The old area of ​​Istanbul


Beyond its majestic Palaces, the beauty of its Mosques or its vestiges of the past, the real Haunted Istanbul is in its environment, in its streets ... We had read and heard about it, but feeling it on our skin is difficult of transmitting And is that the real spell The city arrives when night falls on its oldest neighborhood, Sultanahmet, and its narrow, cobbled streets are dimly lit and tourists disappear. Every wall, every stone, every corner whispers history. Today we enjoyed the Old Zone of Istanbul, and so we will tell you ...

So we will put no alarm if there is no need here ... They are not even 6:30 when the call to prayer is already ringing very close to us. And so much, because already revealed we went up to the roof of theZeynep Sultan Hotel (FULL ARTICLE ABOUT THE HOTEL HERE) where we stayed last night and where breakfast is served, and we see dazzling (and we can almost touch it) the Basilica of Santa Sofia.


Now we can say it. This family hotel is great !! Clean, neat, not too big but sufficient rooms, and simply correct breakfast, but in the alley to find the historical heart of istanbul. Almost where it throbs (the x in the photo)

We bring a series of objectives to see, divided by zones. Today we have covered the following (with the corresponding route):

- OLD ZONE. Sultanahmet Topkapi Santa Sofia Tank. Blue Mosque Sergio and Bacchus Church. Mehmet Pasha Arasta Bazaar. Racecourse. Divan Yolu ...
- NEW AREA.DolmabahçeTaskimIstikla Galata Tower, Galata Bridge. Eminonu ...
- BAZARES AREA. Vanide Han. Grand Bazaar. Egyptian bazaar. Suleymaniye Mosque. Rustem Pasha Mosque. New Mosque
- EXTERNAL AREAS. GOLDEN HORN AREA (Eyup, Pierre Lottie). FATIH NEIGHBORHOOD (San Salvador de Chora). ASIAN AREA (Uskudar)
- EXPERIENCES. DervishesNew Years Eve. Hammani Hookah. Which arises…

It wasn't even 9, when we were queuing for the majestic Topkapi Palace (B), before the buses arrived. The schedules are another of the things that we had targeted from Spain (something that can not be missed to organize the route for breakfast a bit).

One of 2012 schedules (To organize):

Topkapi Palace: From 9.00 to 17.00 except Tuesdays
Santa Sofia: From 9.00 to 19.00. Closed Monday
Tank: From 9.00 to 18.30. Tuesday closed
Blue Mosque: Open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dolmabahçe Palace:Open from 09.00 to 15.00 from November to March and from 09.00 to 16.00 from April to October. It seems that Monday and Thursday is closed.
- Church of San Salvador de Chora (Kariye): From 9.30 to 18.30. Wednesday closed.
Eyüp Mosque: Open from 9.30 to 16.30.
New Mosque or Yeni Cami: Open every day from 9.00 until sunset.
Rüstem Pasha Mosque: Open every day from 9.00 until sunset
Imperial Mosque of Süleymaniye: Open every day from 9.00 until sunset
- Church of St. Stephen of the Bulgarians: From 9:00 to 17:00 every day.
Orthodox Patriarchate or Saint George: From 9:00 to 17:00 every day.
Church of Saint Mary of the Mongols (Kanli Kilise): Prior request to the Orthodox Patriarchate.
Ahrida Synagogue: Prior request
- Church of Saints Sergio and Bacchus: Open at 9.30 until the evening / night
- Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque: Open from 9.00 until sunset
- General Mosques (Mahmud Pasha, Atik Ali Pasha ...): Only hours of worship
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art: closed Monday. From 9.30 to 16.30.
- Archeological Museum: From 9.00 to 16.30 or 17.00 depending on the time. Closed Monday
- Grand Bazaar: Open from 9.00 to 19.00. Sundays closed.
- Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar: Open from 08.30 to 19.00 except Sundays.

Punctual open the lockers and we get our tickets (25 TYR each). Next, an immense door called Ortakapi, it also controls entry and check bags with a scanner. Here we go…


Topkapi's extension is great. However, it was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire what we saw yesterday on the plane, from 1,465 to 1,853, and its construction had been ordered by Sultan Mehmed II in 1459.

Actually, it is not a single space, but consists of several buildings linked together by four courtyards, and all built with an exquisite Turkish secular architecture, of which we have no idea, but we read and observe and even touch on some of the infinite details that are preserved in the courtyards.

But do not get too clueless and set course for Harem (at the entrance to the left), which is paid separately (15 TYR) which is nothing other than "the sacred place" where the sultans made their lives privately.


Kitchens, stakes, domes, doors and cabinets with all kinds of details ... a luxury for these sultans.


Leaving the Harem, we arrive at the area closest to the Bosphorus, which continues with large rooms, several "kiosks" with all kinds of sofas "with chesslon" (as Paula says that shows that they already existed, haha) and pieces of nacre and wood at every turn.

