Istanbul was Constantinople, Now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople, Been a long time gone Constantinople . . . . and it once was also Byzantium.
Why the lyrics? Simply to get them stuck in your head. You’re welcome.
We were spent when we got here. All of our flights and trains within Europe left before 8am, including this one. It was also a bit of a culture shock to party at Oktoberfest and find yourself in Istanbul the next day.
Going to Istanbul has always been a dream of Mr. P’s. In terms of ancient cultures, Egypt was the counterpart on my list and we did that a few years ago. Two weeks of work behind us and we were already in Europe, why not tack on a week of vacation in Istanbul? I know, right? Totally logical.
Our first day was straight into sixth grade social studies: the Hagia Sophia. I hope I’m not the only one who remembers reading about it in school. I just couldn’t believe I was standing in front of something that seemed so far away when I was a kid.
Inside. It was quite difficult to get good pictures because a) I didn’t have a wide angle lens, b) very low light, c) crush of tourists even though this was the end of the season, d) all of the above.
We tried to step out of our normal playbook and didn’t hit every. single. must-see. site. We were going to skip the Basilica Cistern but ended up visiting on the recommendation of a friend. Very glad we did!
Next was the Blue Mosque. It’s really quite astounding that it and the Hagia Sophia are right next to each other.
We did a ton of walking. And I realized Advil is magical when you have sore feet. We saw tons and tons of these lights and I wish I had a reason/space at home/space in my suitcase to buy them.
It definitely felt like fall and the weather was very mild. I loved all the minarets everywhere and hearing the call to prayer when we were out and about.
Soap for sale among the usual touristy souvenirs!
We chose the day with the best weather to take a cruise up the Bosphorus. By cruise I mean ferry with our Rick Steve’s book. Anyway, along the way, we got a great view of the Rumelihisarı fortress.
One of the small towns on the ferry route is famous for its yogurt. While the ferry unloads passengers, they take on a bunch of yogurt and sell it on the boat. It’s plain yogurt and comes with a little packet of powdered sugar to mix in. Pretty good!
We visited the spice market several times.
Istanbul has some awesome public transportation. Did you know the city is very hilly? We rode the old Tunnel funicular up the hill to İstiklal one day. I was pleased as a transit junkie that I could stand on the platform and get great pictures of it!
We headed up the Galata Tower to get a great view of the city. There were 3 huge cruise ships in port that day (one is out of the frame).
Seriously, the view was awesome. Sometimes I like it when it’s not a perfect day. A bit of rain = awesome clouds.
İstiklal Street represents the cosmopolitan Istanbul. If you needed a clue that this was the case, check out the Shake Shack at the foot of the street.
Our last day, we visited the Chora Church. I didn’t think I was going to like it that much. I’ve seen churches. I’ve seen mosaics. I’d never seen a church with mosaics this amazing before. I stand corrected.
I can’t even describe it. Every part of this is made up of tiny tiles. Even tinier ones to make up the face. Notice the shiny pieces at the folds of the garment and think about what that would have looked like when the church had candlelight.
We waited until it was nice and windy before scaling the somewhat dangerous Constantinople city wall. It was our last day, I hadn’t gotten a picture of the two of us yet, wind blowing our hair be damned.
Did I mention there were cats? Everywhere. Technically feral but definitely cared for.
You know I love public transportation. One thing I love about Istanbul is that they still use their old lines (they call them “nostalgic”). This tram connects the Tunnel funicular to the metro station at Taksim.
And just like that, our week was over. And just like that, we were back in Paris for one night, then on a plane, then back in our home in our own bed, and back at work the next day. Right now, it’s almost like it never happened even though we were gone for almost a month. Oh that’s right, I have a memory card worth of photos to sort through. Go figure.
Thanks for sharing the journey! It’s time to plan the next one.
Mr. P and I just returned from a 25-day trip to Europe (work + fun). It’s the longest we’ve ever been away from home and I’m sharing each stop in a blog post with some of the hundreds of pictures we took. Doing my best not to include photos already Instagrammed.