After a night at our busy parking, which we spent with ear plugs to blend out all the noises around us, we were heading into town again, this time, to meet our guide Göktug, which we got organised through Guided Istanbul Tours.
Starting our tour at Hagia Sophia, a church which is one of the most impressive buildings of the Roman Empire, built as early as 537 by the eastern Roman emperor Justinian I. It was designed by the Greek geometers Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, using know-how which was later lost for centuries.
Hagia Sophia was the world’s largest interior space and among the first to employ a fully pendentive dome, where the weight of the dome is led to the four corners of the structure below. It is said to have “changed the history of architecture”. Hagia Sophia remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.
Of course it was turned into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and baptistery were removed. The mosaics depicting Jesus, his mother Mary, Christian saints, and angels were eventually destroyed or plastered over. Islamic architectural features were added, such as a minbar (pulpit), the four minarets, and a mihrab – a niche indicating the direction of prayer.
Since 1935 it was a museum and just since one year ago, it is used as a mosque again, thanks to Erdogan. Luckily, the remaining mosaics depicting figures are only covered up during prayers, so the muslims wouldn’t have to see them.
Our next destination was the Topkapi palace, which was the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans in the 15th and 16th centuries. The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many buildings around them.
The Sultanahmet Square in the centre of town, was once the Roman hippodrome, used for horse and chariot racing and adorned with many monuments. Today there is still a square in form of the former racetrack and some of the columns at the middle line left. We were especially keen to see the Serpent Column. It is part of an ancient Greek sacrificial tripod, which originally stood in Delphi and was relocated to Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 324. It was built to commemorate the Greeks who fought and defeated the Persian Empire (479 BC). As we had been to Delphi at the beginning of this year, it was great we could see it now here in Istanbul, even without the serpent’s heads. Post from Delphi – where you can see the copy on it’s original place.
The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops, one of the first shopping malls of the world!
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, often called the Blue Mosque, was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. We were told that hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, but since 4 years, the mosque is under construction and you can’t see any of its splendour at the moment. We might have to come again in a couple of years, especially as the Basilica Cistern is closed for renovation too.
The view from the “Panoramic Restaurant” above a hotel was incredible, the food was not really special, but somehow we had very bad luck, as we both caught food poisoning. It started during the night and we were really knocked out the next day. We had planned to leave Istanbul in the morning, but had to postpone it for another day, as even getting to the toilet required a big effort.
After a day in bed, we were able to leave our noisy parking the next morning and went to a camping outside of town, where we can recover a little bit more and wait and see if we might get our spare parts delivery after all.