If possible, this area is one of the most beautiful in the Palace, and also has beautiful views of the Asian area on the other side of the Bosphorus. Really worth it, even on a day like today.


But possibly the most famous are their treasures. Up to four rooms where jewels and invaluable objects are distributed. A throne of 250 kg of gold, two candlesticks of 48 kg each (also of gold), pearls, emeralds, rubies, impressive diamonds ... ufs! !! Come on Paula! Let's get out of here. Paulaa? Paulaaa?

Although almost dragging Paula, we managed to leave the complex, to pass next to a real beauty of Byzantine Church called Santa Irene, although very deteriorated by the passage of the years. We can only see it on the outside, but it's really worth it.


Wow I've already lost Paula again. Let's see where he has gone now ... ah yes, there it is. And is that the mobile stands What is around this area are really to stop at all. Roasted chestnuts, "cobs", sweets and a kind of rolled donut that has already fallen into her hands (1 TYR)…


In this large area between the Basilica of Santa Sofia (now a museum) and the Blue Mosque, in addition to a large fountain and a large square, there is a famous Hammah, many little shops of all kinds and some cafeterias-dessert shops where we take the opportunity to take a coffee and tea (9 TYR).


Of course, if you ask us about a place in the world where we have found more Spaniards after London (and after only one morning still in the city), we would say without a doubt Istanbul. If only the neighbor of 5ºC is missing. Were there special bonuses? And not only that, the rest of tourists must be concentrated here at this time in the morning, because queue to enter Hagia Sophia (C). Luckily it goes fast.

After getting rid of several "guide proposals", some tired seller and 20 minutes of queue, we arrive at the entrance (25 TYR each). Now it is not allowed to photograph with tripod. Nor could it be in Topkapi, but here we have removed the little "gorillapod" and it stays in "reception". Anyway ... What will be in here?


What is there is a true temple to history. Plain and simple. What a preciousness. From its creation there by 360 to 1453 it served as a Cathedral for the Christian Costantinople (well, Catholic from 1261 in the middle of the Crusade), but after the Ottoman invasion it became a Mosque until it ended in 1935 as a museum.

It is to be understood, with such a dome, that it was the largest Cathedral for more than 1000 years (curiously surpassed by that of Seville later). In fact it was the height of the Byzantine architecture at the time. Today if you can clearly see how most Christian symbols have disappeared, and the minarets, the altar and other objects have given it a more "Islamist" air. To some extent it reminds us a lot of what the Spanish "evangelizers" did in Peru mixing indigenous symbols with Catholics as we would see that DAY 7 in the Colca Valley(and saving distances, of course)


Leaving aside a place where you have to "put a finger in a hole in a column" (and stuff), you can access a higher level, where the panorama is also worth photographing. A luxury of "temple", without a doubt.


But how can people keep coming? About the Blue Mosque (D) It has no name and although we have gone to see it on the outside, we have decided to leave it for another day early, taking advantage of the fact that we are 2 minutes walk from where we sleep. This has not prevented Isaac from getting excited while stepping on his patio, and starting to talk about that Umayyad Mosque I saw in Damascus in its 2009 trip to Syria. What a cross!


What hunger not? We already have an idea for New Year's Eve! We have seen it clear ... (Thanks Antonio for your idea too, which seems brilliant, although we are going to choose another). We have also taken the opportunity to change money (today at 2.30 TYR the EUR). And yes, finally find a place to eat something, Divan Yolu street up ...


We took some Kofte sandwiches (16 TYR both) in a chiringo-restaurant called Tahiti Sultanahmet Koftecisi. Something like a kind of meatloaf, we do not know if lamb, veal or god knows what, with spicy chili peppers, onion, lettuce and tomato ... The fact is that they were delicious, but we believe that even now that we write these we are still "eating again" of what they repeat.


It is not difficult to explain, but complex to understand. !! We can't with the crowds !! Until 12 or so it was bearable, but now there are too many people, so we are going to opt for plan B, usease, tourist coach free zone. This is how we got into the narrow streets behind the Blue Mosque and we have ended up in some "suburbs" of care, where there is a lot of dirt and wooden houses that seem to be falling, there seems to be a mosque of or more authentic.


And here we are, in the Sokollu Mehmet Mosque (G), designed by Atik Sinan for Mahmud Pasça and whose construction was completed in 1477.

It really is a complex composed of the mosque, some bathrooms, a school, a dining room, a caravan shelter (formerly) and a cemetery (and some important tomb). The fountain in the courtyard is used today for men to wash their feet when they leave to pray (women think not). The problem is that they are now in full call and we will not be able to enter.


