I have been to Istanbul multiple times over the years, and it never ceases to fascinate me and has become one of my favorite cities. I am fascinated by history and Istanbul has experiences countless layers of world history and had influenced the history of the world around it. It was the seat of the Byzantine Empire, the first Christian Empire of the world and later when the ottomans conquered Constanipole, the city became Istanbul, the seat of the Ottoman Empire, which is still one of the largest and greatest empires that the world has ever seen.

Whenever I am in Istanbul, I usually stay in the heart of the historical part of the city in Sultanahmet and yes lots of tourists visit this region, but I still find myself carried away to another time whenever I visit. One of my favorite things to do there is to get a haircut, which is always cheap, and the barber is very attentive and in addition to the hair cut also applies a scalp massage, shave, and a trimming of nose nd ear hair. I also just wander the streets and explore the old city learning about some new aspect of its history during every visit. I also love to take the cheap public ferry across the Bosphurus straits from Asian Istanbul to European Istanbul. These are a few photos of my various visits to the city over the years. 

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

The most amazing building I have been to in the world is the Hagia Sophia. It is beautiful from the outside but when I stood inside and took in the fullness of its size and history, I was overwhelmed. It was built as a church in 537AD by the Eastern Roman Empire when Istanbul was Constantinople, the capitol Byzantine Empire. At one time it was the largest building in the world. The Ottomans in the 1400’s took most of modern-day Turkey but could not take Constantinople after multiple sieges until Sultan Mehmed II finally conquered it in one of the greatest battles in world history. When the city fell  observers both inside and outside the walls also witnessed a fierce fire around the dome of Hagia Sophia, yet the building never burned. Sultan Mehmed II finalized his conquest by stepping into the famed hagia Sohpia.  The ottomans concerted the church of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and covered up its giant Christan murals and later in the 1900s, General Ataturk turned it into a museum, which is what it was when I visited. 

Stone hallways of Hagia Sophia

Domed ceilings

Christian murals covered up for centuries under Muslim Ottomans

Christian murals covered up for centuries under Muslim Ottomans

Massive Interior of Hagia Sophia with Ottoman era islamic Caligraphy

Massive Interior of Hagia Sophia with Ottoman era islamic Caligraphy

Blue Mosque

The 2nd most imposing building in the historical part of Istanbul and adjacent to the hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque, built in the early 1600’s by the Ottomans. The Ottomans were using the Hagia Sophia as mosque by then, but the fact remained the Hagia Sophia wasn’t built by them. it was built by the Byzantines and the Ottomans wanted to build their own mosque and leave their own legacy, so they built the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque was a working mosque during my visit and when I entered, I saw some people worshipping. The call to prayer bellowing out from loudspeakers of the Blue Mosque 5 times per day is enchanting and adds to the exotic appeal of Istanbul.

Blue Mosque

Inside Blue Mosque

Man praying in the corner of the Blue Mosque

Basilica Cistern

The cistern with its marble pillars was built in the 200’s by the Roman empire to store water. It is a dark and mysterious place located 500feel below the streets of Istanbul. This is one of my favorite places and it has never been crowded during my visits. It is also always far cooler than the city streets above. The huge Medusa heads and dark pillars and winding stone pathways over the ancient waters of the cistern just adds to its mythical atmosphere that Perseus must have felt when he entered the labyrinth to battle Medusa. The purpose and origin of the heads are unknown. 

Man standing next to a giant Medusa head 

Public Ferry

The public ferry that travels between main ports of the Bosphuras straits separating Istanbul Europe and Istanbul Asia as well as to other parts of the Black Sea is cheap and not to be missed. It is commonly used by locals to get around the city and is easy to use by foreigners.

 

Public ferry across straits of Bosphuras

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