After a wonderful visit to Haghia Sophia, we made our way to the hop-on-hop off bus point and boarded the bus for sightseeing tour of both the Europe and Asian sides of Istanbul. Take note that Istanbul is also famous for being the only city located in 2 continents. The historical sides are mainly in the European side while the Asian side is mainly residential and administrative centres.
We passed by the scenic views of Istanbul port. Summer is a really good time to visit Istanbul as you can enjoy sunny days and warm breeze of the sea. You'll get more time for sight seeing as well with more daylight time.
Some scenes of the Asian sides of Istanbul...
families spending their weekends by the seaside
One notable thinig which is commendable from my observation is that the locals can be seen to have strong family bonds, by the way they spend their weekends with the family, regardless of age. They could be seen having picnic and setting up barbeques together, which i found to be alien way back home where the youngsters love to spend time with their friends instead of their family.
fish market and restaurant-you can choose your fish and have it cooked immediately by the adjacent restaurant
Istanbul being a much coveted city by many was built strong-in terms of its defense architecture, thus i could still see the remnants of the city wall along the bus route. The walls were built to protect the city from invaders and i can really appreciate the built quality of the wall from the multiple layers and the thickness of the stones used.
Our bus made a stop at Taksim Square, a famous shopping district in Istanbul. Here, you may find many shops, shopping centres of many kinds, from famous brand names to local marks.
We saw some protesters at the side-though not really sure of what they were protesting on, we assumed it was related to the then recent Syrian missile attack on Turkish ground.
Anyway-as you are already in Istanbul, one shopping place which ought not to be missed is the Grand Bazaar. You will literally be lost in this maze of shops selling all kinds of thing you can imagine, except live animals. You can also bargain your prices here with the friendly shop keepers. Interestingly most of them knows to speak and understand basic Malay language.
Some of the local specialties are spices, nuts and perfume oil
Another thing that you must not missed is to hop on one of the cruise boat at the port and enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. This is another way of exploring the city of Istanbul and more importantly you can view both sides of the continents from this cruise.
This was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans. The palace buildings are segmented, meaning you wont find only one big building such as the Buckingham Palace, but this palace consists of different buildings in a large palace complex.
It is advisable to come early as the line to buy the entrance tickets are usually long.
They have thousands of exhibits here and have been categorized according to types such as jeweleries, armours etc. They also have some relics which are believe to have been owned by the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions.
Venturing further into the palace complex, you will find the harem, for which the concubines of the Sultan lived.
this was the swimming pool
vibrant intricate tilings on the walls
You can't escape from feeling the mystical aura of the harem, though they may look lavish and full of amenities, i still could feel being imprisoned here as those who lived here were bound to follow rules and regulations of the royalty.
A visit in Topkapi Palace may warrant a full day visit as there are so many exhibits to be seen, most of them are prohibited to be photographed.
If you are an art and cultural lover and loves to watch cultural performances, you wont be disappointed in Istanbul. Apart from the widely known belly dancing performances, there also another type of performance which you may find interesting, and the one performance that i have always wanted to watch-the Swirling Darwish.
Instead of a dance, this can be more appropriately referred to as a religious ritual/performance of Sufism as in this performance, a group of men will swirl around in rhythm of recitals of Quranic verses and praises to Allah and the Prophet.
As i was not allowed to take photo of the performance, the photos of the venues should suffice. Anyway take note that you have to follow rules of the show such as no clapping, no photo etc.The show will last for almost an hour and it was quite expensive.
The Swirling Darwish performance marked the end of our night in Istanbul.
Some more images of Istanbul...a wonderful historical and magical city....
Istanbul is a city rich in history and culture. Surely my short stay there was not sufficient to cover all the interesting places that this city has to offer and i will surely be back one day.
From sunny and humid Istanbul, i will bring you next to the chilly and gloomy weather of Amsterdam, in my next post of World Travel 2012.Cheers-Kay2012