Istanbul is one of my favorite cities I’ve ever visited. I haven’t been in too many, but with the few list that i have, Istanbul is definitely on the top three list. From the exceptional and unique architecture, the smells of its cook, the festivities in the streets, zestful people everywhere you meet, customary songs you hear out loud or even just a faint of it, Istanbul is really a culture-rich and vibrant cities you should visit at least once in this life.
On that bright beautiful day, me and my friend had made a list of places we so eagerly wanted to visit. With the help of our legs, reliable Istanbul Tram and friendly people, we got to taste Istanbul, if not Turkey for that one special day. We came, we saw, and we conquer Istanbul!
For the ease of following through the narratives of places I visited, I also put the map below. It was definitely not an easy task to pick what to saw and visited since there were just so many beautiful places with so little time we had (classic problem of traveler).
The famous Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)
When first I decided to go to Istanbul, I thought Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are the same building and it’s the only one with such a unique dome. But then I found out that the two are different and that most of mosque in Turkey have similar dome designs. But truly, they’re both almost similar. By looking at the building itself, Blue Mosque actually has two domes and six minarets whereas Hagia Sophia has One big Dome and four minarets. Aside from the difference, both are equally majestic and surreal.
So, after we had a breakfast, we directly went to Blue Mosque (although it wasn’t open yet). Basically we just walked around the mosque complex and admired the magnificent of each of its edges and curves.
Believe it or not, we were quite lucky to get a Hotel that literally 5 minutes walk from Blue Mosque, and guess what ?! Our breakfast area has the direct view to Blue Mosque. We stayed at Star Holiday Hostel in Sultanahmed and it was probably the best choice for us if not for all traveler who means to travel around the complex. (it also helps that the bell boy is strikingly handsome ;) ). The room price is reasonable as well.
Blue mosque was built during Ottoman Empire in 17th Century by Sultan Ahmet. Therefore it is also called Sultan Ahmet Mosque. The architecture itself is a reflection of both Ottoman and Byzantine culture. This mosque is the first mosque that has six minarets (the same number of minarets with those in Ka’aba Mecca).
Within 10 minute walk after getting out from Blue Mosque, we arrived at Topkapi Palace. It was around 9 am and there were so many people already outside the entrance waiting for the door to be opened and there were some people queuing tickets.
Topkapi Palace was built during Ottoman Empire and remained a Sultan Palace for about 400 years until the Sultans started to prefer staying in Dolmabahce Palace around 17th century. The palace is very wide and it’s a place we can get lost within. There are several courtyard and many other buildings. It was a home to 4000 people. Each building has a unique architecture and the interior is astonishing. The Ottoman art and design pretty much stamped in every murals, interiors, patterns, and choose of color.
This is the Main Courtyard and the largest among all four courtyards. Every visitor passes this courtyard to get into the palace.
Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)
Our next stop was Hagia Sophia. My first impression was WOW! Entering the mosque awoke every nerve and sense that I had. Sensory check: First, the dome and the huge building got my skin tingling. Second, the dim light emanated from its candle and yellow lamp combined with the interior and the color of the walls made my eyes dance. There were so many people flooded the main hall and everyone seemed to be awed by the building, just like I was. Since I’m a fans of pattern, I was enchanted by every detail of the pattern the building has on its walls and ceiling. It was such a beautiful thing to watch and made me appreciate whomever had such an intricate and a high taste. When we go to the second floor, we can further explore the majestic of the buildings.
Basilica Cistern is probably the most interesting place I have ever visited. It is very intriguing to discover the place. As the name indicate, its located above the ground (so yes, it was very dark down there) and its very Old. It was built in 3rd to 4th century during Roman empire. The Cistern is supported by 336 marble columns with 9 meters high which arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each, and the overall cistern could contain up to 80,000 cubic meters of water. When I was inside, it was hard not to feel the breeze and the eerie feeling from the surrounding. Good eerie though.
The attractive things inside the Basilica cistern were the lights emanating from each of the column that makes them look beautiful in the dark. Also, the upside-down medusa pillar. There were two columns inside the cistern that use the upside-down and tiled Medusa head as its base.
At first, we’d like to visit Sulemaniye Mosque, but somehow after visiting two mosques, we felt like we could use some variety. So we visited Miniaturk. Miniaturk is a very entertaining place, especially for children, as it is a garden or playground (if you may), where hundreds of Turkey’s iconic landscape and buildings are displayed (of course, in miniature). So if you don’t have time travel across turkey, just visit Miniaturk and you can claim have visited major attractions in Turkey ;)
(towards) Galata Tower
From miniaturk, we departed to Galata Tower. We hopped on tram and arrived in Galatasaray. When we arrived, it was another kind of hyped we experienced. We walked along the Istiklal road and enjoy the frenetic of Saturday night life in Istanbul. On both side along Istiklal are store, restaurants, bar, and many others. People flooding the road and it such a crowd I wanted to be among.
Although we were too beaten and didn't make it to Galata tower (we made a turn and went back to our Hotel), it was such an eye-opening and wonderful day indeed. Istanbul is such a beautiful and vibrant city, rich of cultures and history that span over centuries. It was such a great experience and an honor to be in nowadays Turkey but still be able to taste its dimension back in Byzantine and Ottoman Empire.