UNESCO World Heritage Sites Galore!

Trip Start Jun 19, 2011
Trip End Jul 12, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Saturday, June 25, 2011

Today was dedicated to visiting some of the world's most spectacular historic sites in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul including the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya (Haghia Sofia), the Hippodrome, and the Basilica Cistern, and much more. Although I certainly tried, no matter how many photos I took of each (especially the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya), I simply could not capture the beauty and magnificence in its entirety to truly do them justice!

Dennis and I started the morning first at the Blue Mosque which was built by (Ottoman) Sultan Ahmet I between 1606-1616. The name comes from the thousands of intricately-designed blue iznik tiles inside the mosque, typical of Ottoman architecture/art. It was gorgeous! Then, we went to the Aya Sofya which was built by (Byzantine/East Roman) Emperor Justinian in 537 AD. This, was most impressive...truly larger than life and difficult to imagine how it was constructed so long ago! There is so much to see in every corner! The Aya Sofya later was turned into a mosque after Constantinople fell under Ottoman control during the 1400s. Now, Aya Sofya is a museum with both Christian and Islamic features. We then went to the Basilica Cistern (Roman underground water supply) and Hippodrome (Roman entertainment arena) - remains from the Byzantine era (see the pictures with captions for details). We then spent from 2pm-7pm at the Grand Bazaar, where I bargained for and purchased a Turkish lantern. This bargaining experience makes for a story all on its own! I was so indecisive about which lantern I should buy. You can see in the pictures, that they are so beautiful all together. Wish I could buy them all!

We ended our evening with dinner at a nearby rooftop restaurant with a glass ceiling and a view of the nearby Sea of Marmara (although it was already after the sun had set). The windows by our table were opened so that we enjoyed a nice breeze brought on by the coming thunderstorm. We enjoyed a spectacular lightening show with our Turkish wine and food, and then ended up walking back to our hotel in the rain!

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