Istanbul is among the most vibrant cities I’ve been to. When walking through Istanbul’s streets, Istanbul you can see parts of history that are in everyday life of the people living there. Their markets, shops, and food all appear similar to what they’ve been frozen. However, when you attend a show or theater or hotel, and everything is the 21st century once more.
In January of 2021, Uber has reopened its doors in Istanbul and is a different method of transportation within the city. The city is highly secure, and you can walk around the town, except for when something is not like the Chora Church. When taking a taxi, be sure you inquire about the cost before stepping in since you don’t want them to make a pretense of paying more.
In this city, you can indulge in meals, drinks, and meeting other people and discover many things. Particularly if you’re from a Western country and haven’t had much experience of eastern traditions, this is a starting point.
1. HAGIA SOPHIA
Turkey is one of the few countries where you can view religious architecture that dates back to the beginning of the century A.D. Hagia Sophia is just breathtaking. The architectural, cultural, historical, and art mixed with Hagia Sophia are unbelievable.
The past was when Hagia Sophia served as an orthodox church and was also a Muslim mosque. Recently, the president of Turkey granted permission to function as a mosque; however, this won’t affect tourist visits because they’re allowed. But, the lines to get into Hagia Sophia, same as for the Blue Mosque, is enormous. While there isn’t a fee to visit Hagia Sophia, the most efficient method of getting in is to use a guide.
The church was constructed in 537 to serve as a cathedral of the patriarchal church for Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire). The 13th century was the time when it was used as the catholic church. Later, in 1453 the church was changed into an Islamic mosque (since the collapse of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire). In 1935, it was converted into a museum, then in 2020, as I stated, it was reverted back to a mosque. It is essential to comprehend due to the features within. It is possible to see simultaneously Orthodox frescoes as well as Muslim prayers.
The inside decoration consists of 30 million golden tiles and a gorgeous dome, an incredibly bold design decision made during the early 6th century. It is possible to climb up to the second level and look at the crown a further. From the outside, the church is colorful, and it’s difficult to believe that it’s more than 15 years old.
2. BASILICA CISTERN
Istanbul. Basilica Cistern is a place unlike any other. It is among the most enormous cisterns located beneath Istanbul. It was constructed around the time of the 6th century under Emperor Justinian I. Currently, only a tiny amount of water is held inside to allow tourists to visit it. Because it was situated underneath the public square, called the First Hill of Constantinople (the Stoa Basilica). It was named the same, Basilica.
The story goes that they had an outdoor garden and that approximately 7000 slaves were involved in its construction. The cistern served as an irrigation system and water filtration for a long time, initially for The Great Palace of Constantinople and later for Topkapi Palace.
The impressive structure includes 336 marble columns, mainly with a Corinthian style and a Doric style. It’s as big as the cathedral and can accommodate the equivalent of 80 000 cubic meters. When you are done looking through the exhibits, you could relax in an underground café and gaze at this unique structure for a bit longer.
Hippodrome is a massive square located in the city’s centrally located just steps away from all the tourist attractions, including The Blue Mosque. It is the perfect spot for snapping photos and creating memories. It’s also the ideal location to get simit, the crunch of the bread, topped with sesame, which is sold from red carts. It can be purchased in elemental form or with Nutella, and then enjoy it while strolling through the area.
It wasn’t always a square. In Byzant time, it was a circus which is why the hippodrome name derives from the races for horses held there. It was the sports and social hub of Constantinople, which was similar to its counterpart, the Colosseum, which was located in Rome.
The hippodrome was 450 meters long and could hold 100 000 people. The entire area was lined with statues of animals, gods, heroes, and other artwork of the period. Today, you can visit several left-over monuments from the hippodrome. They include Serpent Column, Obelisk of Thutmose III, Walled Obelisk, and the Statue of Porphyrias.
4. ISTANBUL ARCHEOLOGY MUSEUM
Of all the archeological museums I’ve seen, This one has impressed me most. I did not expect to find so many objects from the past However, there are rooms filled with only those. It is possible to walk for hours around the museum, admiring sculptures, amphoras and sarcophagi, and a lot more. But that’s not all there is to see at the museum.
The museum comprises three different museums housed within one building: Archeological Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art. There was no wait to get into the museum, even though the other museums within the city are incredibly packed, so it’s not as popular as, let’s say, Hagia Sophia; however, it shouldn’t be missed.
The museum was founded at the time of 1891. It was founded by Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz, who was intrigued by archeological museums throughout Europe. The museum was constructed to replace the Topkapi outside gardens, built in the neo-Greek style. It resembles the old architecture that matches the artifacts.
5. CHORA CHURCH
One of my highlights during my trip to Istanbul is one of the highlights was visiting the Chora temple and the museum. Although it’s a long way from the city’s center, and you need taxis, it’s worth the time traveling. The church serves as a mosque now but was built as an Orthodox church. It is among the oldest Orthodox churches around the globe.
It was built around the time of 4th century. As an integral part of the monastic community, it stood right in front of the Constantinople walls. It’s still possible to see remnants of the walls on the journey to the church. The interior of the church is adorned with stunning frescoes which have been badly damaged due to time. The interior appears dark, but when your eyes are used to it, you’ll be able to see the stunning vibrant hues.
The cost for entry is 54 T.L., or it’s comprised of the Istanbul Museum Pass if you want to buy all of the tickets at one time. A visit to Chora is not more than an hour, except if you are accompanied by an expert guide to explain everything you need to know about the story of this fascinating area.
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