Saturday, 6 August 2016

Crossroads of the World - Day 7

Hagia Sofia

Istanbul                                                                         Turkey

Wednesday 15th October 2014

This morning was a terrible one as the call to prayer woke me up very early so I was quite cranky. Today was my last full day in Istanbul so the first thing I wanted to do was pack my rucksack up ready for tomorrow’s departure. I managed to get it done pretty quickly which gave me a bit of time to relax on the terrace. The next thing I did was to meet the receptionist downstairs and figure out if the transport service knew I was at these apartments instead of the hotel I thought I was going to be in for the week and if so, what time they were picking me up. Once I received my information I was relieved as I went back upstairs to grab my essentials for what I would call ‘the final view’ where I would visit the main sites one last time and make the most of my day. My first destination was the Hippodrome as it was the closest to me. It did not take long to get there though and I was welcomed by the two unique columns once more. As I got closer to the obelisk column, I noticed a large TV crew shooting a scene not really understanding what it was about. I was tempted to walk on scene and pretend I was an extra but I didn’t think they would have me in their programme. I continued on my path towards the Blue mosque and Hagia Sofia to admire its beauty. 

Hagia Sofia
Me and Hagia Sofia
Food Stalls

My next destination was the Grand bazaar so knowing how to locate it I made haste to the old market. It did not take long to arrive at one of the many entrances to the market and also not long to get pestered by the merchants. I wandered around the maze like market taking in the views of the ceilings and novelty items which brightened the area with marvellous colours. Time passed and I decided to leave the Grand bazaar at the northern entrance and made my way to the spice bazaar which was not far either. I did not think it was hard finding the spice bazaar as the closer I got to it, the stronger the smell of spices and tea became filling my nose with pungent flavours. I admired the many displays of multicoloured spices and Turkish delights but I didn’t stay long as my next destination was Galata tower at the other side of the golden horn. By this time though it was time for dinner so I decided to have a fish sandwich at one of the elaborate fishing boats along the golden horn. I sat at the small chairs provided and ate my sandwich which was beautiful despite spitting more bones out. 

Fish Boat Restaurant

I eventually crossed the Galata Bridge and made the huge steep climb to the top. It was killing my legs but eventually I felt relief when the ground levelled out as I stood next to the Galata tower. It was still a wonder to witness its amazing size towering over the buildings surrounding it. 

Galata Tower

Back down the hill I went and across the bridge to make haste for the main gates to Topkapi palace. It took a bit of time getting through the hundreds of people stopping at markets and shops but eventually I managed to get back to Sultanahmet square. However, as I got to the square I thought I would take one last look inside the Blue mosque so I headed straight to the entrance. I was near the front this time and I got in pretty much straight away. Yet again the shoes had to come off and into a plastic bag before stepping foot inside. As was expected I was overwhelmed with the shear size and beauty of the mosque. I also watched on at the many people praying in front of me despite the smell of feet in the air. I savoured every moment I could inside this place grabbing a sense of peace along the way before finally taking my leave for Topkapi palace. As I turned the corner at Hagia Sofia I was shocked but laughing at what I was witnessing as was everybody else around me. There were 2 stray dogs having fun with each other so to speak with other stray dogs watching on and barking; I couldn’t believe it as I passed them still laughing. I eventually got to Topkapi’s main gates and sat at a bench watching people walking by. All the while an old Chinese woman was humming away next to me which sounded really therapeutic to be honest. It was amazing to see so many people from different places and cultures around the world to be in one place as well and I was one of them representing Britain. 

A very long time passed before I got up and started walking back to Hagia Sofia. As I walked alongside the Hagia Sofia with the sun beaming down I could see the seven hills hotel (the hotel I thought I was meant to be at) on my left with its panoramic rooftop. I got curious and it was tea time anyway so I decided to head over to see what could have been if that was my hotel. I was greeted in and was placed in a lift to go to the roof. I climbed a few stairs before finally feeling the breeze on my face as I reached the rooftop. The terrace was very beautiful with glass surroundings and crystal designed globes. I had a close look at the menu before seeing the views and I immediately realised it was a fish restaurant; it didn’t bother me though so I took a seat. It was at this point I clapped my eyes on the views in front of me. I was speechless with a truly magnificent view of the Hagia Sofia, the Blue mosque and the Mamara Sea. My heart was in my mouth as I sat down full of joy. 

Blue Mosque
View from Restaurant

I decided to order swordfish skewers and a Turkish tea which I was curious enough to find out how the fish tasted from here. As I waited, I really felt at peace as I was admiring the Hagia Sofia shining bright in front of me with seagulls soaring around the building which made me think of how truly free I felt at that moment. My food eventually came and I dug right in and it was absolutely delicious. I eventually finished my food and asked for some Baklava for dessert. As I waited for my dessert I looked back over at the Hagia Sofia and I had to look twice to see 2 people walking on the museums rooftops. I was partly shocked and partly jealous as I wouldn’t have minded joining them on there.

Living on the Edge
Fish Skewers

Then the call to prayer went across the whole city only this time it sounded remarkable especially where I was sitting. What was also amazing was that I could hear it coming from the Asian side of Istanbul too producing a low echo but truly fascinating. I finally finished my Baklava and paid the bill whilst admiring the final moments with the rooftops amazing view. 

I left the hotel amazingly happy with what I had seen before returning back to the apartment to relax for a moment. A very long time passed when the sun had finally disappeared to the west so I headed back out to go to the Kayikci restaurant to have a quick bite to eat. I enjoyed the final night at this place watching on at everybody else having a great time too with their friends and family. I took my leave towards the Sultanahmet square for one final time watching the water fountain display and lit up mosques saying goodbye to this magnificent spectacle.
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