Walking In The Footsteps Of Ancient Travelers

Wow – what a day!!

We “slept in” until 7.30am (after two snooze alarm sessions!) and woke up feeling rather refreshed.

Breakfast in the hotel (part of the room rate) was very nice and rather filling.

The other diners included what appeared to be some first year US university students that are here as part of their studies.  A little noisy for our liking but maybe we are just getting older!!

We did a little bit of “online” business before heading out into the brisk morning air.

The hotel is located in a perfect location in the Old City so we were able to walk to everything throughout the day.

The morning started with an invitation to join the host of a new restaurant near the hotel.  He “shouted” us a free cup of apple tea (the Turks love their tea and coffee).  The experience was wonderful – so good that we went back for dinner later in the day.

We started with a stroll through a lovely park right beside the hotel.  The park is located near the St Sophia mosque area.  St Sophia was built in 500BC and by strolling through the park you get a great sense of the age of the architecture here in Istanbul and the way the people must have lived back then.

From the park we walked past St Sophia (originally a Christian Church but changed to a mosque under the Ottoman Empire when the Turks took over). It is closed on Mondays so we were not able to go inside.  However, the shear size of the building from the outside is something worth seeing.

St Sophia is located right next to a huge museum (built around the same time) so we took a walk through the gardens and outlying buildings of the museum.  Neither of us are big fans of museums so we were not to phased about joining the crowds that were going through it.

We just love to immerse ourselves into the culture on the street.

St Sophia is literally just across the road from the Blue Mosque – one of the incredible mosques in this fascinating city.  The Blue Mosque is called “Blue” because of the tiles used on the inside of the mosque.  These tiles are made from quartz and are very special.

To enter the mosque we had to take our shoes off and show respect for the Muslim custom – not unlike walking into any other religious establishment.  We had never been inside a mosque before so this was very special for us.  The beauty of the interior cannot be stated here – one must see it to truly appreciate it.  Wow.

From the Blue Mosque we headed for one of the many shops selling local wares and bought some small items to remind us of Istanbul.  The gentlemen in the shop spent a lot of time explaining the meanings of the writings on some of the small tiles we bought.  Like everyone we met he was a really nice man with a very interesting story to tell.

Feeling a little “peckish” we decided on one of the many Turkish restaurants in the area an dined on some more (different again) local food.  Again – not disappointed.

Like bees to honey we found a Starbucks cafe and enjoyed a nice warm cup of coffee and Tazo Chai Tea.  The warm interior of Starbucks was a welcome break from the rather cold afternoon and helped to wash down some of our lunch.

With our bellies full and our coats done up we got back “on the road” and went in search of more adventure.

A short stroll later we “stumbled” on the Grand Bazaar.  Now this was something very special.

We were told that the Bazaar was once used (1000’s of years ago) as stables and, over time it was converted into a Bazaar.  Now we have to tell you that the use of the word “Grand” is a bit of an understatement.  This place was incredible.  We thought that the markets in Hong Kong and China were impressive.  They have nothing on this place.  Not only was the size quite overwhelming but the beauty of the place was similarly breathtaking.  The variety of shops and wares is something to be experienced and I would encourage you all to visit this place once in your life.  Incredible.

Interestingly we kept our purchases to an absolute minimum (something to do with the lack of space in our bags??) – I bought a couple of lovely dress shirts and The Princess treated herself to a pair of incredibly funky shoes.

After finding our way out of the maze called the “Grand Bazaar” we had a chilly walk back to the hotel.  We stopped regularly to take some night pictures of the Blue Mosque, St Sophia and some other night sights.

We had a quick “turn around” at the hotel before walking back to the restaurant that we had apple tea in this morning.  What a wonderful night.  We sat down on sofas on the floor, listened to live Turkish music and ate wonderful food.  We met some Agel people from Dublin (three Irish guys and an Australian girl) and spent some time sharing our Agel experiences and doing some training with them.  It was a great way to end our time in Istanbul – a wonderful time.

We got to bed quite late (1.30am) as we got home late and stayed up talking about the way forward with Agel.  A bit excited at this juncture!!

We can sleep in again tomorrow morning as we don’t have to be at the airport until 11.30 am and our driver won’t be picking us up until 11.00am.  Not an ideal time to get to bed but we have turned into night owl’s during this trip.

Off to Italy tomorrow.  Ciao!!
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