Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 166 - Ayasofya, Bosphorus Tour, and the Grand Bazaar

I arrived in Istanbul around 7am and headed directly to Taksim Square to meet up with my couchsurfing host, Kerim. He had work as an architect around 8, so I had to quickly take my belongings to his place, brush my teeth, and set out to explore the city again for the last 2 days.

I had two things I wanted to do before leaving - check out the Ayasofya, which was one of the contenders for the 7 New Wonders of the World, and take a boat ride along the Bosphorus and up to the Black Sea. The weather was overcast and drizzling intermittently, so I decided that I would probably do the boat tour tomorrow in hopes that it would be clearer. For some reason, every time I arrive in Istanbul, the weather isn't all that suitable for the typical tourist.

The Ayasofya (or Hagia Sophia) was a church built for the third time from the year 532 to 537, after the two previously built churches in the same area were destroyed by public rebellion. It was the biggest Byzantine church in Istanbul, and was later converted to a mosque in 1453, but is now used as a museum.

It is one of the main tourist draws in the city, where long lines formed outside the gates to the museum. The insides were beautiful though, with access for tourists on the first and second floors. You could see both the Islamic and Christian elements of the church/mosque/museum with Christian mosaics on the ceilings, some of which are originals from the 6th century, along with minarets and the mihrab at the front, indicating the direction of Mecca.

Afterwards, I headed to the Eminonu district to catch a boat along the Bosphorus since the sun crept its way past the clouds and cleared the skies more than in the morning. It ended up being a waste of money since I wanted to take a boat all the way north to the Black Sea, but the boat only went about 45 minutes up, and then 45 minutes back. I was dead tired by the afternoon as well, so I ended up falling asleep on the boat, and to top it all off, the tour guide announcements on the intercom that explained what we were seeing was so muffled, I couldn't really understand anything. Oh well, at least I got to take a nap..

The last stop for me was the Grand Bazaar, which was a huge shopping area selling everything from gold and jewelry to designer knockoffs to cashmere scarves to spices and candy. There were so many different entrances and corridors to walk through that I easily got lost in the maze full of merchants and shops. It's interesting to think that this was once the main shopping center in ancient times, and is still used today to sell merchandise, although more aimed to tourists than the locals.

Having completed my to-do list for Istanbul, I headed to Taksim Square for dinner and grabbed a beer at a local bar, where there was a live musician playing traditional Turkish music. Afterwards, I met with Kerim and we had some pizza, before heading back and playing an intense game of backgammon. I learned a little more about the strategies since I downloaded the game on my iPod, but I ended up losing in the worst way possible! I lost 4-5, after winning the first 4 points and losing 5 points straight... Still, I think I'm getting better at this traditional Turkish game!


Grand Bazaar

Yeni Cami (New Mosque)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the comment. I've been into photography for the last few years or so, but more seriously in the past year.

    You have some really great shots as well. After looking at these I can't wait to go back to Istanbul!