Istanbul was our beginning and end of our 12-day tour of Turkey in May 2016. East meets West in Istanbul, the sole city to span two continents, Asia and Europe. It is a huge city with population over 12 millions and is the financial center of the country. It is an old yet modern city. As first time visitors to the city, we focused on exploring the rich history of the city from Byzantium, Constantine to Ottoman Empire in Sultanahmet District.
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami): The mosque gets its name because of 20, 000 shimmering blue-green Iznik tiles reflected the light through some 260 stained-glass windows. It is considered as one of the greatest mosques in the world.
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya): It was once the largest church in the world, then became a mosque and now a museum. Unfortunately, it was under massive restoration during our visit and really limited our access for picture taking.
Topkapi Palace: Unlike any other major European palaces, Topkapi has a very pleasant garden-like setting. It has an very impressive collection of porcelains from China. We had a lunch at their open-air restaurant overlooking Bosphorus Strait.
Yerebatan Cistern: An underground reservoir built during Constantine period to provide water supply for the nearby palace. It is supported by some 330 marble columns rising from the well water. It is dimly lit and classical music is played in the background.
Spice Bazaar: It is a busy yet interesting place to visit and shop. After sampling some “Turkish Delights” candies we ended up bought a kilo. I was disappointed not seeing the spices in the sags.