Sunday, December 4, 2011

Exploring Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar

During our stay in Istanbul, we decided to have a tour around and see the sights it was famous for. Long ago, Turkey was known in our history books as Constantinople. We toured it and saw the rich history and culture behind it and the foundation of the country we visited.

The first half of that day, we went to Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. There are in between locations that are equally amazing to see. There is the Hippodrome, the Obelisk of Theodossius and the Carpet Show.

Hagia Sofia

Our first stop at the Tour was the Hagia Sophia or  "Church of the Holy Wisdom of God" which is originally a Church and then became a Mosque and now a museum where tourist can go. It has the relics of the old civilization there where people destroy stuff when they don't like the taxation in their land. Also, you can see the the old architectural designs all around. The place is really big and majestic as you enter. It has two corridors before the main hall. This is because of the belief of the early Christians that if you are not born a Catholic, you can only stay at the outer corridors. The main hall is really big, decorated and painted all around with Christian images and Symbolism. However, some are covered with another layer of decoration because of its transformation to a Mosque. Some are still visible and some just left some traces and was gone through time. 

Inside the Majestic Hagia Sophia

As you enter you will really be awed. I cannot explain how I felt but I would describe it as majestic. The place is really huge and overwhelming. W took photos here and there and admired the place. I really loved it there and I was a bit disappointed that our guide seems to be always in a hurry because I really want to see everything and it was difficult because of all the tourists around.

Here are some shots I had during the tour there:

Ticket to enter Hagia Sophia

At the entrance

As you enter, visitors are all around

Relics from old civilization

There is something to do with the nativity. I didn't really get the story of these relics

The first hallway where lots of guests go in

the second hallway

the ceiling of the majestic structure

Pretty light sinside

At the front (the altar area)

view from the 2nd level

snapshot from a window on the 2nd level

gold from the original walls

Vandalism from a time long ago. Yes, they do vandal

Graffiti form the 9th century

a small dome outside the building

As we exit the majestic structure, we got to a part-like area where the Blue Mosque will greet you and will have your jaws drop in amazement. I don't know but it felt very dreamy standing there between two nice structures in a foreign place. It felt unreal and very real at the same time. It was just amazing!

The Hippodrome

They have stray dogs this big and this cute! ^__^

Obelisk of Theodossius

Before we proceed at the Blue Mosque, we went to the park-like area first where the Hippodrome and Obelisk of Theodossius is placed. I am not really sure of the story here but it has something to do with mass killing long time ago. I was a bit distracted at the park because it was really pretty and there are a lot of stray but nice looking dogs around. I also got distracted with the ice cream vendor who serves his ice cream upside down and has a lot of tricks before you get it. next thing we knew, we are entering the Blue Mosque.

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is basically colored blue. It is very large on the outside but incredibly, it was not that big as you go inside. As we enter, there is a long queue of people lining up to enter. You need to remove your shoes there and get a plastic bag to carry it inside. You also need to cover your head with a veil but it was not that strictly enforced. Maybe because of the volume of people. We just put some veil on in respect to the religion and the place we are entering.

The queue of people at the mosque's entrance

The structure at the entrance of the mosque

Inside the mosque

Photo up to its ceiling

The inside is not that spectacular. It was like any other ordinary mosques but a bit bigger. The area is bare since Muslims pray on their mat and doesn't need any chairs in it. The prayer area of the women are separated from the men. There are some whoa re praying there but most are tourists just taking snapshots. I didn't get to hear the story here from our tour guide so I just decided to take pictures around. Soon we left it and exited at the other side of the place.

Our group gather again and went back to our bus. This time, for the Carpet Show which will be held at a mall in a distant area. I am not sure where it was but it was near the Grand Bazaar.  

the carpet showroom
Sample of their carpet

Apple tea served as we watched the show

some of the other carpets

carpets laid on the floor

We got to the Carpet Show and basically, it just showcases the carpets that are hand made there in Turkey. It was a pretty show and they gave us an Apple Tea which tasted like Apple Juice but hot. I learned a lot from it like the colors of the carpet are changing when you turn it around and that it is how you can tell it was authentic and hand weaved. They also showed us a flying carpet but I failed to take a photo. They sell these carpets for around a thousand dollars but when you buy, all shipping is up to them and you don't have to worry about it.

to the Grand Bazaar

The entrance

Lots of people and merchandise

different products

People who checks out the stalls

After the Carpet Show, we proceeded to the Grand Bazaar. It was a long walk going there and we were almost lost but as soon as we saw some shops, we knew we are on the right direction. As we entered the place, it was full of shops. It was all around and a lot of items are for sat at bargain prices. It is a shopper's haven. It was said that the shops here give something to the mosque. They are closed during Sundays but on other days of the week, it is crowded with people.

We were given less than 30 mins to go there but it wasn't enough with all the shopping we wanted that day. We wanted to just stay there but we need to go. The bus left us so we just took a cab to follow them. I was disappointed but I get to buy a lot of stuff there. I wish I could go back.

The first half of the tour concluded there. We got to our lunch place and eat until we're full. After that, it was the second part of the tour. be continued...

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