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Friday, 12 October 2012

Thursday 11th October Magnificent Istanbul – The Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar.

Another day in Istanbul and so much to see. We were out straight after breakfast and again, we were heading for the Blue Mosque. We strolled through the lovely Gulhane Park and turned left to walk along Sogukcesme Street which runs alongside the front wall of Topkapi Palace. Oh, what a lovely little street which dates back to the 1800s.
We were amused and entertained by the cafe and stalls, and I have to recommend the artists gallery at the bottom on the right as you walk up the hill. The paintings are produced by the father, his son and daughter. Peter and I particularly liked the father’s work. Quite brilliant, and actually relatively cheap, (about £100 per large painting, painted on papyrus). Unfortunately we didn’t have the funds on us, but we agreed that if we had, we would certainly have walked out of the gallery with something.
At the top of the street, we made our way from the front of the palace, past the Hagia Sophia, (something I still wanted to see), across the Hippodrome and on to the Blue Mosque. Moving from the outer to the inner courtyard of the mosque, we were dismayed to see the MASSIVE queue, easily a hundred people or more, waiting to get in. But the queue was moving fast, so within 10 minutes or so, we were at the front entrance. We had to remove our shoes, I covered my hair, (not compulsory at the Blue Mosque, but it is a Muslim preference). I noticed also that women with bare shoulders were provided with a shawl to cover them, and I understand shorts and short skirts are a no no.
The mosque is very large, and the reason it is called the Blue Mosque is because of the blue patterned “iznik” tiles lining the walls and ceilings. Iznik tiles are so called because they came from the city of Iznik, 21,043 of them. There are different patterns everywhere, quite amazing and lovely.
Peter and I have never visited a mosque before. It appears to us as one huge room, the domed roof is very high above and is supported by massive pillars (16 ft in diameter), called “elephants feet”. There is a prayer niche for the Iman and a pulpit. Despite the several hundred people crowded in to the entrance section, there was a sense of dignity about it. Like the palace yesterday, there was no way you could absorb the detail of the walls. There were so many patterns and designs, it was overwhelming. We spent a little while inside the mosque trying to take it all in.
Back out and into the area of the Hippodrome and the German Fountain, we set off to walk across the city to the Grand Bazaar. On the way we took a look at Constantine’s Column (330 AD), also known as the Hooped Column, because of the metal rings the Turks had to use to hold it together when it started to crack. 

The Grand Bazaar started out as a covered market which just got bigger and bigger. The stalls are more like little shops now, but the place is absolutely amazing. We bought a little guide with map showing us the old and new market areas and explained the history and the guild system. The market now covers 30 hectares, contains 4,000 shops, has 21 numbered gates and is one of the oldest in the world.
For me, the most amazing thing was the gold. Jewellery shops were laden with the bright yellow metal, and there were hundreds of jewellery shops.

We enjoyed our walk, with a stop in the Ambrosia Cafe for iced coffee and an absolutely delicious chocolate brownie (that was really a warm chocolate fudge cake), and luckily, with the map were able to find our way out. Definitely a delightful experience.
As I said on my first Istanbul post, it is a city of mosques and minarets. There are four mosques around the Grand Bazaar, and depending on which gate you come out of, you are likely be at the entrance of one of them. We came out near to Nuruosmaniye Mosque and would have gone in except it was a time of prayer, so we visited the loos instead, which you have to pay for.
That was an experience! Turkish loos for the ladies are not what I am used to. Peter found it very funny, especially when I sneaked a photo of one to show him. That said, not all loo buildings contain only Turkish loos, some provide the seated variety that we Europeans are much more used to. (Phew!)
So, a little more experienced and educated, we now decided to make our way a little further into the city, heading for the Bozdogan Aquaduct. It should have been easy to get to, we had a good map, knew where we were, and knew where we were going to.
15 minutes later we were wandering through a myriad of streets, lined with hundreds of shops selling everything from underwear to bridal gowns, hardware to children’s toys. As I said in my first post on Istanbul, there is more shopping here than anyone could cope with. Fascinating and overwhelming. Trouble is, we were lost! 
A little bit of guesswork, and we found our way to Istanbul University, and from there on to the aqueduct. We were getting tired now, but we were able to pop into the Sehzade Mosque. No prayers going on, and the man on guard was happy that my trousers, shirt and headscarf were appropriate and nodded me in. I found it interesting that the young girl behind us, with an above the knee skirt, was made to wear a long wrap around skirt over the top, to cover her legs, as well as a headscarf. Not as forgiving as the Blue Mosque then.This mosque was so much more peaceful. A lovely serene place, nowhere near as highly decorated as the blue mosque, but really pleasant to be there. Quite calming.

Then on to the Bozdogan Aqueduct, which I believe has Roman origins.
The afternoon was getting on, so we aimed back towards the ship via the Spice Market. As I said, we were getting tired now. Once again we were walking through narrow streets crowded with shops selling everything. We finally got to the Spice Market, or at least a food and spice market and I had a good look round whilst Peter rested, (he seen more shops than he ever wanted to). I admit to buying vast amounts of turkish delight and baklava. Mmmmmmmmm.
And then we were back at the ship. Footsore and weary. Our last, parting memory was the final street seller as we walked into the Port. For sale...............? A revolver and rifle! Unbelievable!
Actually, that was our second to last parting memory. The last parting memory of a glorious city was to watch it disappear into the distance under a stunning evening sunset. Beautiful.
During our time there, Peter and I saw so much, absorbed so much, and were overwhelmed by it all. But there was so much that we didn’t get to;- The Harem, the Hagia Sophia, the Basillica Cistern, over the bridges across the Horn to see the Galata Tower and The Dolmabahace Palace, and over the Bogazici Bridge across the Bosphorus into Asia......... I could go on and on. 

Looks like we are going to have to find a way to come back then.


  1. Can you tell me the name of the Artist at the beginning of the hill? I've just came back from Istanbul and I've met the father but I can't understand his name from his signature.
    Please :D

    1. I'm sorry, we don't know, but if you've bought one of his paintings, congratulations. I'm jealous. :-)