Unfortunately the weather was dull and overcast as we passed through the Dardanelles but the sun came out as we reached Istanbul. We were going to have a beautiful day in one of the most spectacular cities on earth!
Istanbul’s two most famous mosques as the sun rises.
Denise had visited Istanbul in 1964 and had really enjoyed her visit. So we splurged and ordered a private vehicle and guide so that we could see as much as possible and not be constrained by a coach tour. And it proved to be an excellent choice as we were able to add an extra visit to our day.
We started our visit by walking up the Hippodrome to the Blue Mosque. Another “Ben-Hur” moment. Byzantium was famous for chariot racing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariot_racing
The Blue Mosque is everything you expect; simply stunning. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sultan_Ahmed_Mosque)
We passed muster with the guards at the entrance and Denise was not required to add a long skirt to her outfit though she did cover her head. Part of the interior is reserved for Moslem men, of course, but there is a large area for tourists and the beautiful mosaics of the interior can be admired.
We then headed to the Hagia Sophia, which was built as a Christian church, then used as a mosque, and is now a museum and under extensive renovation. It is simply huge. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagia_Sophia)
Almost nothing can prepare you for the sheer volume of Hagia Sophia. Expand this image and take in the size.
It is also interesting in that the Turks are removing some of the Moslem frescos, which had been placed over the Christian mosaics to hide them so that you can see the building in two styles. Quite fascinating.
We wandered through and also climbed the stairs to the upstairs balcony for the best views.
Finally, we came to this, the cenotaph of Henricus Danolo.Henricus Danolo was the Doge of Venice who directed the sacking of Constantinople in 1204. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enrico_Dandolo) Ironic that despite all of the conflict between Christians and Muslims, it was the conflict between Christians themselves which caused the greatest damage. (And, of course, made it possible for the Muslims to take Constantinople.)
And, for a bit of human (and bird) scale:
Our next stop was the Cistern. Denise had not visited this previously so neither of us knew of it and we added it to our itinerary. A most interesting part of the former water system for the Topkapi Palace, it is no longer in use except as a tourist site. Fascinating to visit and see the carp swimming in the water in the dark. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_Cistern)
And on to the Topkapi Palace Museum. Here we saw various exhibits of life under the sultans and grabbed a sandwich at the snack bar. The views over the Bosporus were amazing, but we found the palace itself a bit flat.
Apparently the tulip beds are famous but we were a little too late to enjoy them. One shady bed at Topkapi was still in flower so we appreciated that!
Finally, after a quick visit to the souk, we returned to the ship.
The weather was perfect, we had an excellent guide and had enjoyed an excellent visit.