Since it was our last day in Istanbul, we knew we had to make the most of it. So we caught the Tram near our hotel and headed to the Sultanahmet area of the city. I loved this area because the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern were all so close to each other. By the way, Istanbul’s public transportation system is awesome. It seems like there’s a way to get anywhere you want to go in the city, which is great for minimizing costs.
Our first stop was to the Blue Mosque. Since we were now mosque-visiting pros, we knew to take our shoes off and cover our heads. The inside, in a word, was beautiful.
Our second stop was to the Hagia Sophia. It was built as a Christian temple, and then became a mosque for several hundred years. In 1935, it became a museum showcasing some its Christianity and Islam heritage.
We were approached by a tour guide outside who offered to tour us around at a discounted rate. He had an official license issued by Turkey. I recommend doing this if the person seems reputable and legitimate. He was able to give us little anecdotes about the museum and it was much more interesting than listening to a guide on tape.
After we finished touring the Hagia Sophia, the guide offered to take us to the Basilica Cistern, an underground water storage area. Before being converted to a cistern, a Basilica stood in its place. It was surprisingly serene down there. The Medusa heads, one on its side and one upside down, were the most fascinating pieces in the Cistern. It seems like there would be some interesting story about why they’re there, but our guide said they needed something to hold up the columns and the heads were the perfect size. Oh well.
While in Istanbul for 3 days, we were able to experience much of Turkish culture. But I left feeling almost a little sad because there was still so much to see and do. I didn’t make it to the Topkapi or Dolmabahçe Palaces, the Hippodrome and I didn’t cruise on the Bosphorus, and much, much more, but there’s no possible way you can do everything in just 3 short days. Believe me, I tried. It just gives me a reason to return sooner rather than later!
Until next time Istanbul,