A Travellerspoint blog

Aya Sofya or Haghia Sophia or Sancta Sophia

First thing in the morning is the time to go

sunny 25 °C

9:30 Sunday morning we sailed through the tiny queue, paid the exhorbitant A$15 each entrance fee and were in. I found it pretty underwhelming. What it has going for it, is History. Started in AD 537 by the Emperor Justinian, it did not become a mosque until the 15th century and in 1935 Ataturk proclaimed it a museum. Because of its age and size the outside is ugly and while the inside is huge, it's not vey exciting. There are a few interesting items on the upper level, including some 9th century graffiti by a Viking - there are runic inscriptions by one or more of the Varangian Guard, an elite unit of the Byzantine Army who were personal bodyguards to the emperors. This was only discovered inn 1964


Just across the road from the Aya Sofya, we walked down to Spice Market through the deserted garment-manuufacturing area (yes, people do have Sunday off) and came across some wonderful wall-art. Once again we visted Bilge's spice store to buy some more "dukka", some Black Chilli, some Argon OIl and some Elysium Fragrance


The Spice Market is quite close to the Eminonu ferry terminal, so we found a ferry for Kadikoy where Jeni wanted to search for the "best baklava in Istanbul". We couldn't find it but had a pleasant enough stroll along the forshore with a half a million other people before catching a ferry back to Karikoy (quite near the apartment) where we found Gulluoglu and stuffed our faces full of Baklava (the difference between the k and the d was about 10 kms)


In the evening, we met Inez and walked through a newly-established area of Karakoy ( very inner-cty chic/bohemian) and once again had a drink under the Galata Bridge. Inez has been living in Istanbul somewhile and was understandly sad as she was leaving the city on Monday to work in another part of Turkey

Posted by kforge 07:25 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)


The Grand Bazaar and the Book Bazaar

sunny 25 °C

Once again, it was down the Tophane tram-stop where for A$1.50 (it's the same price wherever you go) we took the fairly long journey to the Beyazit stop, right next to the Grand Bazaar. We only went about 200 metres into the Bazaar as neither of us have much interest in carpets, "bling" jewellery or heaving crowds. The real interest was the Old Book Bazaar just a short distance away - it's been around since the 1500s but during the early Ottoman era, printed books were seen as a corrupting European influence and were banned, so only manuscripts were sold. And then along came Ibrahim Muteferrika who in 1729 produced the first printed book in the Turkish language - an Arabic dictionary


From there we decided to give the Aya Sofya a go - walking towards Sultanahmet Square we came across the imposiing entrance to the University of Istanbul where students were just coming out from Saturday morning lectures


Further along was the Constantine's Column, erected in AD 300 as part of the celebrations for the new Byzantine capital - a great historical footnote is that in AD 416, iron rings were installed to reinforce the 10 stone drums that make up the column and were renewed in 1701 - I hope someone's put an entry in Oulook for AD 2986


And so we arrived in the front of the Haghia Sofia, along with several thousand others and quickly decided a retreat was in order - we would try again on Sunday at opening time. And just as well, as by now Jeni was pestering me to find a pub where she could watch the English FA Cup Final - we found the James Joyce Pub, not far from from the apartment, but the game's kick-off had been changed and it wasn't a great pub, so we just slunk back home.. And, what do know, the game was live on Turkisk TV!

Posted by kforge 21:24 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Up the Bosphoruus

Eminonu to Saliyer by ferry and back via Emirgan by foot, Dolmus, bus and tram

sunny 25 °C

Firstly, let me say that it's difficult to get a ferry to most of the places up the Bosphorus - there are commuter ferries early in the morning and late afternoon but generally you have to take a "cruise" ferry from Eminonu at 10:35am (from the terminal closest to the Galata Bridge). Anyway, for 15 Turkish Lira (A$8) we took the Bogaz Turlari cruise, one-way to Sariyer (there are a couple of other places you can get off)


We had intended to take the 25E bus straight-away from Sariyer to Emirgan Park where Yasemin Aslan Bakiri installed some artwork just last month, but, from the ferry on the way up it looked like there was a footpath right along the Bosphorus and sure enough, there it was just as we exited the dock


