Tuesday, 28 November 2017
We started the day early. While having breakfast at the hotel, Sofia had fun running around the restaurant and the shops outside. I was amazed how naturally friendly Turkish people are with children.
The plan for the day was to visit the Hagia Sophia museum. We bought tickets from automatic machine (very convenient!), and collected the audio guide before starting the tour. It was during the visit that I found out that the original Hagia Sophia (from Roman times) consisted of only the central dome. Further support (buttresses) was added in 1317CE by Emperor Andronicus II. Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror later added the 4 pillars when converting it to a mosque (1453CE)
Hagia Sophia was initially a Christian church from 537CE to 1453CE. It was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453CE. In 1935CE, the government made it into a museum. Both Christian and Islam influences can be seen in the museum.
Unfortunately for us there were some repairs being done inside Hagia Sophia so half the museum is covered in scaffolding.
I went up to the 1st floor to have a look at the old Byzantine mosaics. Sultan Mehmed showed tremendous wisdom when he ordered the mosaics to be plastered over, rather than destroyed. The mosaics was recently peeled to reveal the beautiful byzantine art.
For lunch, we went to Mama’s Corner, a restaurant near Gülhane Park. After our meal, I decided to try the Turkish Coffee. Much to my surprise, it was really good! The combination of strong coffee and turkish sweets was excellent.
After lunch, I took my daughter Sofia fora walk at Gülhane Park. It’s a nice park situated opposite our hotel and near Topkapi Palace.
Later in the afternoon, we took the tram to Grand Bazaar. It was just 3 stops away from our hotel.
The bazaar started in 1455CE and is commonly known as the first shopping mall in the world, apart from being the largest covered market. We bought a few souvenirs there
Found an interesting shop selling artistic old maps. I bought one for 850 Lira. I have a feeling the price is rather inflated by there is no other way of knowing for sure. The old Ottoman map is definitely a nice addition to my ‘map room’.
We took the tram back to Sultan Ahmet Square. Sofia went for another round chasing the cats. The online reviews were right. The square is a brilliant place for kids to run around and tire out. Haha! After that we took a nice stroll in the area. Being in between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque at night is an amazing feeling.
After we worked up an appetite, we went for dinner at Blu Kitchen in Sirkeci. They serve a mix of Turkish food, Italian and other Mediterranean dishes. Good food and friendly service.