Crete Pilgrimage 2016 - Day 18

Turkey - Another day in Istanbul


After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we gathered with the Tempo Tours group and met our Turkish tour guide - xx. She proved to be a wealth of information and adept at dealing with locals who were not so sure about these people from New Zealand and Australia.

We walked from the hotel to the Blue Mosque and then to the Topkapi Palace. For lunch we walked a short distance down hill to the Albura Kathisma in Akbryik Street, then back up to visit the Hagia Sofia Mosque. Then back through the Grand Bazaar, where we bought a large box of Turkish Delight before returning to the hotel.

The Blue Mosque

Our tour of the Blue Mosque began where we had finished the previous day - at the entrance gate, but this time we had a guide - the charming Daria. We entered the main courtyard, took off our shoes and had our attire inspected. I was fine in my long trousers but most of the women were asked to don long skirts and head scarves. Then in we went. All mosques have a large, high-vaulted central area, under the dome which is surprisingly light and airy.

One of the entrances to the Blue Mosque
The courtyard inside the main walls
We crossed the courtyard to the main entrance.
Part of the main dome from the inside
Some of the stained glass windows.
Keeping it clean, with a nod to health and safety
All dressed up in long skirts and scarves.
View across the main floor of the mosque
Then we were out the door looking across to the Hagia Sophia.

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace is one of the main tourist attractions in Istanbul. It was once the home of the Ottoman sultans for over 400 years (1465-1856). The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, and covered a large area. It contained a hospital, bakeries, and a mint. It received the name "Topkapı" (Cannon Gate in the 19th century, after a (now lost) gate and shore pavilion. After the 17th century, the Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance as the sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosphorus. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, and the mint, were retained in the Topkapı Palace. The complex is guarded by officials of the ministry as well as armed guards of the Turkish military.

Looking back at the Blue Mosque
The wild dogs are protected and fed by the city
A glimpse of the Bosphorus Sea from the grounds of the palace.
Heading towards the entrance to the Topkapi Palace
The gardens inside the wall and before the entrance to the palace itself.
The inner entrance to the palace itself
Sign in gold leaf on the entrance
Map of the enxtent of the Ottoman Empire
The kitchens for the palace
The harem
Detail on the ceiling in the entrance
Spring flowers
A better view of the Bosphorus with new Istanbul on the right
New Istanbul
The roof of the cafe was built around the trees.


From the Palace we wlked a short distance downhill to the Alburo restaurant for lunch.

One suspects they had been warned of our arrival...

The Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia was a Greek Orthodox Christian basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum. From the date of its construction in 537 AD, and until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted by the Fourth Crusaders to a Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture". It remained the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

The entrance with the high vaulted ceilings
The domes inside, with scaffolding on the left
Looking up at the dome with the two levels of galleries
The polished marble floor showing wear over the centuries.
Looking down from the first gallery
The first gallery
Detail of the main dome
The marble door
Detail of the columns
The stairway down from the main gallery
Bookshop half way down.
Back on the ground floor
Detail of the lights.
Outside into the sunshine again

Back to the hotel

From the Hagia Sophia we walked back towards the hotel. We passed the famous "Pudding Shop" or Lale Cafe. It became popular in the 1960s as a meeting place for beatniks and, later on, hippies and other travelers on overland routes - the "hippie trail". The restaurant got its colloquial name as a result of "word-of mouth" from numerous foreign travelers that could not remember the name of the eatery but did remember the wide and popular selection of puddings sold there and thus referred to it as the "pudding shop". We then walked through the Grand Bazaar, where we were tempted with Turkish Delight, but not the spices or gold.

Modern trams run through Istanbul
Famous cafe
One of many bakeries
Entrance to the Grand Bazaar
Gold and carpets on display
Crowds in the bazaar

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Last updated: 28/03/2017