In December 2010, I surprised my girlfriend with a spontaneous trip to one of Europe’s most interesting cities: Istanbul! We spent five full days in this fascinating place and celebrated New Year’s Eve on the Galata Bridge crossing the Golden Horn. During this time, we visited a lot of the sights as well as caught a feeling for the life along the Bosporus. Eventually, we realized that we had to come back some day to explore more of this truly grand city at the boundary of two continents!
We spent the first day after our arrival mainly in the old city centre of Istanbul: Sultanahmet. Most of the ancient monuments can be found here, including the magnificent Hagia Sophia. However, we started our tour with the Basilica Cistern. This subterranean water tank was built by Justinian in 532! The 65 m wide and 143 m long roof is supported by 336 columns. Most interestingly, the cistern became forgotten over the centuries, was rediscovered in 1545, and restored only in the 18th century. It is most certainly a fantastic place to visit – and some will recognize it as the location of a number of movies, including James Bond’s “From Russia with Love”.
After this visit we went to the Grand Bazaar with its thousands of shops along crooked alleys. Although this ancient market became a touristy place through time, it is still nice to wander around or have a tea here. Some of the most interesting buildings in Istanbul are mosques with their majestic cupolas and delicate minarets. Luckily, it is allowed to visit the imposing buildings even as non-believers if you dress accordingly, behave properly, and come in-between prayer times.
On the second day, we planned to visit the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, maybe the two most prominent architectural master pieces in Istanbul. However, you will have to click here to read about these two gems! 🙂