Day Three has been the best of my Istanbul adventure thus far. First and foremost…I finally slept through the night!!! My head hit the pillow and I was out like a light. I don’t ever remember sleeping that well.
The rest of the day followed suit. I started off with a simit (pictured below) and popped down to Sultanahmet again to go inside the Blue Mosque.
Next, I headed to Suleymaniye Mosque. Suleiman the Magnificent was the longest ruling Ottoman sultan, and the mosque was built in his honor. To be honest I thought it was more beautiful than the Blue Mosque, and less crowded, which was nice. Outside the mosque there is a cemetery and some tombs of famous sultans too, with a killer view of the Bosporus to boot.
I stopped by the Valens Aqueduct too. It’s a massive waterway built by those Roman guys in the 300’s AD. Pretty impressive that it’s still around, and that it’s now used as a thoroughfare highway with cars zooming under the arches.
Next I walked inland through the Fatih (Conqueror) district and was pleased to find that there were minimal amounts of tourists and a refreshing lack of guys asking me to buy carpets. I ended up in the Balat district, which is an extremely cool neighborhood mostly known for its brightly colored buildings, hip coffee shops, and Jewish population.
One of my most anticipated sites on this trip is the Chora Church. Everyone thinks of Hagia Sophia when it comes to Roman architecture in Istanbul, but Sophia was converted to a mosque 500 years ago, and most of the Christian mosaics inside stripped away and replaced with Muslim calligraphy. The Chora Church, however, was never Islamized this way. The mosaics and frescoes are all 12th century originals, and they are stunning. It’s the only church of its type remaining in Istanbul.
I had an interesting conversation with the owner of my hostel tonight. He was talking about how the tourism industry has been impacted by the government’s instability and terrorism the past 4 years. (In case you were wondering, the answer is: badly.) The hostel has experienced lots of cancellations and low bookings because of the incidents. In fact, I almost didn’t come to Istanbul because of a travel warning issued by the State department in January. At first I was devastated and considered canceling my trip. But then I did a little research, and it appears the reason for the warning is obviously very political. WAIT, WHAT??? Yes, governments use public policy to further their political agendas–shocking, I know!!! As I said in a previous post, I really could not feel safer here–definitely safer than I feel in many parts of the US. So if you are thinking of going somewhere but are worried about what others say when it comes to “safety,” please do your research and be confident in your decision. I’m so glad I came.
But I haven’t even told you the best thing that happened to me today. I was walking up the street after yet another baklava binge, and lo and behold, I see someone walking toward me with a familiar logo on his T-shirt. I had to blink a few times just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. But sure enough, there it was: a legit Turkish VGK fan! And of course, I got a photo with him.
All in all, the trip is going great, as I hope you can see for yourself. My FitBit tells me I’ve walked about 12 miles each day this week! So now I don’t have to feel guilty about all the bread and baklava I eat. 😋
Beginning tomorrow, I’ll cross the Golden Horn and stay in the Beyoglu District. Stay tuned for Day 4!