Thoughts from our two days in Istanbul
Heading down to Gallipoli we had a chance to reflect on our introduction to Turkey from our two days in Istanbul. The hotel in Taxim Square was a great location - busy, chaotic and full of life. It's a very cosmopolitan part of the city with thousands of people moving through the square and down Istiklal Street.
In this area are plenty of familiar brand-name shops you would see in Australia, but tucked away in little malls you find a huge range of Turkish products. We sampled Turkish delight, nuts, dried fruit and tea. Lauren checked out a busking group performing with an instrument called a Saz - lute shaped with three pairs of strings - and another musician on a small hand-drum.
Throughout the day is the call to prayer, broadcast from the many mosques around the city. Some of us find the 5.30am call to prayer a very peaceful and gentle way to wake up, while others would rather keep sleeping.
In the old part of the city, one of the most amazing places to visit is the Basilica Cistern - an underground water storage with huge pillars and brick ceiling. Lighting, music and a small amount of water on the bottom create a magical atmosphere. The Blue Mosque has an incredible ambience inside, something that cant be captured in a photograph - definitely one of those places you have to experience in person.
At Topaki Palace we saw jewels, swords, thrones, daggers and other ornaments from the treasury, while in the holy relics section the display included a footprint of the Prophet Mohammed and parts of his beard. In this area Muezzins (preachers) deliver a sermon from the Koran 24 hours a day.