It has been a long, long time since I’ve had a day like today, either as a tourist, or just in general. I really should have just stayed in bed.
I was wet, cold and miserable all day. Let’s just say I had my grumpy face on.
I awoke to freezing temperatures and a cold, wet pizzle (my new-found word for a steady drizzle of rain). By the time I eventually made it out, the wind had also picked up, and decided to laugh at my efforts to use my umbrella. My brand new umbrella. The one that is now in the bin in pieces. Sigh.
So within about three minutes of leaving the dry warmth of my apartment, my lower half was soaked to the skin, and my upper half was wishing I had put on more than four layers.
Yep. I was miserable.
And to make matters worse, I couldn’t find the place that had been highly recommended to me for breakfast. (Never fear, I spotted it late today so will go there tomorrow!). Breakfast however was soon sourced elsewhere, and while I sat outside, I was under a massive heater, and was nice and toasty (only three layers of clothes needed!). My canine companion agreed.
I love a Turkish breakfast – and this wasn’t even the best of the bunch! Despite five types of cheese, two home made preserves, butter, an egg, olives, two types of bread and a cucumber, tomato and parsley salad. And of course, the tea. I really, really love the tea, despite it not having milk. I’m going to instigate this tradition when I get home. Little glass mugs, tiny saucers and teaspoons included.
My doggy dining companion may look beautiful (and was), however it was one of the estimated 150,000 stray dogs that roam Istanbul. Most have an ear tag (which you can see), and according to what I’ve read, these dogs are taken to local shelters where they are vaccinated, treated for any minor-illness and ear-tagged before being released back where they were trapped. As many of these dogs have diseases such as rabies (one of the diseases they are vaccinated for), my advice is look but don’t touch, in case your doggy friend hasn’t yet been tagged.
Breakfast was followed by a long walk in the rain (sans umbrella, loving whoever invented Gortex, and my cousin who told me to pack it!), as I was somewhat “directionally challenged” and couldn’t exactly find what I was looking for. I can hear The Accountant laughing from here!
Eventually I ended up at the Grand Bazaar (not quite what I was aiming for… but non-the-less…).
My only word to describe the famed Grand Bazaar is overwhelming. Not a good place to be when you have your grumpy face on. I think I lasted 17 minutes before attempting to leave. This took at least another 23 minutes, and then I wandered around in the rainy streets around the Grand Bazaar trying to find my ultimate destination for the day – Hagia Sofia.
I particularly love all the hand painted plates (although the sheer volume of them does make me wonder how many hands there are painting them), however I learned today that much of the paint in them contains lead, which means they are not food safe. I’m not sure how true this is given the man who told me wanted me to buy his plate for 650TL (about $325 AUD), but I’m not really prepared to take the risk, unless the plate specifies lead-free paint (and many do).
Anyhoo, I made a quick detour to the incredible Basilica Cistern (where I had planned on visiting, just not today!)… I don’t know how many visitors to Istanbul visit the Basilica Cistern, but please add it to your list if you visit.
Due to the ongoing pizzle, there was no line to get in (unheard of!). Also known as the “sunken palace”, this cistern was built in the 6th century (Byzantine era). The cistern is an underground chamber that is approximately 140 x 65 meters in size. The roof is held up by 336 marble columns, in twelve evenly spaced rows of 28. It is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. There may have been a few tears. Not only because it was one of those days. It truly was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful man-made places I’ve visited.
There are two medusa heads in one corner of the cistern, one of which was placed on its side, and the other upside down. Scientists believe this was deliberate, but cannot say why.
The cistern features in James Bond movie From Russia with Love, and also in the climax of Dan Brown’s book Inferno. My next plane book is now sorted!
So this post was going to be about the Hagia Sofia, so you will just have to stay tuned! My grumpy face has been replaced by my sleepy face!
But before I go to bed, please tell me if you have been to the Basilica Cistern and what you thought? Or is there another tourist attraction you have visited that unexpectedly and completely inspired you?