Day 2 – Istanbul

Turkish breakfast, included in the price of our room, is amazing:

How to see old Istanbul in 1 day:

Start early at the Egyptian spice market, a true feast for the senses.  (Photos are in Keith’s camera, so they’ll have to wait.). The hawkers were refreshingly honest: “I want your money”.

From there, stop by the train station where the Orient Express used to end, then walk up the hill to Topkapı Palace.  If you’re there on a Tuesday, the palace will be closed, but you can still tour two archeological museums on the palace grounds:

From Topkapı Palace, continue up the hill to Sultanahmet Square, with the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Basilica Cistern.  

The Blue Mosque was certainly beautiful:

…but the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) is breathtaking.  Originally built as an Othodox church by Emperor Justinian in 537 AD, it was converted to a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453. After the founding of the Turkish Republic, it was converted to a museum in 1930.

 Due to the size, my photos don’t do it justice, but it is stunning both up close and from a distance.

This was taken from the balcony; the size of the people below helps provide the scale:

If seeing the Aya Sofya isn’t yet on your bucket list, it should be!

After a quick stop for Turkish coffee:

…go underground to the Basilica Cistern, another product of Emperor Justinian’s reign in the 6th century. The cistern was part of an extensive water system, acting as a reservoir for water brought via aqueduct from 12 miles away.

The cistern held up to 27 million gallons of water in an underground chamber supported by columns recycled from earlier Roman ruins. (Yes, recycling was a thing in the 6th century.)

 It was cool and dark, so my photos don’t capture it well, but here’s one of the pillars that rests on a recycled, upside down stone head of Medusa:

Eat lunch overlooking the Golden Horn, and enjoy watching the very busy ferry traffic and even busier car traffic:

You’ll observe that lane markings and traffic signals in Istanbul are merely impudent suggestions.  After a short rest, take a 1-1/2 hour boat tour on the Bosphorous, 

up along the European side past Dolmabahçe Palace (administrative center of the Ottoman empire from 1856-1887 & 1904-1922):

and the Rumelian Castle (fortress), built by Sultan Mehmet II in 1452 before he conquered Constantinople, and later used to control boat traffic along the Bosphorous:

and back along the Asian side before returning to the dock next to the Galata bridge.

Then walk across the Galata bridge (across the Golden Horn):

 and hike up to Galata Tower, shown in the middle below (taking your life in your hands as you cross busy streets with maniac drivers):

Enjoy İskender kebab at a small doner shop along İstiklal Avenue,

ogle the mountains of delicacies in shop windows,

walk back across the Galata Bridge to your hotel and crash!

For better photos, check out Jen’s blog at

2 thoughts on “Day 2 – Istanbul”

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