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ISTANBUL, TURKEY

From the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia, to the bustling bazaars & souks, to the underground world of the Basilica Cistern ... Istanbul has it all!

sunny 20 °C

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Istanbul ... my favorite city! And I don't say that lightly ... I have been to many countries, even more cities, and all continents but one ... so when I say Istanbul is my favorite city, I truly mean it! And I don't even like cities! I grew up in a small town of about 1500 people; the nearest city was only 150,000 (now grown to 250,000). So skyscrapers, metro systems, and millions of people are all intimidating to me. My city has exactly 0 skyscrapers and no metro system. And when you are at a crosswalk waiting to cross the street, more times than not, you will be the only person at the crosswalk ... on both sides, lol! For real!

Back to Istanbul ... I arrived late at night and took a taxi to my hotel, Askin Hotel Boutique. It was literally 1/2 block from the Blue Mosque (which is why I chose it)!! The photo above is the view from the rooftop terrace! In one direction I could see the Blue Mosque, in the other I could see the Bosphorus River. I had 2 days in Istanbul; my first day in Turkey, and my last day. The first day I had about 1hr of cloudiness before it started raining and didn't stop. But thankfully my last day was perfectly sunny :) So this post will be filled with photos from both days ... some will be sunny, some will not, lol! Thankfully Istanbul is a great city to be in on a rainy day, as it has tons of indoor things to do/see.

First up, the Blue Mosque :) It was WAY bigger than I ever imagined it to be!! MASSIVE! It is absolutely gorgeous ... and free to go inside ;) All ladies have to cover their heads (scarves are provided if you don't have one), everyone (even men) have to have their legs covered, and everyone has to remove their shoes.
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It has 6 minarets (towers) each 210ft tall, and has the biggest courtyard of all the Ottoman mosques. Inside there were aerial photos of what the mosque looks like at full capacity ... below is a photo of that photo.
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The outer dome is 141ft tall, and the inner dome is 77ft tall.
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The inside was amazing! Way fancier than any cathedral I've visited that's for sure! Four baobab-sized pillars held up the domed ceiling, and every inch was covered in mosaic tiles!
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Across the street / other side of the fountain, is the Hagia Sofia mosque.
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On the other side of the Hagia Sofia, is the Topkapi Palace, which I never did make it to :( All 3 are pretty much in a row.

By now it was pouring rain, so I ran over to the underground Basilica Cistern (across the street in the other direction from the Hagia Sofia). So many great things to see all close together!
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Admission is 20 Turkish Lira ($10CAD). This incredible underground 'basilica' was built in 532. It is 65m wide, 143m long, and its arched roof is held up by 336 pillars arranged in 12 rows. It used to hold the city's water, up to 80,000 cubic meters, and was pumped through nearly 20km of aquaducts!
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Now there is only about 1.5ft of water in it, and there are fat fish living in it! Its quite an eerie feeling down there in the dark, hearing the ceiling drip with water, the echoes, the fat creepy fish ... but well worth a visit! I have never seen anything like it anywhere else!

If you are looking for street food, it will be everywhere! Be sure to try the fresh squeezed orange juice :)
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Next up was a visit to the Grand Bazaar. Its completely covered, so its great on a rainy day. You can find absolutely everything under the sun for sale here! From carpets to gold jewelry, from slippers to handpainted dishes, from belly dancing costumes to perfumes! My favorite were the lantern/lamp shops! Lanterns were hanging & lit from every wall, plus the ceiling, and some were standing on the floor. So colorful, like Christmas :)
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Carpets for sale around every corner!
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Beautiful hand painted dishes.
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Perfumes
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Turkish Delight of every flavor imaginable, plus some things that I had no idea what they were.
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All kinds of souvenirs!
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Like I said at the beginning, My last day in Turkey was a sunny, clear day in Istanbul, so the sunset on my last day was perfect :) If your hotel is located anywhere in the vicinity of the Blue Mosque, and has a rooftop terrace, be sure to go up top to watch the sunset! You wont be disappointed!
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As the sun was setting, the call to prayer began. The muezzins of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia take turns, each saying a line, back and forth. I'm not muslim, but I was completely moved & overwhelmed by this! Add in the setting sun silhouetting the Blue Mosque's minarets ... I love Istanbul :D There are still so many things I would like to see/do in Istanbul, like take a ferry down the Bosphorus River, visit the Rumeli Hisari fort, go inside the Topkapi Palace & Hagia Sofia, walk on the city walls, watch a twirling dervish show, etc. I truly hope I will be back one day!
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Posted by ChantelleS 12:33 Archived in Turkey Tagged mosque basilica turkey muslim europe asia cistern souk bazzar

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