My first visit to Turkey
I was in Istanbul in Spring 1992 (yeah, a very long time ago) for almost 4 days visiting as much as I could in the short time I had. I was also on a very tight budget, so I had to plan my trip and things to do accordingly.
Istanbul is Turkey's cultural and financial center. The city is located on the Bosphorus Strait and it covers 27 districts of the Istanbul province. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. I consider myself very lucky to have set foot in this city and I hope to go back someday.
Since I had no digital camera at the time of my visit, there are not too many pictures on my page (I had a photo camera with me and I have pictures on paper only; I need to find the time to scan more of them and load them up). I do want to include, though, a list with the things I have seen while I was in Istanbul.
Day 1: arrive in Istanbul around 4pm; go to the Antea Hotel (I got a really good deal on the room rate by using an agency that was offering special room rates to college students), check in, eat a light dinner and make plans for the next day.
Day 2: visit Yeni Cami mosque and the Spice Market for about 2 hours.
My next stop was St Sophia (also called Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya).
St Sophia is the forth biggest Cathedral in the world, after Saint Paul in London, Saint Peter in Rome and Duomo in Milan. I paid the entrance fee to the Museum and, since I was on a tight budget, decided to pass on the upper gallery exhibition which at the time of my visit required you to pay an additional fee. There are splendid Byzantine mosaics inside the museum. I need to take the time one day to find my pictures, scan them and load them up on the site. This cathedral is really worth a trip!
After visiting St Sophia and eating a light lunch, my next stop was the Blue Mosque. I was happy to see that the entrance was free and I was able to stretch my money a little bit more :)
The Blue Mosque is very impressive with its beautiful domes and semi domes, nice courtyards and six slender minarets. Sultan Ahmet 1st founded the Blue Mosque and the whole complex was completed in 1616.
The interior of the Blue Mosque is breathtaking. I was in complete awe at the sights of the chandeliers and the blue tiles. The mosque is all surrounded by beautiful 17th Century Blue Iznik tiles, hence its name: Blue Mosque.
The square in front of the Blue Mosque covers the site of the ancient "Hippodrome". There are several monuments in the area, but the ones I think are worth mentioning are the Egyptian obelisk, the Serpentine Column and the Colossus.
Day 3: this was my last full day in the city and I decided to spend the morning visiting the Covered Bazaar. This is one of the largest covered markets in the world, with more than 4000 shops in 64 streets and with 22 gates. It looks like a labyrinth! Covered Bazaar is also one of the most important gold markets in the world. I was speechless at the sites of all the windows with gold jewelry. Again, I was on a tight budget and the only things I bought from here were a sterling silver bangle bracelet and a red leather hat that I still have and wear from time to time. I spent at least 4 hours here and I really enjoyed my time. Not having too much money to spend was also a good thing since it kept me moving and not being stuck in a store that was selling things I could not afford buying anyway!
Right by the Covered Bazaar, on the right side of the tramway station, is the Nargile House. People are gathering here to drink tea and to smoke the famous water pipes while sitting on nice sofas and chairs and chatting. I stopped here for few minutes, took some pictures and moved on.
After having a frugal lunch, I decided to move on to the Topkapi Palace. Due to my tight budget, I had to choose between visiting the St Irene Church or visiting the Topkapi Palace. I decided to go to the Topkapi Palace and I am not sorry for my decision. I did not have enough money left to visit the Harem, but I was very impressed with everything that I saw in the Topkapi Museum.
Day 4: wake up in the morning, walk around the area for 2 hours, check out and go home, taking with me great memories and making a promise to return one day.