IT SEEMS IT DOESN'T HAPPEN VERY OFTEN... - FEBRUARY 2005
On Saturday, after The Topkapi, Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque, we took a taxi to Taksim, to the Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel. We entered the Hotel through a door with a metal detector device, like in airports, took the elevator to the top floor and sat at the lounge bar with a splendid view, some drinks, nuts and cheesecake... The rain and fog, however, didn't help!
When the weather cleared a bit, we walked Istiklal Caddesi, the pedestrian street of Beyoglu. Looked at the Church of Saint Anthony (of Lisbon, where he was born, not of Padua as usually said), visited the famous Pera Palas Hotel (home to Agatha Christie and other travellers from the Orient Express) and amazingly heard this Portuguese music from Madredeus, with the voice of Teresa Salgueiro, in one of the shops that sell audio cd's:
After this incredible experience, we took the Tunnel Metro and arrived closed to Galata Bridge, where we took a taxi to the Hotel. It was starting the snow storm, so we stayed inside. On Friday night we had enjoyed dinner at the Restaurant Rami, a house dedicated to the painter Rami Uluer, with a very nice view towards the Blue Mosque, but on Saturday night it was completely out of the question to be outside...
On Sunday morning, Guida was feeling sick, and had some fever. The snow storm was stronger then ever, and so we stayed inside. In the afternoon, when the snow stopped for a while, we hired a taxi with chains (the only one we would ever find during the days the storm lasted) and decided to visit the Chora Church. Fantastic mosaics and frescoes!
On the way back we had a chance to visit Suleiman's Mosque, and then back to the hotel again. Regrettably, I've no photos of this expedition, only video...
"SNOW - Finally, on Monday morning, Guida was feeling better, schools were closed, snow was falling hard but we managed to catch a cab and went to the Grand Bazaar!"
"GRAND BAZAAR - It was so difficult to get there that it looked incredibly empty and one could easily stroll around. It's said it has four thousand shops; probably an overstatement..."
"SPICE BAZAAR or Egyptian Bazaar is the second largest Bazaar in Istanbul, after the Grand. It is so known due to the spices that were and still are sold here. But one can also find Iranian or Russian caviar... We didn't buy, but we had lunch at a very nice old Istanbul restaurant on the small tiled rooms above the main entrance of the Bazaar - The Pandeli. Mixed feelings about the food: the fish en papillote (Kagitta Levreck) was OK, but the rest was far from outstanding...
After lunch the snow continued to fall and we visited the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, a mosque with beautiful Iznik tiles, as well as the New Mosque, and finally the Yerebatan Saray Cistern"
"SUNKEN PALACE - The underground Yerebatan Saray Cistern (or Basilica Cistern) is thought to have been built in 532 AD. After the conquest of the city by the Ottomans, it was forgotten of and nobody knew that it existed. Re-discovered in 1545, it was used to water the gardens of Topkapi Palace. It's a highly impressive spot, worth to be visited, even if you blur some of your pictures...
After the Cistern we took a taxi back to the Hotel, as the snow was always falling. For the third consecutive night we had dinner at the Hotel restaurant. It was the only time in my life I had three consecutive dinner meals at the restaurant of the Hotel without having a half-board reservation..."
"MORE SNOW - Tuesday morning (Mardi Gras), surprise: we caught some more snow!!! It never ended... The Blue Mosque, seen from the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, looks white"
"THE RESTORED PALACE OF IBRAHIM PASHA is now home to the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. The Museum is superb and provided a safe harbour against the storm outside"
"HYPPODROME - The Byzantine Hippodrome was the heart of Constantinople's political and sporting life. It's now an interesting city park in the centre of the Sultanahmet district. Several monuments can be found there, including the 3500-year-old Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius, brought to Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius in 390 AD"
"WHITE BLUE MOSQUE - Sometimes the snow stopped for a while and we managed to walk a bit. This was the case..."
"AYASOFIA in the snow"
"THE ARASTA BAZAAR is located behind the Blue Mosque, just next to the entrance of the Mosaics Museum (that we also visited. No wonder with such weather outside, we were always inside). There are about 40 shops lined on both sides of the street, selling traditional items. Originally this place was built in the 17th century and used to be stables during the Ottoman period.
After the Mosaics Museum we took a cab and went to Beyoglu to have lunch at the Restaurant Haci Baba at Istiklal Caddesi"
"GALATA TOWER - The Tower has dominated the Beyoglu skyline since 1348 (it may be seen in Oya's post on The Great Istanbul) and offers the best panoramic views of the city. It's said that the sunset view from Galata Tower is fabulous. Imagine..."
"SIRKECI STATION - Another cab ride, and we were at the station where the Orient Express ended its run from Paris to Stamboul (like the 19th century travellers named the city). The Orient Express, started in 1883, provided the fastest as well as most luxurious way to travel across Europe. The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits -- brainchild of a young Belgian named George Nagelmackers - managed not only the Orient Express but also a number of other lines that would become just as legendary, including the Sud-Express (Paris-Lisbon), the Calais-Mediterranean Express, better known as the Train Bleu, that connected Britain with the Riviera, the Golden Arrow between London and Paris, and the Trans-Siberian Express (Moscow-Vladivostok). The Sirkeci station is a very nice building worth the visit even if you're not interested in taking a train...
We took a tram up the hill to Sultanahmet, visited Cagaloglu Baths, and went back to the Hotel"
"HOT INSIDE - Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year justified an extra, so dinner was at the Orient House!
Next morning, it snowed. Saw the Mehmet Pasha Mosque with beautiful tiles, grabbed some lunch and headed to the airport. The plane was late due to the snow storm. Fortunately for our Frankfurt connection, the crew that brought us from Istanbul was the same that should bring us to Lisbon, so the plane was not missed, though the arrival was around 2:00 a.m., more than two hours delay, and without our bags...
One day I'll have to go back and see Istanbul properly"