After walking around and sitting there waiting, Paula begins to put "eyes" to the "caretaker" of the Mosque. We do not know the "why" but after a smile he decides to let us pass. Right now there is not a tourist. We take off our shoes, leave our shoes, Paula puts a pasmina on her head, and we enter behind the huge leather door. There the scene hits us, although we already knew him. Women pray to the left, behind. The men next to the altar rise and crouch without stopping and pray. In a moment the women get up and go out and the men come together and kneel. Paula leaves, she doesn't like the scene. The most absolute silence is made and only the sound of the pendulum clocks on the sides is heard. It's really a scene that makes anyone's heart beat and everyone should enjoy on a visit to Istanbul.


We follow our small route before nightfall (at 4.30pm at this time of year) and we find ourselves almost in front of the Church of Saints Sergio and Bacchus (F), a place that makes Isaac especially excited after to have been in Rasafa, the famous Sergiopolis (and city of ghosts) that day 5 of the 2009 trip to Syria.


In Turkish to this now mosque, It is known as Little Hagia Sophia and its square plan that circumscribes an octagon, is covered by a 16-meter dome that leaves two levels. The superior is a good place to sit and observe, observe everything and feel what is happening there.


It will start to get dark, and it is time to walk a little way back to the hotel, where we will rest a little (we remember now the happy "singing" at 6 in the morning). Paula passes by a couple of really original stores, with caps of all kinds, although finally it is not decided.


Walking down the bottom of the Blue Mosque we will go to a small bazaar called Arasta Bazaar (E). It is really nothing special. It is discovered, with the occasional little shop, but in our opinion lacking in atmosphere and charm.


At the end of here you arrive at a place that we aim for the future days, a kind of cafeteria- "sishería" with a great appearance called, mmm ... where will we have pointed it? Well, we will be back ...

At the top is the Roman Hippodrome (H), built in 200 AD for the typical car racing and others, although today you have to give it a lot of imagination, since it is only a pedestrian promenade with several obelisks (one Egyptian, one Greek and one Roman)

Already before reaching our area, we decided to try the famous pomegranate juice (5 TYR). Riquiiiiiiiiiiisimo. He was going to love Isaac's father, a grenade lover in all his varieties (he sure hasn't tried it, haha). We also take advantage of buying water and some other things (2 TYR) and, now yes, rest a little hour.


Night falls, and with it its spell. Bewitching different from the lived that night in Santa Monica or the one we found in the old part of Havana.80% of tourists have disappeared, and what were once queues and stands, are now Santa Sofia and the Blue Mosque, separated by a fountain of colors, illuminated in the silence of the night. Really beautiful.


But what really shakes is to stop to watch the courtyard of the Blue Mosque, completely empty, wet with the intense dripping of a gray day, now submerged in a halo of magic and mysticism.


The Divan Yolu Street (I) If you are really lively and beautiful at this time, full of colors, trams up and down and Christmas lights.


At this time, people fill dozens of restaurants of all kinds along the street, or the cross streets, which more appealing (does this word exist?)


In one of the alleys we find one that is not familiar to read in the travel forums, one Amedros. Come on, let's try, it has many typical Turkish dishes.


But first we booked, because right next door we have seen that a Dervish show (50 TYR each). We really had no thought of seeing one, but ... why not?


The Dervish or Mevlevís are an order from Turkey, founded by the disciples of the great Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi in the 13th century and who have a famous ceremony called Sema consisting of a kind of meditation accompanied by flutes and drums while spinning dancers represent a kind of "spiritual ascent."

The concept itself is really esoteric and exciting, and we had read that there were several famous places to see them in Istanbul (Sirkeci station for example), but ... why not improvise? In any case, it is something that we consider to be seen (you cannot talk about things without knowing them) but you did not get hooked especially in any of your senses (neither music, nor ritual, nor "show").

1 hour later if we were watching a really exciting show right in front, in the Amedros restaurant Where we had reserved a table. It was a "Testi Kebap" that some customers were serving, while the whole restaurant took out their cameras. Specifically, it is a vessel with a content of stewed meat or something like that, which heat up in front of you to later break the vessel and complete the dish.

We, today, have decided to try, in addition to some squid, Sehzade Tauk and Sultan Tauk, in addition to a beer, juice, coffee, tea and shot. The first is a kind of chicken breast called Chicken Sultan, which combines a cheese sauce with mushrooms and all gratin (delicious). The second is a few pieces of chicken split with a special sauce complete with raisins, almonds and pine nuts (richer still). Of course, expensive, very expensive (161 TYR)


Ah, Istanbul is to cats, what Bucharest to the dogs. That is, there are cats even in the vessel that (sureooo)! What an epidemic. This does not break the magic of the cobbled streets of the old area at all.

!! Hookah !! !! Hookah !! !! Sishaa !! !! Sishaa !! Does anyone drop their "eyes"? We believe that we will not have to enliven the dream tonight ... and tomorrow "the other Istanbul" awaits us. !!See you tomorrow everyone!! Does anyone want some kofte? As he repeats, hahaha

Isaac and Paula, from Istanbul (Turkey)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 424 LYR (approx. 185.43 EUR)