We first went to the Blue Mosque (called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) which is so named because of the blue tiles surrounding the interior walls. It was built between 1609 and 1616 and is still an active mosque. Before entering everyone is required to take off their shoes and women need to wear a head scarf.
|My attempt at a headscarf|
After visiting the Blue Mosque we walked to Topkapi Palace. The palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for around 400 years. The palace was also a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings including a treasury holding precious objects like Muhammed's cloak and sword, and Noah's staff. Unfortunately, it was forbidden to take pictures inside.
|The Imperial Gate|
|Gate of Salutation: Entrance to the 2nd courtyard|
|View from the palace|
|Our yummy appetizer.|
After lunch we walked to Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is an important monument for the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. It was first a church, then a mosque, and now a museum and has many sights to see of both Christian and Muslim importance. It is a stunning building with a lot of history.
No trip to Istanbul would be complete without heading to their two famous markets: The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market (also known as the Egyptian Bazaar). The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in the world and is home to over 3,000 shops covering around 60 indoor streets. The Bazaar has everything a shopper in Istanbul would want, from a colorful array of rugs, scarves, and fabrics, to teas, lamps, hookahs. We enjoyed wandering through this large maze of shops, making left and right turns on a whim in order to head towards the quieter back lanes away from the hoards of people. One Turkish specialty that we bought here was Lokum, also known as "Turkish Delight". It's a sweet snack that can contain a variety of nuts, and comes in various flavors such as fig, rose, strawberry, orange, and lemon.
|One of 21 entrances|
|One of the streets|
|One of the many Lokum displays|
|The top part is covered with fisherman and the bottom part is restaurants.|
|The Spice Market/Egyptian Bazaar|
We really wish we had more time in this exquisite city! It is so different than any other city we've been to and we were just enchanted by what it had to offer. I guess this means we'll just have to come back in the future some time! Next up, Kusadasi!