Istanbul

A photo of Rach and Adrian out front of the Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

We normally take turns in writing on the blog but Rach has been “busy”. It’s getting on a while since we went so I thought I’d at least put a quick entry up along with the photos.

The drive into the city made us realise this place was far different to any other city we’ve been too. Some areas looked quite run down, almost exactly as you see them depicted in Middle-Eastern-like scenes in the movies. There is a thick grey smog layer over the entire city. I’m not sure what from, because it doesn’t seem any busier than other cities. Maybe it’s due to the thousands of huge oil tanker ships that pass through the river that divides Istanbul and connects the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea.

In an attempt to be quick, I’ll go over the highlights and let the photos tell the rest of the story.

A photo of Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia:
This is a massively huge ex mosque. The ceiling on this building is so high and all with no supporting columns too. This place would be unreal to have a party in it. Somehow I don’t think they’d allow it :) It had an amazing interior with loads and loads of marble. And there are these huge hanging discs with Arabic style writing.

Blue Mosque:
This is a very impressive mosque and in the very common styling with the tall rocket-missile-like columns. Prayer time was on when we visited so we didn’t go in. We were able to walk through the outer court yard and glimpse into the inner court yard. It’s quite an experience hearing the call to prayer being broadcasted through the huge loudspeakers on each of the tall columns. It’s quite loud and can be heard from ages away. Hearing this makes you very aware that you are not in a western style country.

A photo of inside the Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern:
This was easily one of the most interesting sights I’ve seen since we left Oz. We went to where it was meant to be and all there was is a rather tiny office. We thought about not going in because of the price and the fact it looked no larger than a car garage. We decided to go in and to our amazement we went down a few flights of stairs below ground into this huge underground water cavern. It’s basically a huge underground manmade lake with 300 roman style columns holding up the roof above, with raised walkways allowing you walk around the area. The weather outside at the time was a hot 35+ degrees and once we were down in the Cistern, the temp dropped to a cool fridge like temp. This was most welcomed after being outside in the hot sun. The lighting and ambient music added to the amazing sight, and the water had lots of fishies easily seen through the crystal clear water. We were so amazed that something like this could be hidden underneath Istanbul. You could walk on ground level and have no idea at what was underneath you. I’m really glad we went in.

Galata Tower:
This tower was on the other side of Istanbul on the hill looking out over all of the European side of Istanbul. You could see so many huge mosques that I had no idea that they were there. They were all easily distinguishable by the tall rocket-missile-like columns. The tower gave an excellent view of the river, the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque too.

A view from the 360 restaurant, Istanbul

View from 360

360 Restaurant:
This restaurant is referred to as Istanbul’s best restaurant. The restaurant is perched up high on the same hill as Galata Tower. Giving great views over Istanbul, I guess you could say a 360 degree view hence the name. It had a very cool, modern interior with excellent music and lighting. It has huge slide away glass walls which opened up the whole restaurant. The service was great and the food was great too. I had a Turkish desert sampler that came with five little deserts which was just fantastic :) They were all very different to anything I’d had before. One was like fairy floss but it tasted like peanut butter. 360 has won a number of international awards, it’s not hard to see why.

This was really the only country that I was worried about “terrorist threats” as both the Australian and UK travel advice sites give warnings about previous recent terrorist related events and how a group has vowed to continue. But after being there for a day I didn’t feel worried at all, but I guess you never know when anything like that could happen, and that’s in any country.

I’m definitely glad we went. Not only was the weather fantastic while we were there but the sights were great and it was very interesting seeing a whole different world.

To see the photos from the trip, visit here:
http://www.gabnation.com/albums/2007/istanbul/

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