03.09.2009 - 03.09.2009 32 °C
Today we explored more of Istanbul. Our hotel, Taslik, is located on a steep hill and is about a 20 min walk to the tram station. We bought our token which only costed 1.5 lira which is approx 75p which can take you to the last stop on the line. We got off at Sultanhamet which is where all the main sights are and started exploring.
The first place we stopped at was the Basillica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi ). Not many people know of this place and it is really worth a visit. It is Istanbul's largest underground cistern which was built in Byzantine times. The cistern's roof is held up by 336 columns about 8 m in height. We walked the walkways to the sounds of classical music and dripping water. It was really enchanting and beautiful. The entrance fee is about 10 Turkish Lira (approx £5).
Then we made our way to Hagia Sophia. The entrance fee is 20 Turkish Lira (approx £10). it was first an orthodox church which was later converted into a mosque and now is a museum. For nearly 1000 years it was the largets cathedral in the world until the construction of the Seville cathederal in 1520. We wondered around and marvelled at the ornate fixtures. There is an upper gallery which also can be explored. There are lots of beautiful mosaics, gold work and marble features. The architecture is stunning with very intricate designs. We stayed there for some time admiring the beauty of it.
As we had been on our feet for a long time, we decided that we needed a tea break before going to Topkapi Palace. Fully rested and refreshed we made our way there. The entrance fee is 20 Turkish Lira (approx £10).
Mehmet II built the palace between 1459 and 1465 shortly after his conquest of Constantinople. It is made up of four large courtyards containing various rooms. A lot of the treasures that the Ottomon Sultans amassed are displayed there: ceramics, glass, silverware, armour, imperial costumes, manuscripts etc. You do need a good few hours to explore this place as there is so much to see. The courtyards are beautiful.
Our final stop was at the famous Grand Bazaar. It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Containing over 58 covered streets and over 1,200 shops, with stalls selling goods ranging from jewellery, pottery, spice, and rugs. Armed with our wallets and getting ourselves ready to haggle, we set about to try to grab a bargain. People have said that you can get a good bargain here. However, after looking at a few stalls we noticed how everything was very much more expensive than the other places we had shopped in- about quadruple the price!! Even after haggling it still wasn't even close to what we had paid at other places. I'm glad that I didn't leave all the shopping until now. I do think that it is a bit hyped up and would recommend people buying the goods at other places. Other people we had talked to also said that they were disappointed with the Bazaar.
We returned back to the hotel, tired but happy that we had a great day out exploring. We were so sick of the Turkish food that some of us went to an Indian restaurant which was round the corner from the hotel. The food was absolutely delicious!!