I feel less comfortable in taking public transportation in Turkey due to language barrier and lack of information. So I paid $12 per person for the cruise ship shuttle bus to take us directly to the Grand Bazaar entrance. We walked around inside the market until 9:30am. This is like a very large stone walled area with multiple entrances and exits. There are lots of shops. Most of them sell souvenirs. There are colorful glass lamps, hand painted ceramic plates and bowls, woven carpets and throws, silverware, figurines made from wood or marble, wooden boxes with mother of pearl inlays. Before we left the market, we bought some turkish delight sweets to bring home. The sweets are little squares of fruit flavored gummy like candies. Some of them has nuts. Each one is dusted in fine powdery sugar. Inside the market we run into Jolene and Song again. We had to pay to use the restroom. There are people in the stores that offer you some kind of tea. We are on the cautious side and did not try any because we are traveling alone.
Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia)
From the Grand Bazaar we followed the map and walked to Aya Sofia. It is now a museum but it was a church and was later converted to a mosque. It has a very high dome. There are many glass stained windows. Sunlight came in through the many windows high up around the dome. The interior is very dark. The first thing you see are several large round plagues with writings hung up on the pillars. Some of the walls are painted with saints and some of them are gilded. The walls and floors are tiled with marble. The top of the pillars has intricate carvings. We went up to the second floor gallery. From one side you can look out to the city. Looking down it is amazing how big the place is. When the church was converted to a mosque certain religious paintings and mosaics were plastered over. Some of them have been restored or partially uncovered. The islamic features of minarets were added later.
Then we went to Blue Mosque-Suttanahmet. It is closed at 12 noon for prayer. So we left but we will come back later. As we got out we saw Jolene and Song again.
Underground Cistern, The Basilica Cistern
Next stop is the Basilica Cistern which is an underground water cistern (10 T.R. pp). It is said that the place was built to store water in the ancient city. The underground cistern has many stone columns dimly lit with up lights. It is cool and dark inside. There are fish in the water. The place is a bit creepy with the columns standing in water and ghostly lit with orange yellow lights. Voices echo inside the cavernous space. We walked along the walkway looking for the Madusa head statue and found it lying sideways at the far end of the Cistern at the base of a column. Not far from the Madusa head is a column with carvings that looks like water. It was difficult to take pictures in the low light. When we are done we came back out and went to Topkapi Palce (20 T.R. pp).
Topkapi Palace is very beautiful. There are several large courtyards, lots of smaller buildings in several areas separated by gateways with walls covered with colorful tiles and frescos, gilded decorations. There is an imperial council chamber that has gilded gates on the entrances. Inside are benches around the walls. The walls and ceilings are all painted and tiled. Every bit of surface is covered with decorations. Some rooms do not allow photography. In Sultan's bedroom I saw a spread embroidered with pearls and precious stones, studded with gold, emeralds and rubies. Amazing treasures like Sultan’s clothes, jewelry, giant emerald, diamonds and ruby, huge gems in the treasure room. There are lots of jewels studded swords, armors, head pieces, cups, medallions, jewelry of all kinds in treasure boxes. Among the various buildings in the palace there are fountains, pavilions, gardens. The gardens are rather simple and less decorated than the interiors. Many of the walls are highly decorated. Some are tiled, or painted. Some of the doors, specifically cabinet doors are inlaid with intricate mother of pearl patterns which gave it a wonderful shimmer from the dim light through the windows.
Back to Blue Mosque
Headed back to Blue Mosque. I did not remember whether we ate or what we ate. I only remember getting a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from the street vendor. When we arrived at the Blue Mosque the midday prayer was just over. There was a short line at the entrance. By the time we got to the door in a few minutes, there was already a long long line behind us. We need to take off our shoes before going in. It is free to enter. At the entrance someone handed out bags to visitors to hold their shoes. The place is very large. The main building is surrounded by a large court yard. Each corner of the walled area has a minaret. The building center is a huge dome like Aya Sofia. It was also dim inside. The center of the mosque which is the prayer area is roped off and is lined with carpet. The ceilings and walls are tiled or painted in intricate patterns. Unlike Aya Sofia the colors here is lighter and brighter. In comparison Aya Sofia looks much older than Blue Mosque.
Back to Grand Bazaar
The meeting point for the shuttle bus is outside the Grand Bazaar. When we got there we did some final looking around for souvenir. Then we headed back outside to the shuttle bus pick up location. Like I said in the beginning there are multiple exits. The place is really big and the stores look alike. We got the wrong exit a couple of times and were making circles inside. Finally we found the correct exit to get back to the waiting location. The bus took us back to port and the cruise ship. Along the way we saw from the bus window the large bridge that connects the Europe and Asia continent. The sun was about to set. As we sailed out of port, the setting sun passed behind both the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. I took pictures with the sun directly over their top. I stayed on top of the deck until the sun sets in the harbor and I watched the golden reflections on the water fade. I have to say this is a wonderful farewell to Istanbul.