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Friday, October 31, 2014

Istanbul - day two

In Victoria I'd made a connection with a woman in Istanbul through a mutual friend and on day two we arranged to meet in the Sultanamet, the old historic part of Istanbul.

Ilknur is a teacher at a university in Istanbul and Sam and I spent the day with her touring some of the major attractions starting with hippodrome, site of the chariot races and gladiator events, moving on to Topkapi Palace, a huge edifice with vast grounds, audience chambers, courts, multiple palaces, treasuries, armouries and, my favourite, the harem with its labyrinth of rooms decorated with beautiful tiles and that lovely Arabic calligraphy.

Sam and Ilknur



Topkapi was started by Mehmet the conqueror in 1453 and, in Lonely Planet's words, and is "the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world's museums put together. Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers."

Then on to the mosaic museum that contains large mosaics from the Justinian period, 300AD or so.

After that we went for lunch at what Ilknur described as an iconic place in the Sultanamet operating since 1920 where the journalists who worked nearby in a sort of media centre went for lunch. It was pretty touristy and the food was so so. After lunch it was time for the Blue Mosque. We'd tried there earlier but were daunted by the long lines and they were still long, we decided to que up and it didn't take too long before we got in. You have to take your shoes off before entering as it is still an operating mosque and men can't wear shorts and women must cover their hair. There is really no way to describe this enormous structure so I'll let the photos do the talking.

After the Blue Mosque we forged onward to the Grand Bazaar, another of the iconic places in Istanbul but, I think we were a few years too late to see it in anything resembling its glory days. Built by order of Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, it grew to cover a vast area of labyrinthine sprawl but is now just another tourist attraction full of tacky junk duplicated in dozens of shops, but also containing some high quality goods (carpets, ceramics, metalwork, etc) if you are discerning enough and, of course huge crowds.

Finally we caught a ferry for the Asian side with Ilknur, walked along the shore with the many locals out for a stroll to the Maiden's Tower (Turkish: Kız Kulesi), also known as Leander's Tower (Tower of Leandros) since the medieval Byzantine period, a small tower fortress, built in the water off shore a few hundred meters. Then a forgetable dinner at a place Ilknur suggested, full of locals but I think we were all disappointed. Eating in Istanbul has definitely been hit and miss.

That was day two



















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