos on his phone. Eventually we were allowed to leave and headed to the Grand Bazaar. I have never seen so much gold or jewels under one roof. I was also mindful of the size of my carry on bag so I purchased nothing but some very nutty Turkish delight.
After lunch we went off the beaten path a bit and visited the Little Aya Sofia mosque. This is still a “working” mosque with a place outside for ablutions before praying. Shoes off, loaner scarf in place to go inside.
The niche in the wall, just left of center, shows the direction in which one prays, or the direction of Mecca. Slightly left of center is the pulpit where the imam gives the sermon. This was once a church, too, and is even older than the big Aya Sofia.
Last stop was Topkapi Palace. This is a huge complex with mosques, kitchens, rooms of state, over 300 rooms in the harem area, etc. As will happen at any given time, restoration work closes some exhibits. This was the case here. Still we got to see the jewels, including that famous dagger from the film Topkapi, and the “Spoonmakers Diamond” which is the size of a small hen’s egg. By then I was tired, my feet hurt and I was ready to go back to my studio flat. It had been a great day for seeing the sights.