So we had a lovely walk for about 4 kms, admiring all of the beautiful timber villas we passed, and suddenly realised just after Cayirbasi that we needed to jump on a bus if we were to see Emirgan Park today - immediately along came a Dolmus and for A$0.90 we were dropped off 15 kms down the coast. The large park (free to enter) is famous for its tulips which unfortnately had just finished but it was gteat to see Yasemin's installation in the Tulip Lake just below the Pembe Pavilion where we had lunch overlookng the Bosphorus



Our exit from the park was less than triumphant - there were no park maps anywhere, so we took the way marked "Exit" and ended up walking almost the entire circumference of the park before ending up where we originally entered.The village of Emirgan was just a short walk from there and we quickly boarded a very crowded 25E bus bound for the tram terminus at Kabatas about an hour away (A$1.00). Emirgan and all of the villages/towns towards Istanbul were very upmarket. And so, for the final part of our round-trip, we took a few steps from the bus to the tram, paid the A$1.50 fare (you buy a "jeton" first and put that into the turnstile) and 15 minutes later were back at the Tophane tram-stop right at the bottom of our street

In the evening, we took the tram 1 stop to Karakoy and spent a very enjoyable time in a bar under the Galata Bridge, entertained by the ferries, the lights, local musicians and dozens of people smoking hookahs


Posted by kforge 22:53 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)


The Zorlu Center in Besiktas and the Spice Market in Old Istanbul

sunny 25 °C

We met Jeni's friend Inez again, at the Sishane Metro station and took the M2 line, 4 stops to Gayrattepe (all trips by bus, tram or metro cost 3 Turkish Lira). We decided to tag along with Inez to see what suburban shopping was like in Istanbul. She needed a new battery for her iPod and the Apple Store at the Zorlu Center was the best place to go. It was new, enormous, very shiny and had many familiar shops - we could have been at a Westfield Shopping Centre anywhere


We didn't stay too long in the Center and just zipped back to the Metro on what must surely be the longest travelator in the world (probably 1km long). We got off back at Sishane and crossed the road to hop on the Tunel Funicular (the 2nd oldest passenger in the world - if you must know the oldest is the Funiculaires de Lyon,1862) to take us down to the Galata Bridge so we could walk across to the Spice Bazaar


There were two reasons for going into this area - to buy spice and to buy a new suitcase (for Inez). Inez has made friends with the owner of a wonderful shop in the Spice Bazaar (built in1660) and she proceeded to stock up on several of her favourites. Of course, once we were in the shop, we just couldn't resist tasting a few unusual spices and ended up buying a mix called Janissary which we wanted to use as a dukka that night - the price was scary at $60 per kilo but, of course, a good-sized scoop only cost A$7. We'll be going back that area soon and will defintely buy some Black Chilli to take on our travels - it's a special red chilli, sun-dried for 2 days


Posted by kforge 21:29 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Into Istanbul Old City

Gulhane Park and Topkapi Palace. Oh, and a protest march

semi-overcast 22 °C

Time to grit the teeth and head into the old city. A map in te apartment showed a ferry from Karakoy to Eminonu, just a short journey parallelling the Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn. We eventually found the Karakoy dock but the ferry no longer runs. So it was just a short walk (490 metres) that brought us to Eminonu from where we thought there would be a pleasant stroll along the side of the Bosphorus to Gulhane Park - don't try, it's a 6-lane nighhtmare all of the way!


We walked right through Gulhane Park and into the Topkaki Palace (just A$15 each) - it's not particularly interesting and, of course, very crowded. However, the 4th Courtyard with its 1639 Baghdad Pavilion saved the day


Had a strange evening yesterday -we met a friend of Jeni's for a drink and as we sipped our beers looking out across the Bosphorus from the roof-garden of a hotel, the sound of marching, charging feet drifted up from the main street in Beyoglu just below us. The unions and others were protesting about the lack of safety measures at mines after the terrible disaster in south-west Turkey. And as we sat there, the ominous sound of riot-police banging their shields started and just a short while later we were still sipping our beers but this time with tears in our eyes - they were attacking the protest with teargas and water-cannon! And 15 minutes later all was quiet and we were eating our mezzes just metres away from the remaining riot-police

View from the toilet in the roof-garden of the Ponte Hotel. The first line of houses is the street where we are staying:


And I can't watch the YouTube videos that Steve Adams is making as he walks the Appalachian Trail, as YouTube along with Twitter and others are banned in Turkey

Posted by kforge 20:42 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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