Istanbul's amazing Aya Sofya and Blue Mosque

{ October 2009 - Istanbul, Turkey }

After a few months of planning, researching, reading and being all excited about our holiday to Turkey, the day finally arrived in the late evening of Thursday, 29 Oct (For a quick overview of the places we went during the trip, check out the map in the previous post I wrote). We left work relatively early, and did some last minute packing. For some reason, I could never pack my luggage early.

We took the midnight flight on Qatar Airways to Istanbul via Doha. All in all, the whole journey, including transit, took us almost 16 hours. That is 16 hours of no sleeping while my boyfriend was happily sleeping and dreaming away. Trust me, when you were tired and your brain refused to let your body sleep, it would be extremely frustrating when your travelling partner just closed his eyes and managed to sleep almost immediately. However, once we arrived in Istanbul, I was pretty excited - soaking up all the scene on our way from the airport to our hotel in the centre of the old town Sultanahmet.

It was, unfortunately, pouring when we got there. But that did not stop us from stepping out into the cold and wet to experience all that Istanbul had to offer. It was about 2 or 3pm by the time we went out from our hotel. As we could not find anyone to exchange Turkish Lira in Singapore, it took us some time under the heavy rain and wind to finally find an exchange counter in Istanbul. Don't get me wrong - there are many exchange counters in the city, it was the heavy rain and wind that made the task felt long and tiring. We grabbed a quick lunch of kebab - because we were in Turkey - and started walking towards the famous Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque.

First stop, Aya Sofya. It is called Aya Sofya in Turkish, Hagia Sofia in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin and the Church of the Divine Wisdom in English. It was a church, then a mosque and now a museum. Built around 1,500 years ago, it is an amazing building with many of the Christians mosaic portraits, as well as all the Islamic elements such as the mihrab (below).

The dome is still amazing although partly covered due to the construction work being done. The building was huge, and you can't really see any pillars supporting the huge dome. Visit this website for a virtual tour of the amazing building.

From Aya Sofya, we walked across a park towards the Blue Mosque. Aya Sofya and Blue Mosque stands literally next to one another, across a park. You can get beautiful views of the two spectacular buildings. The real name of the mosque is Sultan Ahmet Camii, but it was called the Blue Mosque due to the blue tiles used inside the mosque.

To tell you the truth, I did not notice the blue tiles inside, but I absolutely looove the carpet. It is so comfortable to walk on that I couldn't resist sitting on the floor! Notice the boys playing in the photo? They were rolling around the carpet!

Tired and jet-lagged, I felt like resting and sleeping to get myself fresh for the next morning. I did not feel like eating much, but we went for dinner anyway. We went to the recommended Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta for kofte (meatballs) with white beans, pickled chillies and cabbage. It was good, I believe, though my taste buds were too tired to really taste anything...

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