Turkey: Sultanahmet District

I am NOT a morning person. And it came early on Saturday. We got up and fixed some breakfast. Walked back down to the ferry and started the tour of Istanbul. Obviously having a native show you around is infinitely better than going alone. And I had the BEST tour guide. She was hell bent on showing me the best of her city and the best examples of its food and culture.

We first stopped at a famous restaurant, Karaköy Güllüoğlu, known for its pastry dishes. One in particular called ‘Su Boregi’.  I was treated to a wide assortment of pastries and desserts. Yummy! We saw on the news that Orlando Bloom was in town, so we added seeing him to our agenda.

We walked across the Galata Bridge where fishermen were trying their luck. And under the bridge are restaurants known for their fish sandwiches.

Gatala Bridge, Istanbul.

Gatala Bridge, Istanbul.

My friend then took me through Gulhane Park en route to Topkapi Palace. We took a detour to visit the Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam. This was a fascinating place.  It had all the major scientific instruments that I had seen (but still don’t exactly know what they do).  I tried to absorb as much info and knowledge as I could, but my brain eventually hit overload. There were some inventions in there that simply put my in awe. How do people think of this stuff? Specifically clockworks. Unbelievable. One clock was made of weights, counterweights, water and water buckets.

Early example of a clock.

Early example of a clock.

Next was Topkapi Palace. Topkapi is the largest and oldest palace in the world to survive to our day. It commands a view of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara.  Following the conquest of the city in 1453, the  Sultan Mehmet moved the capital of the empire to Istanbul. Built in the 1470’s, it was initially called the New Palace, but in recent times it came to be known as the Topkapi Palace. Topkapı is a classical example of Turkish palace architecture.

Topkapi Palace.

Topkapi Palace.

The harem area closed by the time we got there… bummer. But all in all it was a fascinating, beautiful place.

We had lunch in one of the old restaurants of the Sultanahmet district. Then went to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). I was excited about this because I couldn’t go in during my first trip to Turkey during my layover to Georgia. (I was wearing shorts.)

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is not only beautiful, it is awe inspiringly huge. We went inside and had a look around before they kicked everyone out for ‘call to prayer’.

We rushed over to see the Hagia Sophia, also impressively big. But it was closed already… bummer.

Hagia Sophia was built in the fourth century by Constantine the Great. Constantine was the first Christian emperor and the founder of the city of Constantinople, which he called “the New Rome.” The Hagia Sophia was one of several great churches he built in important cities throughout his empire.

Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia.

In 1204 the cathedral was attacked and plundered by the Crusaders, who also ousted the Patriarch of Constantinople and replaced him with a Latin bishop. This event cemented the division of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches that had begun with the Great Schism of 1054.  Most of Hagia Sophia’s riches can be seen today not in Istanbul, but in the treasury of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

Despite this setback, Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.

All that concluded our day. We went back to the island for a delicious dinner of fresh olives, cheeses and wine.


 I met a Traveler from an antique land,

Who said, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

“My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings.”

Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!

No thing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

— Ozymandias, Percy Shelley


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