Well, what an eye-opener this has been. Whenever we used to go on holiday, we used to love sitting on the sofa, surrounded by guidebooks, planning our day trips around 'pool days.' It was a simple, enjoyable task that we used to look forward to because it fuelled the excitement and anticipation of what was to come.
But what does one do with Istanbul; a huge, sprawling, magical wonderland that is impossible to leave with the thoughts of, 'Well, it was okay.' Istanbul leaves the visitor overwhelmed by the number of sights to see, the things to do, the food to eat, the places to stay. And that's why we have to keep going back for more.
View of Karaköy & Galata Tower from Eminönü, IstanbulWhen it came to planning our first ever trip to Istanbul, life was easy. Blue Mosque: Check. Aya Sofya: Check. Topkapı Palace: Check. These usual suspects and more were added to our list and we duly traipsed around each magnificent building. (If you're visiting Istanbul for the first time and would like some good introductory tips, take a look at 48 Hours in Istanbul.)
We've returned to Istanbul numerous times since then, soaking up the bars, devouring the hamsi at Karaköy fish market and losing ourselves in the vast maze of streets...and sightseeing has become pushed well and truly to the back burner - until now! It's taken over a week to complete, but we've made a plan; we're going to acquaint and reacquaint ourselves with some of the sights of Istanbul.
There are three reasons for this:
- The first time we were in Istanbul, I was refusing to accept the existence of digital cameras. I took hundreds of photos, all of which are now lost somewhere in someone's garage in England. It's time I got some new photos.
- We've done many Istanbul posts on this blog and as far as we're concerned, many of the main tourist sights are glaring omissions in the content. They more than deserve to be there.
- The most important reason: It's easy to think, 'Seen that. Done that. Been there.' These buildings are amongst the most beautiful, significant structures in the world, both architecturally and historically. It's many years since we last entered them and, having read up on Ottoman history since then, we'd like to re-enter with new eyes.
Sultanahmet Camii - The Blue Mosque - IstanbulFriday: *Pick up our running bibs and eat lots of free pasta at the marathon expo near Taksim. *Go to the top of Galata Tower (see top photo) just to take photos across Istanbul. *Wander around Çukurcuma and then make our way down to Tophane by the shores of the Bosphorus.
Saturday: *Wake early to get in the queue for Aya Sofya. We remember these queues all too well but never has anything been so worth it. Can't wait to get back inside this building!
Aya Sofya, Istanbul*Later, visit Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque) to reacquaint ourselves with the interior. Sadly, my overriding memory of this place is just lots of people. I'd like to replace that with a better memory. We'll see if that's possible. *Afterwards, jump on the Metro as far as Kabataş and then stroll the rest of the way to Ortaköy for photos of the Bosphorus Bridge, Büyük Mecidiye Camii (Ortaköy Mosque) and to eat the amazing kumpir (jacket potatoes) that Ortaköy is famous for.
Sunday: *A small matter of running the 2012 15k and Eurasia Marathon. Who knows what's going to happen after that? *Barry's legs permitting, pencilled in is Süleymaniye Camii, my favourite mosque. Let's see!
Monday: Bosphorus Cruise. This is a day-long trip involving lots of sitting down which we figured we would need after Sunday.
Tuesday: Kariye Museum (The Church of St. Saviour in Chora). Apparently with some of the most beautiful and best-preserved mosaics of the Byzantine era, how can we not go there? It'll be our first visit here and we can't wait!
Do you make an itinerary whenever you visit somewhere new? We're excited because it's a long time since we've gone anywhere with any particular plan in mind.
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