After our sunny stop in Mykonos, Greece, our cruise on the Celebrity Equinox ventured to a different country to visit what is consistently rated as one of the most beautiful and enchanting cities in the world… Rich in history and a unique atmosphere, it will definitely take your breath, and attention span, away.
The Asian and European side of Istanbul is separated by the Bosphorus, the strait which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The ancient city has an eclectic vibe to its lifestyle, people and sights, consisting of palaces, mosques, churches, museums, bazaars and other wonderful places to visit. It’s not advisable to visit all of them by foot, because they are spread around.
We were lucky to explore Istanbul by coach, and had our very knowledgeable guide Tuna giving us all the best tips. Unlike Florence, Santorini or Mykonos, Istanbul is a very large city and walking by food might leave you tired and muggy, since it’s a bit humid outside.
Even while driving around the city, one couldn’t help but be enthralled by the ancient structures that litter post-modern buildings. Founded in 6BC as Byzantium and refounded in 330AD as Constantinople, Istanbul was THE Eastern European imperial capital for over 15 centuries
For our first stop in Istanbul, we readied our sunglasses, sunblock, and sandals. It was HOT out. Oh, and if, during this cruise, you notice my mother’s lavish outfits, don’t blame her. She lost her luggage at the airport in Rome before boarding the cruise ship, so she had to resort to borrowing clothes from my aunts in the group. Some were quite festive, like her above moo-moo.
Now a museum for Byzantine artifacts, the Imperial Treasury converted the palace to holding rooms for gems such as an uncut emerald weighing 7lbs, a pearl studded throne, the golden Topkapi dagger and other treasures.
But behind the walls of the Palace was a beautiful courtyard with roses converted into a cafe. I wanted to stop and take a refresher. It reminded me of old world Intramuros in Manila, and the tour I did felt oddly similar to Carlos Celdran’s. I was craving for something to munch on but we decided to move on.
This is the wishing column, which has a hole in the middle of the wall. It is said that if you make a wish and put your thumb in the hole, and if you’re able to twist your hand 360 degrees, your wish comes true. Any guesses what I wished for?
I have a major fascination with doors, and this was the Emperor’s Doors, which would only be opened when the great leader would grace the Hagia Sophia with their presence… I wanted them to open it for me… but kidding aside, look at the height of this door!
I won’t lie, the smell of the mosque reeks of feet even if they constantly change the carpet, which actually protects the real carpet underneath. Note the sweater because your knees and shoulders must be covered
The interiors are classic Ottoman style and design, and if you look up, you see a series of beautiful domes, Byzantine ivory work, intricately decorated tiles, and six different minarets. No other mosque in Istanbul could boast of a laundry list of perks like the Blue Mosque.