After our whirlwind visit to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day it was time to relax and unwind in the Turkish capital Istanbul. We arrived late on Thursday night after spending the day at Gallipoli and after a quick shower, it was time for a drink and a few rounds of two-up with our fellow Australians before (eventually) getting some sleep.
The next day, after some well deserved rest, we headed out for a day of sightseeing. We first went to the Hagia Sophia – a former church – later mosque, and now museum which was constructed in 537AD. It is famous for its massive dome, which was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. As you can imagine, the inside was quite breath-taking.
On the other side of Sultanahmet Square is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of all the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. This was definitely our favourite sight in Istanbul. We waited an hour in the sun to go inside for a look and it was well worth the wait. Although we both think the mosque looks its best at night when the fountain in Sultanahmet square is illuminated with multiple coloured light,s while is displays its different water formations.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around taking in the sights and sounds of Istanbul before dinner. While we are on the subject of dinner, it has to be said that Turkish food is amazing! Every night our taste buds were seriously satisfied sampling dishes such as lamb stew baked in a clay pot. When it’s done they bring the pot out to your table and smash it in front of you. We also tried chicken breast with pistachio stuffing: and lets not forget the authentic Turkish delight.
Saturday started with a visit to Istanbul’s market the Grand Bazaar with over 300 shops selling everything from gold to carpets, and souvenirs. After we were all shopped out, it was time for some ice cream followed by a visit to the Topaki Palace . We made the decision to skip going inside the palace and instead spend some time relaxing in the adjoining gardens.
We finished our time in Istanbul with a boat cruise along the Bosporous river; the straight that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. We spent the afternoon cruising in the sunshine taking in the sights of Istanbul including the two bridges over 1km long that join these 2 continents.
Istanbul is a city rich with history, culture, friendly people and tasty food. After 48 hours in this amazing city it was time to head back to another favourite city of ours – London. We boarded the plane without protest, knowing that anytime we missed Istanbul there would always be the Turkish kebab shop at the end of our street, which are open until 3am on Saturday nights. Bonus!!!