Our first productive full day in Istanbul, and boy were we excited. Lock-Down made us feel like we had to make the most out of this trip especially with talks of a second lockdown happening at anytime soon…… (these talks are still going on)
So first thing we do….. well Breakfast. Of course……but not as we know it.
Breakfast is served in a cosy little room but once again, Covid! Oh Covid. What do we do with you?! There is no buffet, we were asked what we would like and it gets put onto our table. Yup breakfast is turning out to be my worst meal of the day now.
The views from the Terrace is nice though- with views of the Hagia Sophia its actually breath taking, especially early morning in the cool fresh air. (If you missed it here’s my review of The Great Fortune Hotel and Spa.)
…….and so we headed off- with just tea, a few chunks of cake and watermelon for breakfast in our bellies and a mask covering our faces to the Grandeur that is Hagia Sophia.
We were planning to go yesterday but when we saw the queues, we decided to leave it till today, Today we were ready to queue and much to my surprise we were in within 5 minutes. Social Distancing was being maintained outside and inside as best as it could. You would need to take a prayer mat with you, but if you do not have one, you will be provided with a disposable plastic sheet to pray on. Also covering of the body is a requirement, however once again if you are not suitably dressed there is a clothes bank where you can borrow some clothes to put on. And masks are mandatory inside and outside, So keep it with you at all times!
Once inside- the world stopped:
It is so breathtakingly big on entrance, and it has an eerie silence to it, although there were so many people inside, it left a dull murmer, but I could tell that a loud cry would definately echo off the walls. The darkness of the Fortress was kept alight with the natural light from the large windows and also the large chandelier in a warm glowy burnt orange adding majestic to the place.
I could actually imagine the cast of Ertugrul (netflix series) inside here waging deals and hosting dinner.
The Hagia Sophia is so stunningly beautiful inside, so grand and so much detail. At Almost 1500 years old, the beauty and the structure has been well maintained, and we can see the detail of the tiling, the mosaics and the beautiful stained glasses. It really is truly amazing to see how the roof so high up has been held together by the hundreds of columns. Masks are to be worn inside at all times. We made our prayers and then left with the intention to come back at prayer time so that we could pray with a congregation for any of the 5 prayers we could manage. It truly did take my breath away.
Buy an Istanbul Kart for Public Transport.
The next thing we did is to buy an Istanbul Kart (around € 1.50) with which you can travel by public transport. You can buy this card at any small kiosk on the streets. I would advise All of you to purchase one of these and use this to travel around. Travelling on the trams give you the experience and also its at a fraction of the price. The Card can be used on any public transport whether that be the trams, bus or boat. Although there are 4 of us, we only bought one card and topped up. All four of us used the same card. All forms of transport require a mask to be worn otherwise they will not let you in.
We used the card and the trams to get to Eminunu. Eminunu is a harbourside, and on one side you have the docks, and the boats. On the other side you have the buzzing Markets, the Spice Bazaar, and various different places to eat.
So why did we come here? urm …… Burgerillas….. you guys know Burgerillas? the most awesome Burger Place in Istanbul. EVER. We had this the last time we came and it is forever going to stay in our ‘To Do’ list for EVERY Istanbul visit. Having said that I recently noticed that they are opening a store in Knightsbride in London!!! I am sooooo excited!
Well we hyped this place up to the boys as it was their first visit, and it did not disappoint. At all. So much so that we actually came back again.
After Burgerillas we walked to the Spice Market. On entrance to the market, masks are put on and temperature is checked. It is here were I picked up some Apple Tea and Sumac. The Spice Market is what it says, a huge market full of vendors selling spices, fruits and Tea. Each vendor is identical to the other, and you just go through rows and rows of spicy and sweet smells, and it is the building once again that makes it an experience not to be missed.
From Eminunu we caught the number ’99’ Bus to Eyup once again using the Istanbul Kart card. Here we wanted to visit the Eyup Sultan Mosque. This mosque is Istanbul’s very first mosque and also holds the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, A fellow companion of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW). It is a area full of tourists and locals. Set on a forecourt with a fountain said to be flowing with sacred water and olive trees that have survived from the Ottoman era. It is so Picturesque. But also the environment is so different from Sultan Ahmet. There is a sense of calm and coolness that you can feel in the air.
I felt this same feeling on both times I have been here. The mosque once again is so grand and beautiful, the beautifully soft carpets, the low hanging chandeliers and the attention to detail on the mosaic tiles and high arch windows take your breath away. Unlike the Hagia sophia this is a very well lit Mosque and decorated with a lot of light. It was Originally built in 1458, but was reconstructed in 1800 due to damage by an earthquake, but it still holds its magic.
We offered our prayers inside the mosque and went to visit the Tomb. I did not take photos of the Tomb due to respect but it definitely not a place to be missed.
On exit we then made our way up the hill to the Cable cars sitting on Ayup. The cable cars take us further up the hills to a sweet Café ‘Pierre Loti’ where we can sit and watch the breath taking views of the city below whilst having a cup of traditional Turkish Tea. It is a breath taking view and not to be missed whilst here, especially because we can use the Istanbul Kart card once again and the cost of roughly under a £1 per person.
After having a bit of a late afternoon lie down we headed off again, this time to Taksim Square- now that we know about the ‘Bitaksi’ app, getting on trams and buses seemed a chore. We got to Taksim for just under £6.00, around a 25 minute drive. Taksim Square is a shopping, dining, nightlife busy area. It was pretty busy considering Covid, but at the same time, we had seen it busier on our last trip. This area holds the High Street and Designer shops to the likes of Zara and Lacoste. Honestly speaking we walked up and down Taksim Square, but didn’t really go into any of the shops. We have all this at home, so it didn’t seem worth going into. One thing we did go into though was McDonalds. I know we can find a McDonalds at home too, but its not halal- so this has to be the highlight of our day…….. but and wait for this…… Mcdonalds had run out of food! yes. I will say it again. McDonalds in Taksim Square did not have any food. Not only were we annoyed but we could not stop laughing. Never heard of that before. Right? (Hey McDonalds. Sort your act out!) I am still in disbelief today.
We did find another McDonalds- but it was in an amusement arcade, so seating wise it was not the best of places, but we got our McDonalds fix and it was worth it too.
And last up- Our night Cap. It can only be one place…. This absolute heaven of a place sits further down from the Grand Bazaar and you can get to it from the trams, we preferred to walk it down. We needed to shift the Burgerillas and McDonalds.
This is ‘OUR’ Place as my hubby calls it. We ended our night with shisha and desserts out in the open, and then walked it back up to our hotel, a good 40 minute walk. And hit the bed within seconds, ready for the next day.
And that ends Day 2 in Istanbul.
If you missed Day 1, click here.
More to come on Day 3….
Love and Regards.
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