I’ve wanted to visit Istanbul for as long as I can remember but the idea was always put on hold for plans to exotic locations further away, as Turkey seemed do-able even with a baby. That was definitely not the case! Although I knew there would be quite a bit of walking around and a great many things to see, I didn’t anticipate (Nor can any parent ever) how Jana would be on that particular week. We had planned on spending four nights in the old city close to most of the must-see mosques/monuments in the city and the last three nights near the Bosphorus sea.
We landed at Ataturk airport late afternoon and had the rest of the evening to explore our surroundings. As the sun set the city was just waking up with all its splendor. You could hear the grills sizzling as the first of the evening meals were being prepared, the bright yellow lights lighting up the cobbled streets and the sound of tiny raindrops landing on our umbrella. It was a beautiful sight and I was already mesmerised. You could just make out the domes of the Blue Mosque from the street of Sultanahmet, it seemed like a long way away. Our first meal in the city was authentic Turkish kebaps with bulgur (and chips for Jana) and a grand mixed meze platter. I have to say, pretty much all the restaurants and cafes we went to had decent food (and this was just walking into the first convenient place we could find when we got hungry.) There was a good standard of hygiene in most places too. You’d think we would be extra cautious with a little tummy to feed but Alhamdulilah it all went well. (Jana did have an upset tummy for two days but that is more than likely her love for everything on the floor that is to blame here).
Our first hotel was situated in the heart of Sultanahmet, a minutes walk away from the tram station. Breakfast looked something like this:This proved to be an excellent choice in terms of location as we wanted to be able to explore the old city as much as possible (and with me being a worry wart) I didn’t want to be too far from base in case baby J just went berserk and was too hard to handle. It was easy to manage her between us. When it came to it, we would take it in turns to look after her while the other educated themself on the history of that particular building (and of course doing the necessary photo shoot). I felt like I needed to wait for the perfect moment to enter the Blue Mosque. I’d heard so much about it from various sources and it felt like those words didn’t do it justice. The feeling you get when you’re stood in such a holy place, with one of the most beautiful architectures I have ever seen, was beyond words. I felt in awe. There was a warmth in my heart I can’t explain. It made me feel blissful and content in that moment. It was around Zuhr prayer when we arrived and the sound of the azaan was echoing through the land. You could hear the azaan (call for prayer) from Hagia Sophia too. My husband and I took it in turns to perform our prayer in the masjid. In the evening light, the ornament on top of the dome would shine so brightly as if it were made of pure gold.
Hagia Sophia had an interesting history having been a church converted to a mosque and finally a museum open to the public since 1935. Although it is not a place for worship anymore, the azaan is still given from this building only at Zuhr. There were beautiful mosaics that covered the ceilings. You could tell the Islamic art from the Christian paintings and stained glass. There were a couple of floors and we managed to, successfully, wander both areas as they had a a ramp going to the second floor of the building. (very bumpy but a ramp nevertheless). After our adventurous morning, we were feeling brave. With a quick break back in our hotel we made our way to the Topkapi palace. Jana was probably very tired because she was cranky and wondering why mummy and daddy hadn’t taken her back home yet. She fell asleep as we got off the tram on our way to the palace. There was cobblestone streets everywhere which meant it was too bumpy for the pushchair which meant some rest and alone time for mummy and daddy.
I must admit I got a bit rattled when baby J finally woke up. I hadn’t packed a proper dinner for her and we hadn’t even begun our tour around the palace! She obviously wanted to run around the gardens and not sit in her pushchair like we needed her to. I didn’t get to see the museum partly because of the way Jana was behaving and partly because I didn’t like the way the security guard was so rude (and very right) about this being a museum, not a playground. (Jana had started to close the museum doors at this point so you can see why he got so upset) He’s taking his job a little seriously if you ask me. Our kid is under control, I don’t need anyone telling me how to parent my child. So anyway I found out later from my mother that there’s a great deal to be seen inside the Topkapi museums.(Well, Duh. What I meant was, there were a few items belonging to our Prophet – Which I missed out on.) definitely needs to be checked out.
On our third day we ventured out a little by tram, to Sulemaniye mosque. It is known to be the largest place of worship in the city. The domes and architecture resembled that of the Blue mosque but on a grander scale. It had enormous gardens all the way around and stunning engravings on the entrance as well as inside the mosque itself. It wasn’t difficult to tell the times in which it has lived through, by the subtle hints in the design. Around the back of the mosque was a spectacular view of the Bosphorus bridge and the rest of the city. Jana spend a great deal of her time running around inside the mosque. We sat down together to look through books that were displayed introducing Islam. I was surprised at how calmly she sat to look at a picture less book! We offered nafl prayer before heading out to lunch.
I’ll be doing a separate post to tell you about the rest of our trip. In the mean time here are some touristy shots to enjoy!
Next in series – Istanbul Part 2