Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Turkey travel blog

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque - carpet marks your space when you pray.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia with Hatice

Basilica Cistern

Medusa's head

The palace

Palace grounds

The show at dinner

From our room at night

Up at 7:00 and our guide – Hatice – was there early. We went and had a quick breakfast and off on the tour!

We started off by going through the hippodrome and were told about the chariot races that were held in the Eastern Roman Empire. Then to the Blue Mosque and Kitty put on a scarf and in we went. It was under extensive renovation, but still a massive building. Hatice took some pictures of us in the masque as well.

Then outside and to the Basilica Cistern. With a guide we could “skip the line” so we went right it. It too was under reconstruction in parts, but the moisture and rows of columns were very impressive. We made our way to the medusa head – which was crowded and the stone was green from the light. Then to the upside-down head – was it disrespect or just engineering?

Back into the sunlight and off to the Hagia Sophia – again lots of construction but most of it was open – and massive! We wandered around marveling at the 500+ year old mosaics and art work. On the upper story we got to see the sweep of the place. Very impressive.

Then off to the Princesses’ Palace overlooking the Bosporus. Again, amazing buildings, very old trees, and lots of museum pieces. We went into the kitchens and saw the massive amount of work that was needed to feed 5000 people. No pictures allowed but still very interesting.

Then into an ancient school where Bureaucrats were trained and through the massive gardens. Then we sat down for lunch at the café and chatted with Hatice. She has two kids and does the touring thing as her job. She’s not very religious and hates people from India as they are horrid tourists. She and I got an ice cream as we were leaving.

We walked on a bit and since the Grand Bazaar was closed, she directed us back to the hotel and headed off. We wandered through a small bazaar near the hotel. We went through, bought some stuff, and back to the hotel for a rest.

We scheduled seats at a Whirling Dervish ceremony and wandered off to find it. Hotel clerk gave us poor directions but with the help of the phone we finally found the place. No photos were allowed but it was a fantastic experience – spiritual. A small museum explained a lot of what was going on.

Then back toward the hotel (all we had to do was follow the trolley tracks) and we stopped at an open-air restaurant for dinner. Very nice food and a bottle of wine! One of the servers had wine glasses on his head, staring with three and working his way up to eight. Quite impressive!

Then back to the hotel. On the way many people were celebrating the end of Ramadan by having picnics in the Hippodrome. Lots of folks and music. Back to the hotel and up on the rooftop terrace to look around. Quite lit up and even seagulls still flying at 11:00 at night.

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