Istanbul's standard tour

Trip Start Jul 24, 2010
Trip End Aug 10, 2010

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

We woke up at 6:45AM and left for our tour at 8:30AM.

Our first stop was at the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome was the site of Byzantine athletic events, chariot races and celebrations.  The first hippodrome was built by Emperor Septimius Severus when the city was known as Byzantium.  In 324 the capital of the Byzantine Empire was moved to Byzantium by Emperor Constantine the Great.  It was about 450 meters long.  When the Ottoman Empire took over in 1453 they weren't interested in the hippodrome and it went unused.  Constantine had brought many monuments this site.  Here is the Serpent Column, Tripod of Plataea, which represents the Greek victory over the Persians during the 5th century BC.  Constantine had this moved from Delphi to the Hippodrome.  Another monument brought here was from Egypt, the obelisk of Thutmose III.  The obeslisk was brought to the Hippodrome in 390 by Emperor Theodosius the Great.  The obelisk is 3,500 years old.  There is also a walled obelisk which was built by Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century. 

From there we walked to the Blue Mosque.  The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, was built from 1609 to 1616 by Ahmed I. 

Next we walked to Hagia Sofia.  Hagia Sophia served as the Cathedral of Constantinople and the Latin Empire from 360 to 1453 (except for 1204-1261).  The building defines Byzantine architecture and it served as the largest cathedral in the world for over a thousand years.  Then from 1453 to 1934 it served as a mosque.  It changed from church to mosque when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks.  The four minarets were added at this time.  Now it serves as a museum. 

Then we visited the Bazaar.  We toured a carpet factory.  Following that we went to a restaurant for a traditional Turkish lunch.  It was interesting to talk with people in our tour group and learn they were from Lebanon, Dubai, Pakistan, and Egypt.

In the afternoon part of the tour we visited Topkapi Palace.  The Topkapi Palace was the home to the Ottoman sultans for over 400 years from 1465 to 1856.  Construction began in 1459 by Sultan Mehmed II.  In 1985 it became a UNESCO world heritage site. 

Inside we saw jewels, furniture and so many other artifacts from the Ottoman Empire's sultan.  There were also many artifacts that seemed quite amazing, but I had never heard of their existence so to find them here at this place with no fanfare made me question their authenticity.  With that being said they had actual artifacts from Moses, Abraham, David, Jesus, etc.

When the tour was complete we had the bus drop us off at Taksim Square.  From the square there is a very long pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants and packed with people.  We stopped for a beverage at an outdoor patio bar.

Next we took a taxi to Galata Tower.  The tower is 62 meters tall and it was built in 1348 by Genoese.  On the top floor we had fantastic 360 degree views of Istanbul.

As we exited the Tower, Diana spotted a wine and cheese shop and so we had a bottle of Turkish wine there.  The waiter suggested a restaurant, the Anemon Galata Restaurant,  in the same building and almost at the same height of the Galata Tower.  Our table was situated next to an open glass wall with an incredible view of the city on the other side of the river.
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