Tuesday 17 April 2007 by John Lafferty. No comments
Battlefield Tours, Istanbul, Week 1

Our first full day in Istanbul was mostly on foot which was a nice break after the past few days of travel. We start with a quick bus trip to the Hippodrome, which is an ancient arena. Only some of the markers now exist, as the stone seating (which could seat over 100,000 people) has been removed over time for other buildings. The Hippodrome runs along in front of the Blue Mosque and St Sophia.

At the entrance to the Blue Mosque we remove our shoes to enter as this mosque is in use. The size of the dome and the detail of the mosaics are amazing. The scale is not something that a photo can easily capture. I have used a photo stitching software to try to create an image of the main dome.

Upon exiting the Blue Mosque (we do get to put our shoes back on) the first thing you see St Sophia, a very large structure and only a short walk away. St Sophia has gone though a few changes since the site was first built on in around 500AD. The first two churches built on this location burnt down. The basis of the current building was a church started around 1200AD. Finally used as a mosque St Sophia is now a museum with renovation work underway to restore some of the original mosaics.

After some time wandering the main floor and upper gallery of St Sophia we moved onto the underground cistern across the road. This is a large water store that is no longer in use. It was built using any available stone that could be found so there are many wonderful old carvings and designs to be seen.

A bit of a walk along some narrow streets brings us to the entrance to the Topkapi Palace. Home to many rulers since it was first established the Palace is a maze of building and walls. This was a great place for lunch, at the restaurant in the grounds, and to wander though for the afternoon. Then it was back to the hotel, dinner and rest.