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Grand Bazaar and the Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Istanbul


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The Grand Bazaar was a wonderful experience, just as I expected. I almost couldn't believe I was finally there! It turned out to be like a giant covered market, with some courtyards attached and also some stalls spilling out into nearby streets.

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We arrived in the gold section, appropriately filled with goldsmiths and silversmiths, and after looking at the windows for a bit (there were some where the entirety of their windows were filled with glittering gold bangles), we made our way round the other sections. Leather, fabric, Turkish rugs and pillows, antiques, colourful lamps... It was so atmospheric. I bought a beautiful white and turquoise- patterned tablecloth/runner for 40 lira, haggled down from 150; then for Dave's birthday I bought him six skewers that he'd chosen, each one having a different shaped end (a duck and a pig were two). Then at a different stall/shop Dave looked at telescopes, but they were way too expensive to buy, even after haggling. One antiques shop had two massive globes which I was very taken by, but they looked extremely unwieldy and expensive, so I never even asked for the price.

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At this point we sat down for some Turkish coffee, which came with a mini glass of water held within a beautiful silver holder and a small platter with two pieces of Turkish Delight.

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Our last purchase from the interior was from another antiques shop; two absolutely gorgeous engraved cups, made from silver-plated bronze. The stall holder said they were made in Afghanistan.

After this we looked round lots of shoe and clothes stalls lining the streets on one side. I bought something I'd been hoping to find; a pair of loose cotton trousers. I bought them for 20 lira, down from 40 - he agreed so quickly I suspect I could have had them for even less, but no matter. It still worked out at about £5!

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After the clothes stalls we came across a large courtyard containing the book and paper market! The books were nearly all in Turkish, but I spotted some notebooks made from parchment, so I simply had to get myself one...

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We headed back to the hostel then to have a bit of a rest. On the way there we stopped for some corn-on-the-cob at one of the many street sellers who sell them. Each stall has a massive vat of boiled ones in water, and a grill with a pile of pre-grilled ones next to it. It also has a metal tray of cooked chestnuts.

After our rest we went to the Archaeological Museum.

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This consists of the main museum (with one of the best collections of Ancient Greek and Roman statuary in the world, plus an interesting 'Istanbul Through The Ages' exhibition)...

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...a tile pavilion...

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...a collection of Ancient Greek and Roman sarcophagy...

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...and the Ancient Orient Museum, containing fantastic artifacts from the Ancient Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians and other pre-Islamic cultures.

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Special mention to a clay tablet with the oldest love poem ever written carved into it. This is Sumerian and dates from between 2037 - 2029 BC.

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For dinner that evening we returned to the café at Arasta Bazaar. Dave had a lamb kebab, I had a mixed one and we shared Turkish yoghurt with honey for dessert. Just outside the bazaar we stopped at a calligrapher's stall and Dave got him to write our names on a piece of white leather.

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Posted by 3Traveller 08:35 Archived in Turkey Tagged market turkey museum istanbul bazaar dave roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

The Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern & more

Istanbul


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After breakfast we set off to another must-visit destination, a famous site I was really keen to visit; the Blue Mosque.

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There are two entrances to the main building; one for Muslims who come to pray (it's a working mosque) and one for tourists. It's free entry to all. Our queue was quite long, but moved at quite a decent pace, so we didn't have to wait for that long. Our wait was enlivened by a tour group behind us being given a talk in Spanish by their leader - he spoke very quickly and his Spanish sounded quite different to Ecuadorian Spanish, but I made out something about Ramadan, no drinking and no smoking.

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All women who didn't have something to use as a headscarf were given one to put on; men wearing shorts were also given one, to wrap around themselves like skirts. Dave didn't have to because he was wearing trousers. Before we stepped over the main threshold everybody had to take off their shoes and put them in a clear plastic bag.

The interior was just as large, airy, beautiful and elegant as I'd always imagined. It was full of blue-patterned Iznik tiles which gives the mosque its name to Westerners (out of interest, to locals it's known only as Sultanahmet Mosque). We admired the place for ages before eventually leaving.

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I gave back my headscarf, we put our shoes back on and we went into the courtyard adjoining the main building. This was also beautiful and we took a few more photos.

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From the Blue Mosque we headed over to the Basilica Cistern nearby. We were extremely hot by now, but the Basilica Cistern cooled us down. This huge column-supported underground cistern, used to hold 80,000 cubic metres of water for the imperial palace and other local residents, was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-565). It has been renovated on more than one occasion since then, and is no longer used as a cistern, but still holds a foot or two of water, enough to support lots of fish.

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The only light in there came from lights shining onto the bases and tops of the columns, so the atmosphere was ever so slightly eerie, even with the high volume of visitors walking around on the wooden pathways raised above the water. I enjoyed watching the fish. In some parts of the water, people had thrown coins. Right at the back of the cistern there were two sculpted heads of Medusa; each one was at the base of a column. One was set sideways, the other upside down! Apparently nobody is entirely sure why they were placed there.

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After we left the cistern we went into a shop where we bought postcards, a book about Istanbul and a fridge magnet, and Dave picked up a free book of cartoons by a Turkish cartoonist.

After this we went back to our hostel to shower, have cold drinks and rest for a while. We went via Sultanahmet Park.

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When we stirred again, it was to the Great Palace Mosaic Museum down the road. This was relatively small, but excellent, with a great long floor mosaic taking the centre stage. The palace has now gone apart from this mosaic and several smaller ones arranged on the walls around it. The mosaics were magnificent, with pictures of animals, trees and human figure.

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When we left the museum we came out into the Arasta Bazaar. This bazaar is different to others in that it's hassle-free and lots of the goods have fixed prices. I saw some very intricately painted beautiful unframed pictures on special paper, including one of two world maps, but it was extremely expensive so I didn't get it. We wandered up and down the rest of the bazaar, which was small, but didn't buy anything.

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After another short rest at the hostel we went out for dinner at one of the two cafe-restaurants attached to the Arasta Bazaar. We shared bread and hummous and each had a different type of kebab; to go with them I had a lemonade with honey and Dave had some mint tea and a glass of lemonade & banana juice. For dessert I tried Turkish rice pudding, which was cold and had been made with ground rice instead of grains - it was delicious! Dave had baklava, which he also found delicious. We each had a Turkish coffee afterwards; it came with two mini chunks of Turkish Delight.

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As dinner drew on, we noticed the waiters setting out cling filmed plates of food on the other tables. These tables started filling up with locals; we asked our waiter what the event was and he said that it was for the breaking of the day's fast for Ramadan. The food I saw on their tables was flatbreads and bowls of salad.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:56 Archived in Turkey Tagged art mosque market turkey museum istanbul spanish bazaar dave roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

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