Monday, 1 August 2016

Crossroads of the World - Day 2

Galata Tower

Istanbul                                                                         Turkey

Friday 10th October 2014

I was awake quite late in the morning which was fine for me but the funny thing was I partly forgot where I was and then it hit me; I was in Istanbul. I got dressed and my first priority was to see the view from the balcony. I was soon welcomed by a nice view of the Mamara Sea and the Bosphorous with the sun beaming in front of me bouncing from the rooftops of a nearby mosque. This got me really excited as I was constantly thinking about the wonderful sights I would be viewing today. I knew the view I had wouldn’t last long though as I was told yesterday that I would be swapping into my actual room for the week. I grabbed all my belongings and headed back to the reception area further down the road where I would wait for 10 minutes whilst my new room was getting prepared. I got the thumbs up to head to my new room which was at the top floor of the building. After climbing a tight spiral staircase with my hands full of luggage, I finally entered my apartment; it was impressive despite it being smaller than the previous room. However, I realised I had a very large terrace outside and was amazed with the greater views of the Mamara sea and at the top of the hill in the distance I could see the large minarets of the Blue mosque poking out from the rooftops which also helped me get a perspective of the area. 

View from Apartment Terrace
View from Apartment Terrace

This lead to my next concern; finding my way around the city and to figure out exactly where I was due to yesterdays’ incident with arriving at the wrong hotel. After unpacking my bag, figuring out where I was on the map and grabbing my essentials, it was finally time to explore the ancient city. I immediately underestimated how steep the hill was to the top as I was at the bottom. Despite this I climbed and climbed up a steep cobbled road until I reached the main street where the ground levelled out and tramlines were. A mosque called the ‘Nuruosmaniye mosque’ was straight ahead of me so I decided to head towards that first. Bypassing the beautiful mosque I took a left turn and was welcomed by one of many entrances to the Grand Bazaar. I was struck with amazement with all the vibrant colours around the area and the strange and wonderful items the Turkish merchants were selling on the market stalls outside such as rugs, Turkish delights, novelty toys, small musical instruments, etc. However, I turned around and headed back towards the tramlines because I wanted to go to the Bazaar another day. 

Nuruosmaniye Mosque
Entrance to Grand Bazaar

I eventually got myself on the right track in order to get to the infamous Blue mosque and the Hagia Sofia. Along the way were more unique shops selling mosaic art, souvenirs, rugs or anything that was colourful and sparkling. The best shops were the ones which had a wonderful display of peculiar flavoured Turkish delights and other sweets to dive into. It looked very appetising so I thought about having a try of them throughout my time here. Eventually, I made it to a most wonderful sight of the Sultanahmet Square with the Blue mosque and Hagia Sofia set on opposite sides to each other. I was astounded yet again by its beauty and picturesque quality. 

Beautiful Water Feature near Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque

The first area I headed to was the large fountain at the square which produced some brilliant water displays. I then approached the large and beautiful looking Hagia Sofia with its four large minarets and golden spires. I wanted to go inside but yet again I wanted to save it for another day. I went down the right hand side of the Hagia Sofia and passed through an entrance leading towards the Topkapi palaces main gate. 

Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Square
Hagia Sofia
Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III

As I entered inside I seen quite a few soldiers carrying assault rifles which looked amazing to see and reminded me not to do anything stupid. As I got to the other side of the entrance, the area opened out to a lovely view of a pathway, large trees and luscious green grass running along towards Topkapi palace. Revealing itself through the trees was the Asian side of Istanbul across the Bosphorous with its skyscrapers scattered around and its large hills at its distance. Right behind me I saw the Hagia Eiriene which was nestled in behind the Hagia Sofia but still lovely to see. 

