Iznik city! The Harem of Topaki Palace was covered in gorgeous tiles.
While Topkapı was pretty crowded and hard to push through, it had its moments. While they proved useful otherwise, the museum passes we had purchased ended up being kind of useless as far as cutting a line here was concerned, and we ended in the middle of a huge pack of people pushing to get to the security checkpoint. It wouldn't have been too bad if they would have provided a little shade while you were waiting. I perhaps wouldn't recommend visting in July or August. It must be brutal.
They had a good collection of luxe tunics and bejeweled weaponry on display.
It was a huge, sprawling palace, with many lovely views of the Bosporus and quiet courtyards, gardens and fountains to explore. I can't even fathom the sort of history that went on here.
We did have kind of a miserable experience, as the park around it were filled with giant plane trees that were pollinating and shedding these dreadful little spines along with the pollen. Misery city! We were all choking and snotting and itching as the little spines made their way into our clothes and throats. Everyone else around us was in the same boat as well, so you just heard coughing and wheezing every time the breeze kicked up.
It became really apparent to me that spending a week in Istanbul was far too little time. I mean, the food alone was worth the trip, and all these other amazing sites to see were just an added bonus. I had a lamb kebap with a smokey eggplant yogurt sauce that I will have to compare all other kebap to for the rest of my life. How depressing is that?
Ever since I first read about the wonders of the Hagia Sophia years ago, I had this insane desire to see it in person. I did not disappoint.
Back when Constantinople was the seat of the holy roman empire, and Rome was given up to barvarians, this was the church to top all other churches. It was built in 536, and was a church for the next thousand years before the Ottomans turned it into a Mosque, and finally it is now a museum.
It was beautiful and gilded and you will get a crick in your neck trying to take it all in.
I loved the floor. It was worn completely smooth with the countless years of footfalls.
This is the pillar where the chariot races used to pivot around:
While a great deal of it was under construction and closed off, it is still worth it to check out all the treasures on display at the Archaeological Museum.
Dolmabahçe Palace was huge and impressive, but you had to wait forever in the hot sun for a mandatory guided tour, in which you couldn't hear a thing the guide was saying and they zipped you through the palace with not time to stop and see the sights. It was huge and gorgeous, the Turkish Versailles, but spoiled by being herded through urgently. Skip it unless you are a glutton for punishment.
I know that since the protest and police brutality of Takism square has tainted the magic a bit, but Istanbul was amazing. I will be returning. It helped to have good friends to explore with and share all the delicious food with.
It was a fantastic adventure.