Yep, I'm still posting about Istanbul. It was really very magical. Here's a low-down on the "must see" tourist sites. We were lucky enough to have a guide for the two days that we visited Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque and Topaki Palace. He was very passionate and proud of his city and overwhelmed us (me) with information about the places.
Topaki Palace was the home to the Sultans for most of the Ottoman Reign. It is a huge complex of buildings that is on prime real estate over-looking the Bosphorus. I always like to imagine myself as a princess or queen living in these places when I visit, but after hearing about life in the Harem, I decided that even though it was beautiful, it was perhaps not the most friendly place to live. Castrated men (eunachs) were on gaurd 24 hours to prevent escape, and one Sultan was rumoured to have killed his 280 concubines by drowning them in the Bosphorus when he got sick of them. Nice, huh?
Once a church, then a mosque and now a museum, Aya Sofya is an incredibly interesting place full of strange bits and pieces - including (if you believe it) grafitti from Vikings!
The Blue Mosque
I can't really remember much about this mosque except that it was incredibly beautiful. It's dome is surrounded by blue leadlight windows and the walls are covered with intricately decorated mosaic tiles. It's a lovely place of worship, although the day we visited it had more of a party atmosphere with thousands of Turkish families visiting for the sugar festival. Kids, high on sugar, were running around everywhere and doing cartwheels on the floor which somehow detracted a little from the overall solemnity of the place. But beautiful, none-the-less.
This underground cistern was built by the Ottomans using old bits and pieces of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. There's a Medusa head supporting one of those pillars! It sits under the site of an old church (hence the name) and at one stage provided most of the water for the city of Istanbul. Now it's just a pretty cool tourist attraction.
And that wraps up the major touristy bits of Istanbul! Back to regular blogging shortly.