Exploring the Istanbul Classics
By Samra Muslim
“Samra Muslim has over 10 years of experience in public relations, marketing and communications, social media, event management and brand activation in a diverse range of industries. She is currently a student of social media in addition to her day time job as a marketer. She has been associated with Etihad Airways, and has worked for Starwood Hotels & Resort and Zindagi Trust in the past. She rants on her personal blog at www.samramuslim.com”
Getting up well-rested and today we were ready to take on Istanbul fully charged, and as a must visit headed off to the heart of the “Old City” from where many empires have rules for centuries.
The Old Town has a charm that has come from centuries of rulers crossing its paths and the Turkish government taking great pains to maintain and restore it … and of course make it very tourist friendly.
Wasn’t sure how to document my day out for you … so decided to take each place we went to and share a bit about it … as well as my verdict of it!
Hippodrome of Constantinople
Most of the original Hippodrome is not there, but the location was still an awesome walk in the chill and sunshine of March – plus we can always get a few nice photos with the Obelisk.
Just the realization that for duration of over 1,000 this spot was THE location for sports and recreation for the Byzantine Empires was pretty awe inspiring too…
Verdict: A really nice place to walk and its free so go see it!
Now how can any trip to Istanbul be considered complete without a trip to the country’s iconic Blue Mosque? Personally, it is a beautiful work of Ottoman / Islamic architecture, the six minarets look really nice from a distance … but the whole Blue Mosque phenomenon is a bit over-rated. Istanbul itself has some really beautiful mosques spread around town … and if you get the time, go explore them instead!!!
Timing: Just closes for public during prayer timings
Verdict: Overrated (Apologies if I offended anyone)
Now this is a true architectural and historical wonder and totally worth being called one of the Wonders of the Ancient world by many!
Constructed as a Church, it was beautifully converted into a Mosque by the Ottomans and is now a Museum! Even today, Hagia Sophia housing elements of both Christian and Islamic history with utmost care and beauty– and one cannot help but leave with a message of religious harmony and tolerance.
Entry: 25 Turkish Lira per person (yap steep!)
Timing: 09:00-16:00 hours (closed on Mondays)
Verdict: The mosaics, the calligraphy and even the aura is just totally worth the visit
In simple terms this is just an underground water storage tank built during the Byzantine era. Having said that, what made the visit interesting for us was … it is the largest of such storage facilities (or cisterns) in Istanbul and the ambiance of the location does catch with an unexpected (and pleasant) surprise when you enter. The talent and the creativity of those who lived centuries before us just sticks out when you see this place …
Entry: 10 Turkish Lira per person
Timing: 09:00-18:30hours – daily
Verdict: First impression catches you by surprise, but then it’s just an underground water tank!
Now this is a lot of walking – at least 2 hours I would say!!
Topkapi Palace historically used to be where the Ottoman Sultans would reside. Since the early 20th century the Palace has been converted into a Museum and today we can see pieces of history dating back to the Egyptian, Turkish and Roman empires in the Archaeological Museum, while in the Palace we can see the luxury and style of the Ottoman rulers. Interest and opulent … two things stand out as a part of this visit …
Entry: 10 Turkish Lira per person (Archaeological Museum)
20 Turkish Lire per person (Topkapi Palace)
Timing: 09:00-17:00hours (Closed on Tuesday)
Verdict: After a while it is just another Museum (read: yawn), although some of the pieces are pretty interesting to see
A historical urban park located right adjacent to the Topkapi Palace – and apparently used to be the gardens for the Palace. With nice benches and a clean, green environment … this is a nice place for the locals to hang out with the families and friends on the weekends, and for us tourists to walk around and chill.
Verdict: Go if you are a nature lover or want to walk after eating crazy Turkish food … otherwise skip it!!
Tired after this crazy long day … hope you are enjoying following my activities out in Istanbul (and maybe learning something useful from them for planning your trip out here too!). Your feedback for surly help me …
Plans for day 3 are still in the works … do come back tomorrow for those.