This has taken me longer to get ready than I expected. Our second day in Istanbul was very busy. Rather than embed pictures here, I am going to direct you to the picture gallery—and it may take me another day to get the pictures posted.
On Monday the Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) was closed, so we added it to our list for Tuesday. This building was started in the 6th century AD. It has survived earthquakes (political and physical) shifts in function from church to mosque and now to museum. The scale is tremendous. The workmanship is very impressive. The Romans built special columns that would yield without breaking when the building was hit with earthquakes. At one point when the church became a mosque, the original artwork was covered over. Now, as that covering is gradually removed, one can see that the artwork is well preserved. We tried to get some pictures that would show the scale as well as the beauty of Ayasofya, but the camera (at least in my hands) just can’t replicate what the eye could see.
From Ayasofya we rushed down to the Bosporus to catch a tour boat. We went from the Galata Bridge to nearly the Black Sea. Our guide pointed out the various districts along the shore and we saw many mosques, palaces, government buildings, schools and houses of the wealthy, all of which were crowded as close to the water as they could get. We also saw many many ships headed in both directions and quite a few yachts. We ended up at a small town on the Asian side right where the Bosporus changes to the Black Sea. We ate at a nice restaurant across from a small harbor. Patricia had raw calamari as a starter. I did not. The entrée was sea bass. We were served the whole fish, head included. I did not eat much of mine.
On the way back we were driven rather than taken back by boat. That gave us a chance to see much more of the Asian side of Istanbul and to experience the traffic. I would not try to drive here. There are about 14 million people in Istanbul and all of them have cars and they all seem to be going to the same place at the same time. You would think that there would be an accident on every block, but while you see cars literally held together with tape, you don’t see many accidents. Pedestrians are fair game. Red lights apparently mean go faster.
When we crossed back to the European side, we went to a wonderful little mosque exquisitely decorated in blue tiles. In fact, our guide told us that the tiles in this mosque predate the ones in the Blue Mosque by several hundred years. This mosque truly deserves to be called the blue mosque.
Then we went to the spice market. This will be one of the highlights of the trip for Patricia. It was crowded and noisy. Many kinds of spices and fruits and candy and nuts were on sale. So was a lot of the usual tourist stuff.
We went out to dinner about 5:30 and, since we now know our way around, walked down to the area around Ayasofya and found a nice restaurant named “The house of Medusa” probably taken from the Medusa columns in the cistern right underneath where we sat. We had really good food and since we were in no rush, tried the Turkish coffee. That may be an acquired taste. At 8:00 the live music started so we stayed a little longer and had another local favorite: apple tea.
So, you can see that the busy day left me little time to write up what we did that same day. But here it is now.