Istanbul

It was grey and rainy every day while we were in Istanbul.

It was grey and rainy every day while we were in Istanbul.

On our way to Bodrum, Turkey we had to pass through Istanbul and spent just a couple days exploring this metropolis. It was rainy and cool for our visit so we didn’t stray as far or long as we would have liked to, leaving many sights for our next visit. Without a good map or guide book and a total lack of Turkish, we wandered around, stumbling into a number of sights by happenstance.

The place we were staying had a terrace. Istanbul today has 17 million inhabitants!

The place we were staying had a terrace. Istanbul today has 17 million inhabitants, up from half a million 30 years ago.

We stayed on the Asian side of Istanbul in a neighborhood called Kadıköy. It was perfect for us. About two blocks away was a network of pedestrian streets that led to an active food market, a lively restaurant scene, and many shops. The first night we set out to explore and came across multiple buskers playing traditional music with groups of passers-by spontaneously stopping to dance for a song. The ferry terminal, less than a kilometer away, allowed us to travel easily to other parts of the city.

The Istanbul Spice Market is full of beautiful colorful displays and smells.

The Istanbul Spice Bazaar is full of beautiful colorful displays and smells.

The first day we visited the Spice Bazaar by chance as it was right where the ferry dropped us. It has about a hundred booths with beautiful displays of spices, teas, and Turkish delight. We accepted samples and ended up talking with a young Syrian women who had been in Turkey and Istanbul only one month.

Inside the Grand Bazaar.

Inside the Grand Bazaar.

Another day we set out to find the Grand Bazaar and practically circumnavigated it before a man pointed us down the narrowest of passages between buildings. It broke into a courtyard with restaurants and shops tucked in with what looked like Roman or Greek ruins. From there, we descended stairs and dropped into the Grand Bazaar. Thankfully, finding our way out and back home turned out to be easier than finding our way in.

Enormous Turkish flags are common. This one flies over mansions on the banks of the Bosphorus.

Enormous Turkish flags are common. This one flies over mansions on the banks of the Bosphorus.

The last day we took a ferry tour from Istanbul up the Bosphorus to where it meets the Black Sea. En route, we passed palaces and mansions and summer homes of many rich and famous Turks. There were hundreds of other boats on the water: primarily ferries, freighters, and working fishing boats. We slid under two enormous bridges and saw a third being constructed. Large flocks of sea gulls swarmed the fishing boats. Rain showers obscured the far bank at times. The ferry wait staff kept the hot tea coming.

Inside the Blue Mosque.

Inside the Blue Mosque.

Despite the weather, we enjoyed our few quick days in Istanbul. Thousands of years of history have left beautiful monuments. The ferry system was frequent, easy to use, and inexpensive. A surprising number of streets were closed to automobile traffic making walking more pleasant. The call to prayer frequently reverberated across the city from multiple mosques all at once. Turks are very friendly. Even the aggressive sales people are friendly. One declared to Jim “I will help you spend your money!”

The Basilica Cistern was built by the Romans in the 6th century. It is capable of holding 2.8 million cubic feet of water when full.

The Basilica Cistern was built by the Romans in the 6th century. It is capable of holding 2.8 million cubic feet of water when full.

An example of the depth of history of Istanbul are the vast Roman underground cisterns. They were constructed around 500AD to bring clean drinking water to the city. After a few centuries, they were forgotten. A scholar rediscovered them in 1500AD when he was told by some local residents that they could drop a bucket through a hole in their cellar and pull it up with clean water and occasionally fish. A few cisterns are open today for visitors to walk through. They are beautiful spaces with forests of columns. The present-day water level is maintained at a fraction of what it was when used as a water supply for the city, allowing tourists and archaeologists to explore these enormous underground chambers.

Hagia Sophia at night in the rain.

Hagia Sophia at night in the rain.

You can see more pictures from our Istanbul adventures here. You can also check out where Istanbul is on our map here.

It seemed that around every corner we found another gorgeous mosque with a lovely courtyard and hundreds of artistic details.

It seemed that around every corner we found another gorgeous mosque with a lovely courtyard and hundreds of artistic details.

Within the Basilica Cistern fish glide, attracted to the lights.

Within the Basilica Cistern fish glide, attracted to the lights.

This upside-down Medusa head is in Basilica Cistern. No one knows why it is there or why it is upside-down.

This upside-down Medusa head is in Basilica Cistern. No one knows why it is there or why it is upside-down.

This entrance to the Grand Bazaar has shops built amidst what look like Roman or Greek ruins. Bonus points if you can find the cat in this picture.

This entrance to the Grand Bazaar has shops built amidst what look like Roman or Greek ruins. Bonus points if you can find the cat in this picture.

Istanbul isn't all old stuff. There are many modern buildings and new bridges.

Istanbul isn’t all old stuff. There are many modern buildings and new bridges.

The Mosaic Museum shows pieces of a 1500-year old mosaic from an enormous palace courtyard.

The Mosaic Museum shows pieces of a 1500-year old mosaic from an enormous palace courtyard.

Beautiful columns and detailing are common sights. Here they are in Little Hagia Sophia, built about 520.

Beautiful columns and detailing are common sights. Here they are in Little Hagia Sophia, built about 520.

Fishing boats and seagulls in the Bosphorus.

Fishing boats and seagulls in the Bosphorus.

This obelisk was brought to Istanbul from Egypt in 390, when the obelisk was already 1900 years old.

This obelisk was brought to Istanbul from Egypt in 390, when the obelisk was already 1900 years old.

Jim overlooking where the Bosphorus joins the Black Sea. Towers for a new bridge are under construction with three full-sized cranes working each one. A group of stray dogs joined us on this hike, coming all the way to the top of the hill to scratch their fleas.

Jim overlooking where the Bosphorus joins the Black Sea. Towers for a new bridge are under construction with three full-sized cranes working each one. A group of stray dogs joined us on this hike, coming all the way to the top of the hill to scratch their fleas.

In this village at the north end of the Bosphorus boat garages allow fisherman to park in their house.

In this village at the north end of the Bosphorus boat garages allow fisherman to park in their house.

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2 thoughts on “Istanbul

  1. While it might have been cool and rainy, the pictures and stories are still amazing. As always, thanks for posting the travel diaries, it is simply wonderful to hear and see of all the Grand Adventures. Continued Safe Travels…

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