Continuing with the lockdown armchair travel memories, and T is for Turkey. We’ve been there a couple of times on cruises, and we had a week in Istanbul in the late 90s, but I can’t find any of the photos from that holiday. So these pictures are from a day spent in Istanbul during an Eastern Mediterranean cruise in March 2012, concentrating on The Main Sights. So, what do you think of, when you think of Istanbul? Probably one of two places, depending on whether you’re Team Blue Mosque…
Or Team Aya Sofya
It’s a tough call. From the photos, you’d always say the Blue Mosque, but when you’re inside the Aya Sofya, it takes your breath away. We took a tram from near the port into the centre of the city, and headed straight away for the central complex that houses both these magnificent buildings, plus the ancient hippodrome.
I’m not sure Constantine would remember it looking like this, mind. OK, let’s head straight for the Blue Mosque.
Really the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, built between 1609 – 1616.
One of the five mosques in Turkey that has six minarets, apparently.
It’s a big tourist favourite, but is primarily a working mosque. It has a relatively small courtyard fountain.
Delightful from the outside…
But its beauty really hits you inside!
Look at that amazing decorated ceiling!
It really is the definition of breathtaking.
It’s beautifully lit too
And the calligraphy is stunning
The pictures tell their own story.
A brilliant place. After the Blue Mosque, we decided to find the Basilica Cistern, a favourite place of ours from our previous visit.
It’s called the Basilica Cistern, because it was built underneath a basilica in the reign of the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.
It’s an incredibly dramatic and moody place, enhanced by the lighting
With just a little water in there to make some extra-dramatic reflections.
There are two columns topped with Medusa heads
Or, rather, upside down! It’s a dark and haunting place
But, being Istanbul, you’re never too far from a spot of commercialism…
That’s so out of place! Anyway we left the Cistern and returned to the other end of the main square to see the Aya Sofya.
Or Hagia Sophia, if you prefer. It’s been a Roman Catholic cathedral, then it was converted to a mosque, and then in 1935 it was turned into a museum – which is how we saw it. But in 2020 it became a mosque again.
Those colours are extraordinary!
Just take it all in….
The immaculate marbled floor is apparently now covered by carpet
There’s a stunning minbar
Fabulous tiled walls
Ramps lead up to an upper floor
From where you get this great view!
And you can get a closer look at some of the detail
You’re also closer to the mosaics – this is the Deësis mosaic
The Comnenus mosaic dates from 1122
The Empress Zoe mosaic is even earlier
Southwestern entrance mosaic dates from the reign of Basil II (958-1025)
The Aya Sofya even has nice doors!
And a look out of its upper floor windows reveals a fascinating collection of domes!
Yes, I think I am still Team Aya Sofya. Other interesting sights include the Egyptian Obelisk
With its intricate base
And the Serpentine Column
Shoppers, of course, head for the Grand Bazaar
A massive covered market, probably the best I’ve ever visited
It’s a maze where you can easily get lost
You’ll get invited in by the shopkeepers to share a “no-obligation” cup of apple tea
If you believe “no-obligation”, you’ll believe anything!
Great place for lighting
We had a quick walk past the University
But the other place I really wanted to see before we left was the Suleymaniye Mosque
Commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and inaugurated in 1557,
It was the largest mosque in Istanbul until the Çamlıca Mosque superseded it in 2019.
Four minarets, each and every one a stunner.
Again, it’s inside the mosque where the whole place comes alive
with its extraordinary ceilings
and just its innate grandeur.
Although, to be fair, it’s pretty grand from the outside too.
Streetlife in Istanbul is pretty hectic, as you would expect
But the views make up for it
And you can easily blend in with the crowds.
And that’s Istanbul – grandeur, magnificence, and the occasional bit of quirkiness.
So we sail away and say farewell to Istanbul!