TURKEY: ISTANBUL

Posted November 20, 2009 by David McGuinness

So I arrived yesterday in Istanbul and the weather is not what you might expect for Turkey – chilly and a bit overcast – but it is November and a little out of season. Anyway after a relaxing first evening north of the Bosphorus, it was time to check out the sites. First I headed to the world-famous Blue Mosque, the exterior of which is simply stunning for its elegance, subtle curves and perfect proportions. Inside it is decorated with tens of thousands of blue tiles, from which it gets its name (though officially it is called Sultan Ahmet Camii). The stain-glass windows inside are particularly impressive.
 

About 300 metres east of the Blue Mosque is Aga Sofya (or Hagha Sofya), Istanbul’s most famous attraction. In between is a beautiful park from where you can see two of the Middle East’s star attractions from the one spot. It really is quite something. Hagha Sofya itself is quite spectacular. While not as impressive from the outside as the blue mosque, this former church is a mish-mash of styles from the outside, which while not as elegant as the Blue Mosque certainly have their charms. However it is the interior that is the really genius. Built in 6th Century under orders from Emporer Justinian it was the world’s greatest church until the conquest in 1453 when Mehmet (the conqueror) had it converted into a mosque.

It remained a mosque until Ataturk, the secular-minded founding father of the Turkish nation had it turned into a museum. The domed roof is really something to behold. A sublime structure resting on pillars hidden in the builing’s walls and constructed of specially designed “light bricks” it seems to hover above the building magically. Inside there are also some stunning mosaics – of the Madonna and child, archangels Gabriel and Michael, The Last Judgement and one of Christ, the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist.
 

After visiting these fantastic buildings I wandered around the Grand Bazaar, one of the Middle East’s largest markets and the Spice Bazaar, one of it’s most exotic. I’m not a shopper, but if I was I know this place would be a mini-paradise! Later I had a series of meetings with some local ground handlers and then tried some more of Istanbul’s excellent cuisine – not something I think I would ever tire of researching. Tomorrow I will fly to the East – to Gaziantep, known as the culinary capital of Turkey. Mmmm, I can’t wait...

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the link below to navigate through this journey.

Next

Check out our tours with these unique experiences below

Prefer to do a tailor-made itinerary where you can choose your unique experiences and build your perfect trip? Click here to contact us today.

Archaeology of Western Turkey

Turkey
Culture | Archaeology | Silk Road

Uncover historical secrets in the west

£3,995 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
15 days
More

Silk Road through Turkey

Turkey
Silk Road | Culture

Ancient trading routes, historic battles and striking scenery

£2,595 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
14 days
More

Ancient Anatolia & Eastern Turkey

Turkey
Culture | Archaeology | Silk Road

Tread on antique footsteps through Central and Eastern Anatolia

£3,695 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
14 days
2024: 23 March, 20 April, 07 September
More
Call us on:020 7183 6371

Trip Finder

2023
2024

Or search directly from our list of tours:
Close