So, I just got back from Istanbul a few days ago. I know!! As surprising as that may sound to you, it's probably more surprising to me! The trip materialized shortly before the holidays. We had planned to visit K&H in Latvia in late spring until something came up that necessitated changing our plans. When we suggested we'd just come earlier, during winter, the response was 'Nooo! It's cold, it's dark! Let's meet for a week somewhere warmer." Several destinations were mentioned as possibilities, but when Istanbul came up, I was all over it!! I had decided that my personal theme for 2015 would be "Seize the year" ~ what better way than to welcome it in a totally new culture?
As we flew in over the city, I couldn't help but notice the mosque-dotted neighborhoods, so different from anyplace I'd visited. We timed our arrival to meet the kids (aka Mr&Ms.Ferretting Out the Fun) at the Istanbul airport and were whisked together to our charming little boutique hotel in the Sultanahmet section of the city, literally steps from most of the well-known historical attractions. How's this for a room?
My giddy self, reflected in a mirrored TV wall, shortly after dropping my suitcase
Truly, during every minute of the trip, I could hardly believe I was there. And as I look through my 500+ photos, my strongest impulse is to book another flight and return. Today. I absolutely loved Istanbul!
The Blue Mosque, right in *our neighborhood*
We checked in around 6:00pm and headed right out to find something to eat and then walk around the area to get our bearings as we sketched out our week's plans. I can't tell you how breathtaking it was to turn a corner and come upon the Blue Mosque, illuminated like this.
And to turn around on the same spot to see the Hagia Sofia. Enchanting doesn't start to describe it.
The week didn't exactly unfold as we had planned. It was pretty brisk our first few days there and by mid-week, the Middle East was in the throes of an unusually harsh cold front/storm. For three days, the temperature never got above the mid-20s ~ just about where it was in Ohio and Riga that week! So much for warmer climes. We were undaunted. Each day after a hearty, delicious breakfast at the hotel, we headed out for 12 hours or more. First stop, the Hagia Sofia.
We spent the better part of 2 hours touring the interior of this gorgeous building. Built in 435 as an Eastern Orthodox church, it was converted to a mosque in 1453 and secularized as a museum in 1935. The scale is hard to capture in photos. Many areas are currently being restored.
After the initial awe over its massive dimensions, I found the smaller details so captivating.
Mosaics that literally shimmered. Familiar with some of these from art history classes, I was quite surprised at the size of the actual mosaic pieces ~ about 1/4" square!! Stunning.
Up under the arches, you can see remnants of mosaic patterning. Areas where it had disintegrated had at some point been painted in the same designs. Pattern heaven!! I found myself trying to imagine how beautiful this place must have been in its time.
As we left, I found this most touching ~ the stone entryway, worn down in at least a 3" dip from centuries of visitors.
When we finally tore ourselves away, we headed across the street to grab some lunch at a restaurant that advertised good views. Next stop, right across the street ~ the Basilica Cistern.
As we were waiting in a short line, I paused for a moment to get a shot of this charming Ottoman style structure, a tourist police station, that was right across the street. Its color, the peeling paint, the Turkish flag flying...it's not a great shot, but now it is one of my most memorable. About 50 hours later, a Russian woman in a niqab walked up to the kiosk and after being refused entry, activated a suicide bomb, killing herself and a policeman. Initially, it was a shock to hear, but not so surprising. Within 24 hours, the Paris attack would take over the news. What a world.
The Basilica Cistern is actually one of a number of water retention structures that were built beneath the city in the 6th century to provide water filtration for the Great Palace of Constantinople. Walkways have been built between some columns so visitors can tour the massive subterranean structure. Impressive, but a little creepy. Let's brighten this post up a bit!!
How about some Turkish delight? Yum...
Too many varieties of baklava to count ~ or eat!!
As do the bazaars ~ rugs, textiles, lanterns, spices...
Not to mention the random city scenes and the warm, friendly people we met.
Lots more to share.
***Not sure why the spacing is so wacky if you're reading this on Bloglovin'.