On our recent trip to Puglia, Italy we flew Turkish Airlines and had an overnight layover in Istanbul, Turkey! We arrived late afternoon and rushed over to the Blue Mosque, but we were too late to go inside. We checked out the courtyards and the park out front where we received the hard sell from a rug vendor. After ditching him, we listened to the evening call to prayer and watched a beautiful pastel sunset.
The next morning we woke up bright and early and went to check out the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest markets in the world! It was crazy – there were hundreds upon hundreds of vendors in a maze-like building. It was too overwhelming to buy anything, although we did stop at a spice shop nearby to get some spices to bring home.
Next stop was the Basilica Cistern, an ancient water tank built beneath the city. If you’ve ever read Dan Brown’s book Inferno, you’ll recognize this as the location of the climactic ending of the book. It was cool and damp down there, like a basement. The acoustics seemed really good. It was quiet, but you could hear a drop of water reverberate from across the space. It was extremely dark, but spotlights lit up the ancient columns and stone roof. I didn’t have a tripod with me, so I used a handrail to brace my camera for a half second exposure.
Our final stop before our flight home was the interior of the Blue Mosque. Women are required to cover their heads, and it was about 1 million degrees in there so we made it a quick visit. Long enough to marvel at the rows and rows of stained glass windows and the 20,000 ceramic mosaic tiles lining just about every other surface!
Although it was a quick trip, we got a little taste of this historic city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. I’d love to go back and explore more of Istanbul and Turkey someday!