After a pretty mellow time in Antalya we arrived back in Istanbul, ready for the final leg of our trip. By now, we had the drill down pat. Catch the light rail from the airport, get off at the Zetinburnu stop....
Then catch the tram and get off at the Sultanahmet stop. There were times when the tram was packed....like sardines, but since we don't have much luggage; two backpacks, we did fine.
One thing we picked up on right away was to get your tokens when you have a chance, planning ahead one or two trips....this way you aren't at the mercy of crowds in front of the token dispensers while your tram arrives...then leaves without you. This will also prevent what happened to me once...we needed to catch the tram to the airport. While I was walking to the token machine I noticed our tram coming. I quickly inserted my coins into the dispenser hoping none would be rejected. Grabbed our tokens and ran full blast to the boarding station. I hadn't run so fast in years,; make that decades. The Missus was laughing so hard She almost fell over....luckily we made the tram.
We walked to the Hotel Djem, checked in, and decided to just walk the few blocks to Sultan Kosesi. The Missus wanted sahlep again and it was nice to run into our favorite Server.
The Missus combination vegetarian plate was much better than what I ordered.....
which was an Adana Kebab.
The Missus wanted to check out the Blue Mosque and since it is a functioning Mosque, it would be best for us to visit between prayer times. We really didn't want to intrude......
We'd walked the courtyard early one morning, but had never gone inside.
Sultanahmet Mosque, was built by its namesake between 1609 and 1616. Sultan Ahmet's goal was to build a mosque greater than the Hagia Sofia right across the way. It's quite beautiful, especially the exterior at night. It's called the Blue Mosque because of all the blue tilework.
As we exited the Blue Mosque, I noticed a very tall fellow wearing a yellow cap. You can see him to the right in this photo.
It was Kareem Abdul Jabbar....I mean, you really can't miss him at over seven feet tall and surrounded by several bodyguards. I turned to the Missus and said, "I think the Lakers are out of the playoffs (this was last year)." She asked me, "how do you know." He wouldn't be here if they were still in it.
Anyway, a photo of the Blue Mosque.
The area right to the west of the Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Park is the Hippodrome, yes, that kind of Hippodrome. Built when the city was still known as Byzantium, when Constatine the Great moved the capital to "Nova Roma" (New Rome), which became known as Constantinople heenlarged the seating area to hold over 100,000 people! Undergoing major renovation when we visited, it really didn't look that impressive. A large walkway, with several obelisks. The one to the right is what remians of the Serpent Column which was brought to Constantinople from Delphi. It was once the figure of three serpents intertwined supporting a golden basin.
Notice that the obelisk appears to be buried a bit? The original level of the Hippodrome is actually about 8 feet below the current pedestrian walkway, where the base of this obelisk is located.
The one to the right is called the Obelisk of Theodosius. Theodosius the Great brought this back from Egypt in 390A.D. It is carved from pink granite and is actually from the Temple of Karnak in Egypt and dates back to 1490 B.C. It was cut into three sections, the top section was mounted on a marble pedestal, just where it is now. It look good considering it's over 3500 years old!
This is called the German Fountain and was built and presented to Abdul Hamit II in 1901 to commemorate Kaiser Wilhelm's visit in 1898.
We explored the streets of Sultanahmet a bit more........
And though the days were beginning to get longer, we decided to grab dinner, then head back to the hotel. Metin, from the Hotel Djem recommended a restaurant called Mozaik to us. Funny thing, we stayed right around the corner from the place on our first night in Istanbul.
Though the prices reflected the area....being high traffic tourist oreinted, the food was pretty good.
The Missus enjoyed Her Patlican Musakka, tangy tomatoes, sweet roasted peppers, She told it was pretty good.
I really enjoyed my Cizz Bizz Kofte, cute name, huh? It actually means something like sizzling meatball.
I'm not quite sure about the sizzling part, but these were very well seasoned and melt in your mouth moist and tender. The simple stemed vegetables were an afterthought just to take up space on the plate.
The combination of lamb and beef was done well......it had just enough of that lamb flavor to keep you interested.
Turkey is a Muslim country, thus you won't find alcohol in every shop on every corner. Because our days seemed to be flying by, it really didn't look like we'd be able to visit a meyhane. So I decided to try some Turkish Raki, not to be confused with Cretan Raki, this was veyr much like Ouzo. In fact, when you added ice to the drink it turned milky white just like ouzo. I'm not a big fan of anise drinks, but I had to try at least one, right?
The drink set me up for a wonderful night. Right after the last call to prayer I was out. To wake up the next morning ready to go. We took our usual morning walk, then headed off to the Hagia Sofia....only to find a line already at 8am! I'll honestly say, that the Hagia Sofia doesn't really lok as dramatically impressive as the Blue Mosque from the outside.
But this structure was once considered the "Greatest Church in all of Christendom". So something fantastic must be in store. Right in front of us in line were four young people from Spain. One of the young ladies was obviously a dog lover and this one caught her attention. She called him "El Guapo" - the handsome one!
She actually went looking for something to give Mr Handsome to eat and came back with some simit, sesame bread and starting feeding him.
Unfortunately, there's just so much sesame bread a dog could eat! To which she apologized, "lo siento el guapo, nada de carne"......El Guapo seemed to understand an was just happy to be the subject of her affection.
Here's a hint if you're visiting the Hagia Sofia and have time the day before. Buy tickets for the next day the previous evening. There's another line for folks who already have tickets. Anyway, we made it in fairly quickly, before it really got clogged up.
And upon entering I could understand the words of Justinian who supposedly said upon viewing the rebuilt Hagia Sofia for the first time, "Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work." It's just one of those places where photos do not do the subject justice.
Unlike the Blue Mosque, whose interior is somewhat marred by the large pillars used to brace its large domed ceiling, the gracefully beautiful Hagia Sofia is supported by ribs made of hollow bricks made in Rhodes from a special clay.
The Islamic caliphs remind you that in 1453 Sultan Mehmed II, laid seige and conquered the "Center of Christianity". Hagia Sofia became a mosque.
In Islam, images of humans are not allowed, thus all the beautiful mosiacs in the former church were covered in plaster.
In 1935, Turkey's "George Washington", the founder and first President of Turkey, Ataturk, declared Hagia Sofia a museum. And the mosiacs have been or are being restored....to see the light of day once again.
As it is, I've spent a good amount of time on the Hagia Sofia. I cuold probably spend a couple of thousand more words on it, but I'll spare you. I'll just say, that of all the places I've been, there's only one other place I want to revisit......Machu Picchu.
Light and shadows do add a great deal of atmosphere here as well. You'll be within the shadows of a hallway or stairway. perhaps under one of the beautiful stained glass windows, only to walk into the bright yellows of one of the galleries.
Ok, enough, I'll spare you. Just one more interesting thing. There's a column within the Hagia Sofia, called the "weeping column". It was supposedly brought from the Temple of Artemis.
We were told that water sometimes drips out of the column, thus it "weeps". There are supposedly miracles associated with this column. The Missus was told to stick Her thumb into the hole then spin completely around and if Her thumb comes out wet a miracle will happen.
Her thumb did come out moist, but I'm still here! So no miracle on this day! he-he-he.... also, the fact that a pagan column was being used in a Christian church just sounded a bit weird to me. But who am I to say?
Thanks for reading!