Imperial Gate
Hagia Eirene
View of Asian side of Istanbul

I walked along the pathway alongside the row of trees which finally brought me to the main gates of Topkapi palace. The entrance reminded me of Hogwarts castle towers from Harry Potter but still with a Turkish twist to it as yet again both towers had golden spires shining bright. It was dinner time and I headed to the nearest place which was conveniently next to the Hagia Eiriene and also with the beautiful view of Asia in the distance. I sat down by myself and ordered Turkish beef meatballs with rice pilaff and fries. I also thought I would go with the tradition of having a Turkish tea so I ordered that too. My tea came first in a unique looking glass not knowing what it would taste like. I was thinking the worst; however I picked it up and drank it realising how beautiful it tasted. It didn’t seem as bitter as it would be at home which made it a good drink to have. 

Walk to Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace Main Gate
Turkish Tea

After my dinner which was absolutely wonderful, I set off towards the coast of the Mamara Sea. The wind picked up as I arrived at the coastline and I was completely won over by the remarkable view of the sea rippling away with the sun beaming down bright on the water. As I was on the coast I had a better view of Asia and the hundreds of boats and cargo ships flowing through the Bosphorous into the sea. I sat and rested watching the water clap against the rocks before setting off along the coastline around Topkapi palace heading towards the golden horn. Along the way I noticed a lot of fisherman casting their lines out in the hope of catching something for dinner. I later realised that quite a lot of the men were homeless as I seen their make shift homes out of cardboard wedged between rocks which I felt sorry for. 

Sea of Marmara
Sea of Marmara

After a long walk around the coastline I found myself approaching the golden horn. I looked across at the Bosphorous once again and I could see in the distance the Maidens tower which I wanted to visit throughout the week. As I came alongside the golden horn, I was shocked by the shear size of the cruise ships moored up at the other side; I’ve never seen any ship that size before. One ship had about 11 decks which towered over passing ferries, boats and even several buildings too. Further down I went and I was welcomed by the amazing site of the Galata tower on the hill at the other side of the golden horn. That was my next destination and I headed straight for the Galata Bridge. Along the way were strong smells of walnuts roasting and fish being cooked which were definitely overwhelming my sense of smell. I came upon the Galata Bridge and noticed that the whole bridge was covered with fisherman which was very unique to me again not seeing anything like it before.
Huge Cruise Ship at Goldern Horn
Galata District
New Mosque
Galata Bridge

However, another overwhelming smell came to my nose which wasn’t pleasant; it was a mixture of fish and urine. On that note I quickly made it across the bridge now clear of the horrid smell. Not far from the bridge was an old man with a shoe polishing assembly set up with comfy looking insoles at his side. I had to buy a pair of insoles as my feet were beginning to wear down already with the pressure of walking long distances again. I felt a sudden relief as the insoles were placed and soon set off to the Galata tower. I was immediately hit by a shear hill which was a lot worse than the one next to where I was staying. I was happy when I eventually reached the top sweating and seen the Galata tower right in front of me. I sat down at a bench looking up admiring the cylindrical tower which dominated the old city skyline to the north before deciding to head inside to get to the top of the tower. 

Galata Tower

Not knowing what the inside area looked like I thought the worst again of climbing countless stairs in a spiral all the way to the top. Thankfully though, I was happy to see the elevator right in front of me. It cost 18 Turkish liras to get in so up the lift I went with people I didn’t know heading for the restaurant at the top half of the tower. I had to climb a couple of flights of stairs before finally reaching the outside area at the top of the tower. I was hit by the wonderful panoramic views of Istanbul which I dreamt about seeing with the unique sights of mosques scattered throughout the entire city yet again towering over the skyline with the sun beaming down on the rooftops with the beautiful golden horn below. I stood for a long while admiring and soaking in the spectacular views before heading back down the tower. 

View from Galata Tower
New Mosque

Once I left I headed back a different route where I would see the Galata mosque which was quite small with a lot of traffic flowing alongside it. I walked back to the other side of the golden horn and then alongside it where I noticed a nice and unique looking market area so I headed towards it following the hundreds of people admiring what the merchants were selling. As I was getting deeper into the market, I suddenly realised where I was; it was the famous spice bazaar. I was immediately welcomed with the variety of pungent smells of spices which had unique smells to them even though I wouldn’t like to try any of them. Yet again the whole market was full of vibrant colours of oranges, browns, yellows, reds, greens and even blues which mostly came from the spices themselves. There were also sundried peppers, tomatoes and other peculiar items hanging from hooks which had a unique smell also. I headed for the exit and decided to find the Hippodrome which was right alongside the Blue mosque. 

