Saturday was quite possible the most event filled day of my life. Our itinerary was as follows:
8:00 The most delicious breakfast I’ve had since arriving in Europe. I’m a little bit biased on this because I’ve only had cereal or greek yogurt for breakfast up to this point, but our hotel had the best buffet of turkish pastries/cheeses/waffles/anything else you could want to start your day.
9:00 Departure from our hotel.
9:30 Visit to the Blue Mosque with all its beautiful tiles. Everyone was required to remove their shoes and women to wear a head covering.
10:30 Walked to the Aghia Sophia, the queen of Byzantine architecture. Professor Karavas was right about Chora having more abundant beautiful mosaics, but the Aghia Sophia’s dome was amazing. I only wished that it had been a sunnier day. Typically sun shines in through a row of circular windows at the top of the dome creating a halo and illuminating the gold mosaics but it was a bit too cloudy this day.
11:30 Walked right outside to the Hippodrome. This site is where chariot races were held in Byzantine times, similar to the Roman Colosseum. Also seen was the Egyptian obelisk dating back to 1490 BC. On a more somber note, this is the location of the suicide bombing that took place just last month.
12:30 Coffee break at a local cafe as we hear the afternoon call to prayer sound out.
1:00 Traveled underground to the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi) built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian I. Originally an above ground basilica, the site reuses Doric and Corinthian columns to support the earth above while collecting water for the city.
2:00 Ate lunch at a cafeteria style eatery with delicious Turkish cuisine.
3:30 Walked over to the closed market, or, Grand Bazaar. This place is enormous and almost impossible to not get lost in. Thankfully we had a guide who showed us a wonderful scarf shop and then personally took me to a carpet shop. There they served us tea as they rolled out an assortment of carpets. I ended up purchasing two burgundy colored rugs that I absolutely love. We finished off the day at one of the most famous hookah spots in Istanbul, Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi located right near the Grand Bazaar.
7:00 Taksim for dinner again, this time kabobs! I got lamb which came with peppers and rice.