Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Istanbul Turkey, Part 3

Today, it would be a leisurely day in Istanbul. The all aboard time was 7:30pm, which meant we had a lot of time. We had visited most of the sights that we wanted to see yesterday. So, today, was just to explore a bit more, and the one more major sight to cover would be the Hagia Sophia.

 Looking out of the balcony on a foggy morning, I realised that the Bosphorus Straits was really busy, with all the ferries. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I even made a video. Check out the sea gulls chasing the ferry.

This was how the pier looked like.
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In this video, I show you the walk from the Sali Pazari pier, across the Galata Bridge all the way to the Spice market. Not a difficult walk Originally, we planned to take the Tram from Tophane station to the Hagia Sophia (drop at the Tram station for the Sultan Ahmed mosque). However, the machine was faulty at Tophane station and there was only one machine (see the video). We then decided to take a leisurely walk into the city. It wasn't far.

Just as you get off the ship, there is a convenient place to take taxis, if you wished to. They even put up the prices. Here it is. The video shows you the exact location of this place. Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Now, be very careful with these shoe shine guys. I got tricked by one of them and they use aggressive tactics. One of the most common trick is this. You see this guy carrying something like a bucket and pail of stuff (brushes, liquids) to do shoe-shine. As he approaches you, he will deliberately DROP a brush in your way and then keep walking.

He hopes that the good samaritan in you would either pick up the brush and give it to him, or you would shout out to him that he has dropped his brush. That is where he has caught you as he would come close and start to do your shoes very quickly. Nothing is free. He would then charge you an exorbitant sum. Don't fall for this dirty trick. If you see that somebody dropped something, especially a shoe-shine chap dropping a brush, just ignore and walk on.

This was taken at the start of the Galata bridge, before we crossed over to the other side of the city with all the historic sites. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A view of the ship from the bridge. For some reason, there were many men fishing from the bridge. Beware their fishing rods, especially when they throwing the line out. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Straight ahead, you see the Spice Market. You also can see a mosque on the left of this picture. This is NOT the Blue Mosque. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Inside the Spice Market. A cool place. All the colours. Just fun to walk around. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I put together this video showing you clips from the Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar and other Bazaars (when we were walking between the Grand and Spice Bazaar). Seriously, the entire Istanbul felt like one big Bazaar. Interesting to visit but I'm not a big fan of Bazaars. Call me silly, but I much prefer modern shopping malls. The Bazaars will get very crowded during summer. Take all sensible precautions and beware of your belongings. (i.e. from pickpockets)

From the Spice Bazaar, we made our way towards Gulhane Tram station. We walked past some streets, which had many hotels. One of the streets was called Ibni Kemal Cd. I put together a slide show showing the street view as well as the hotels from the outside.

From Gulhane Tram station, just follow the track and you will get to the Sultan Ahmed square. Lo and behold, lines for the Hagia Sophia! I took these photos of the line in front of me,

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and behind me.Remember, Istanbul is a crowded place. And you can see the Blue Mosque in the distance. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Good thing that the line moved quite quickly. I don't recall having to wait that long. We were soon inside the premises. While in line, you will get propositioned by licensed tour guides, who will offer to bring you into the Hagia Sophia via some express route. I recall they charged 10 TL more per person, as compared to you buying your ticket direct at the ticket booth. Tickets were 30TL per adult. If you went with the tour guide, you paid 40TL per adult, at least according to the guides that tried to sell us their services. They were all wearing this licensed tour guide ID tag, similar to the one worn by our licensed tour guide in Ephesus.

I guess if the lines were really long (and the weather was really hot in summer), going with the licensed tour guide may not be a bad idea given that it was only 10TL more per person. But that's just my guess. I didn't try - at your own risk. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Hagia Sophia, whose name means “holy wisdom,” is a domed monument originally built as a cathedral in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in the sixth century A.D.

It contains two floors centered on a giant nave that has a great dome ceiling, along with smaller domes, towering above.

“Hagia Sophia’s dimensions are formidable for any structure not built of steel,” writes Helen Gardner and Fred Kleiner in their book "Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History." “In plan it is about 270 feet [82 meters] long and 240 feet [73 meters] wide. The dome is 108 feet [33 meters] in diameter and its crown rises some 180 feet [55 meters] above the pavement.”

In its 1,400 year life-span it has served as a cathedral, mosque and now a museum. When it was first constructed, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. This state, officially Christian, originally formed the eastern half of the Roman Empire and carried on after the fall of Rome.

One of the most well-known mosaics is located on the apse of the church showing a 13-foot-tall (4 meters) Virgin Mary with Jesus as a child. Dedicated on March 29, 867, it is located 30 meters (almost 100 feet) above the church floor, notes University of Sussex professor Liz James in a 2004 article published in the journal Art History. Another chapter in the Hagia Sophia’s life began in 1453. In that year the Byzantine Empire ended, with Constantinople falling to the armies of Mehmed II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Piltz writes that “after the Ottoman conquest the mosaics were hidden under yellow paint with the exception of the Theotokos [Virgin Mary with child] in the apse.” In addition “Monograms of the four caliphs were put on the pillars flanking the apse and the entrance of the nave.” Read more here:

There was a lot of restoration work going on, but the place was certainly quite majestic, even behind all the scaffolding.
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Outside, you can see remains of the Theodosian Hagia Sophia, from the 5th Century. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Starbucks, Istanbul, Turkey. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Short video of the Starbucks.

This picture shows you the Cemberlitas Tram stop, which is the one stop in between Sultan Ahmed (Blue Mosque) and Beyazit (Grand Bazaar). Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Another picture of Turkish Delights. Didn't try any. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A picture of a Tourism Police car we spotted. Quite cute. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We also bought some roasted chestnuts to try. Unfortunately, they weren't roasted very well. Some were still rather raw. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here is the Galata Bridge again, with many men fishing. I did wonder how they spent their time. Just fishing? Anyway... Image and video hosting by TinyPic Well, that's about all I have to share for our second day in Istanbul. We spent some time exploring the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, but didn't buy anything save for a couple of scarves at 10TL each.

Well, that's about all I have to share for our second day in Istanbul. We spent some time exploring the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, but didn't buy anything save for a couple of scarves at 10TL each.

Since we weren't too tired, we decided to walk back to the ship. So this was a day where we walked all the way from the cruise ship (Sali Pazari pier), over Galata Bridge, to the Spice Market, then to Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, back to the Spice Market and then back to the cruise ship, all on foot. Good day to burn off some calories after all that good food on board.

Let me end this post on Istanbul Turkey with a submarine sighting. Yes, I sighted this submarine sailing out while on the deck of the Norwegian Jade. Check out this video.

Thanks for reading!

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