So another city has been crossed off my “to-be-visited” list. We visited Istanbul in late march, but we learned that we maybe should have visited the city a month later. March is a very cold month in Istanbul. We arrived on a Thursday evening, and after having left our luggage in the hotel we went for a nice meal in a restaurant with a great view of two of the biggest sights in Istanbul, the blue mosque (or Sultan Ahmed Mosque) and Hagia Sofia. Hagia Sofia was the biggest church in the world for several centuries (almost thousand years) and was later converted to a mosque, but it is now a museum.
The inside of Hagia Sophia is quite interesting, but equally interesting for a Scandinavian visiting the building; there is a runic graffiti on the second floor balcony.
Young Scandinavians haven’t changed a lot in 1000 years. My feelings for visiting this old building were mixed. It was impressive, the building had been build between the year 532 and 537 and it was still standing, even though Istanbul regularly have been visited by quite strong earthquakes. The reason for my mixed feelings was the fact that almost every wall and roof had been covered in gilded mosaics, even though we could only see some fragments of this today. The wealth used to decorate the church so lavishly must have been enormous. The frugal Norwegian in me feels that this was a bit over the top, … a bit excessive, … slightly costly … Well you get the point, use your own words. I still can appreciate their importance as culture carriers though.
The mix of old buildings and ancient history, yet a modern city was quite intriguing and when confronted with shabby wooden structures next to beautiful mosques or churches you cannot stop wondering why they do not fix these buildings.
There are 17 million people living in Istanbul and on Saturday while walking in the Egyptian Market or near Taksim Square you feel it. It is like walking inside a subway car in Oslo during rush-hour, crowded.
Like in Rome, Istanbul has its fair share of cats in the streets and then some. The cats where slinking along the streets, begging from street vendors and tourists everywhere.
Even though we visited in a cold month, the street vendors where busy providing for any and every need. In the markets you could find all the different Turkish sweets and goods that you do not easily find in Norway. The fish market had some of the same types of fish you can get in Norway and several that you can’t. It’s interesting to know that a lot of the fish are not caught, but come from fish farmers.
That did not stop a lot of people from trying to catch their own food from the bridges inside the city.
As an engineer I also found it interesting to see the traffic jam waiting to sail through the Bosporus.
And finally, just an image of some of the vegetation in Istanbul.