We started the day in Istanbul with a visit to the Blue Mosque. It’s indeed a breath taking structure despite the lame name. Seriously, they build a gorgeous blue mosque and their marketing guy goes “I know! We’ll call it…wait for it…The Blue Mosque!” That would be like the Great Wall of China being called “The Long Wall” or the Statue of Liberty being called “The Large Oxidized Copper Statue of A Woman Wearing A Toga”.
The Blue Mosque was finished in 1616 by the Ottomans and is considered the greatest mosque of the classical period. The blue mosque looks almost like a massive blue Faberge egg; pretty on the outside but fairly empty on the inside, except for the painted ceiling and wall to wall carpet. I had never been to a mosque before, so I was surprised at the emptiness of it all. Seems quite clever though, as you would be able to fit lots more people and save a ton on furniture. And vacuuming would be so much easier without having to maneuver around furniture.
After the Blue Mosque, we walked around the area and stumbled across Hagia Sophia or as I like the call it, the Pink Mosque. Hagia Sophia is much bigger, older and its story is even more interesting. It was first built in 360 AD as a basilica and went through three iterations as a Byzantine church before being converted into a mosque in 1453. Nowadays, it’s just open as a museum. Anyway, we didn’t bother going in because I didn’t want to spend the 20 TL (8 euro) entrance fee. I mean, it’s probably worth it but I can always google pictures of inside Hagia Sophia. Besides, I wanted to spend that money on a kebab.
It’s convenient that many of these famous sites are within walking distance of each other, which is remarkable given the size of Istanbul. The bad thing is there are street-hawkers everywhere, trying to prey on unsuspecting tourists. One such man approached us, trying to sell us Turkish hats. They looked highly impractical. But you know what they say, individuals act rationally but groups act irrationally. Next thing we knew, we were all trying on these hats. He said they were 5 Lira (2 euro) each which was still too much for something I’d never wear, but what the heck. And that’s how these sellers trap you in their reality distortion field. When it came to paying, a friend tried to pay for our 3 hats with a 20 euro bill but only got 5 euros back. We had paid 5 euros each and the seller “seemed” oblivious to the memory of quoting 5 Lira. It was almost like speaking to Dory from Finding Nemo. On the bright side, it was now easier to blend in with the locals. Then again, maybe we should have just gone to Hagia Sophia! I seem to fail whenever I come to Istanbul, unless I’m with couchsurfers.
So we put on our stupid hats and moved on towards Topkapi Palace. It turned out to be closed, so we continued onwards to a nearby restaurant. Lunch consisted of a massive spread; different kinds of meatballs, shish kebabs, salad, grilled peppers, lentil soup and Turkish tea. It was delicious. For dessert, we had an array of baklava, Turkish delights and nougaty stuff with pistachios in them. Pistachios are a seriously underrated nut. And of course, what better way to end a long day of walking than at a hookah lounge for some apple shisha.
Have you ever been to the Blue Mosque? What did you think?
Probably more useful information:
Blue Mosque – Free entry
Hagia Sophia – 20 TL
Topkapi Palace – 20 TL