Spice Bazaar
Spice Bazaar
Spice Bazaar

I arrived after a bit of a climb and the first view I had seen was the familiar sight of obelisks with Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the stone which reminded me of Rome with the same obelisks. Behind that spire was the Brazen column. As I was next to the Blue mosque, I decided to head into the courtyard to see the unique style and layout. However, just before I got there, one of the sounds I wanted to hear finally bellowed across the city. It was the call to prayer in which the muezzin sings the prayer through loudspeakers broadcasted from the minarets to the whole city. It was a wonder to behold this unique sound which made me embrace where I was; I never heard anything like it before. After the call to prayer stopped I headed inside the courtyard and looked up to the spectacular close up view of the Blue mosque. Everything was symmetrical which looked amazing with the golden spires at the tip of each minaret and dome. 

Obelisk at Hippodrome
Brazen Column
Entrance to Blue Mosque Courtyard
Blue Mosque

I was starting to get hungry again so I headed to a restaurant at the side of Hagia Sofia and had a look at what they had to offer. The first thing I saw was the famous water pipe and I definitely wanted to try one out. They had a variety of flavours such as apple, melon and cappuccino but I chose strawberry. I also ordered another Turkish tea and spaghetti bolognese. A while later, the waiter came to my table with my water pipe and I was curious and excited to see how I was going to react to it. I also watched a few other people with theirs; some were coughing and some were relaxed thinking nothing of it. The equipment was quite impressive with its well designed purple glass base, long gold cylinder tube at the centre, a silver tin at the top with charcoal placed over the ventilation system and of course the beautifully designed pipe. The time had come to try it out and at first it was great and I could taste the strawberry very well. However after finishing my tea and puffing away, I started to feel a bit nauseous as it didn’t taste of strawberry anymore. Despite this it was a great experience trying out the famous water pipe. 

Hagia Sofia
Strawberry Flavoured Waterpipe

By now the sun was beginning to set which meant it was a bit cooler so I decided to head back towards the apartments. Along the way I stopped at the tomb of Mahmut II and had a quick look at the headstones which were a lot different than the ones back home. The majority of the stones were cylinder shaped with a lot of Arabic writing on them which was another unique sight for me to see. 


Eventually I headed back to my room where I would rest my feet for a while and flick through my pictures. The sun was finally setting and then I was reminded again that I was in another part of the world as the call to prayer was sung across the city once more. By now the sun had set and it started to get dark. I got curious as I wanted to see what the area looked like at night. So I put on my jacket to keep me warm and headed back out to Sultanahmet square again. Even though it was night time the city streets were glowing like Blackpool with bright lights showing off what they had to offer. When I arrived back in the square, I was speechless with what I was witnessing. The Blue mosque and the Hagia Sofia were lit up and the fountain at its centre was very remarkable as the display of water shooting in the air was a lot better than during the day. Plus there were a variety of colours shining on the water making the whole display exceptional as a lot of people gathered around to admire its beauty. 

Shop Display of Turkish Delights
Sultanahmet Square at night

Along the way I somehow started chatting away to a man who approached me which seemed quite friendly so I started talking about my other trips and experiences. I took my leave from the conversation and headed back up to the square admiring the displays of Turkish delights, rugs and silks. I passed a couple of restaurants too which were quite unique. This was because right next to the entrances were women kneeling, rolling dough, flattening it and then placing it on a traditional cooking hob which looked really impressive and inviting. However I continued to have a look around the area taking the sights in before finally returning to my apartment overwhelmed with Istanbul’s beauty.

Shop Display of Mosaic Plates
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