And so the last of Izmir and continuing on to Istanbul...
[Sorry. I've stupidly done something to my arm/shoulder, and so typing has not been a priority the past few days. (Muscle spasm leading to pinched nerve... yes, ouch!) I think that the traveling has finally caught up with me, in a unique and sadly boomerang sort of way.]
So, after our big day visiting Priene, Miletus and Didyma, we decided that instead of going to Sardis on Monday (which was also C's birthday) We'd spend the day in town, Izmir, and do a little shopping, have a bit of a wander (visit the central bank to change some old and now uncirculating Turkish money that the bank in the US had given to C&S!) and have a döner kebap in the market or Kemeraltı in town. We also decided to "do" some little laundries in the room and then pack for our Tuesday departure.
|we took advantage of the beautiful day and sat at Konak Pier|
|watching the ships and ferry boats and enjoying the sun|
|Iconic Izmir clock tower|
|choosing the best kebaps...|
|and something to drink (fresh squeezed pomegranate, orange or carrot juice).|
|too many things to choose|
|too many things to see|
|always something new, something more.|
|not far from the edge of the current bazaar- the agora of ancient Smyrna!|
|the birthday guy our last night at the hotel.|
We were early, but we checked in with no problems and had a coffee and flew back to Istanbul (the flight is about the same time and distance as Corfu to Athens, 50 minutes.)
We were met on time, at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport by the nice people from Backpacker's Shuttle and whisked away in a comfortable Mercedes van. The driver provided us with juice, water and little cakes (something our "no-frills" Pegasus flight didn't offer) so we had a nice ride back into town from the other direction, this time Asia to Europe.
We'd arrived in Istanbul at about 1 in the afternoon so we assumed we'd get to the hotel by around 2. We arrived just slightly before 2, and the check in took no time at all. We had lovely rooms, very different from our previous hotel rooms as the Hotel Ayasofya is an old historic house that has been converted into a charming boutique hotel.
|lovely lovely hotel Ayasofya|
It's located in a *real* neighborhood that was not too noisy (it was March) and seemed filled with mostly locals (ie: not much tourist traffic). The staff and owner were apparently well respected in the neighborhood, so I didn't feel vulnerable walking around at night. Once we became oriented to the Blue Mosque and the ancient Hippodrome, it became fairly easy to find our way back and around.
|Gaye and a couple of her great employees.|
Gaye Reeves and her team are very hands on in their management style. Any questions you ask are answered - and if they don't know, they find the answer for you!
Our first question after we settled in, was where was the best place to go for our anniversary/birthday celebration dinner and without hesitation, she suggested Hamdi Restaurant which turned out to be perfect! Really wonderful food - Meze, raki and then kebabs. The restaurant was almost all filled with Turkish customers when we went. Gaye had made the reservations and we had a corner window table with a beautiful view of the twinkling lights of the city and beyond, over Golden Horn and Bosphorus.
The restaurant is located across from the Galata Bridge, next to the Spice Bazaar.
|walking up to Hagia Sofia|
|It always takes my breath away|
|each time I return the restorations have progressed|
|so many of the amazing mosaics uncovered|
|the beautiful details of its amazing history cleaned|
|the stunning mosaic frescos uncovered everywhere|
|even above doorways|
From there we went a short walk across the tram tracks to the Yerebatan Sarnıcı (in Turkish that means "sunken palace") or the Basilica Cisterns. This was build during the reign of Constantine,
|such a wonderfully eerie place|
|the first time I was ever in this place there was haunting classical music playing.|
The name of this subterranean structure derives from a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was originally constructed. Before being converted to a cistern, a great Basilica stood in its place, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries during the Early Roman Age as a commercial, legal and artistic center. The basilica was reconstructed by Ilius after a fire in 476.
Ancient texts indicated that the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing Hagia Sophia According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine constructed a structure which was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532, which devastated the city.
Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern.
The enlarged cistern provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.Wikipedia
|one of the two great medusa heads that used to lie under the water|
|they've protected them by taking them out of the water, but now they look a bit dorky.|
|after our sightseeing we stopped at a little place next to Hagia Sofia and had some tea and a bit of hubbly bubbly!|
|from there we had time to visit the Blue Mosque|
|The soaring interior was created by the architect Sinan.|
|looking back through the archway to see Hagia Sofia|
|The Serpentine Column (with new paving stones!)|
|finally made our way back to the hotel.|
Next post will be Topkapi and the archaeological museum (another BIG day!)