The weather in Istanbul was a bit of a shock to the system after spending four months in the tropics and summertime in Australia. But it was so nice to be back in this beautiful city, despite the cold and thick fog.
Our main purpose for staying two nights in Istanbul was to go to the Australian Consulate to replace my passport which had received some water damage in Sumatra. The Consulate is in a big tower block near the new football stadium and the Dolmanbahce Palace in Kabataş. We knew the area so it was easy negotiating the excellent public transport to get there from our hotel near the Otogar (bus station). The consular officials were very helpful and I should have a replacement passport in a week or so. Our business with the Consulate only took about half an hour so we had all day to explore the city.
We walked up the hill to Taksim Square and down the famous and wonderful pedestrian street, Istiklal Cadesi. This is a wide boulevard stretches about 1.5 km from Taksim Square to the Galata Tower. It is lined with funky upmarket shops, pubs,bars and eateries. On a weekend nearly 3 million people walk along this street every day. Sadly in March last year a suicide bomber killed 4 people and injured 36 on this street. There were no signs of any such horror a year later but the street was not as crowded as when we were last here in the middle of the summer.
|Display of pomegranates and citris|
|Turkish tea - the best|
|Bizarre sight of South Americans buskers dressed as North American Indians playing pan pipes in Turkey|
When we had stayed in Istanbul in 2014, I had missed going to the Hagia Sophia as I was sick that day. So here was my opportunity. What a difference the tourist sites were in chilly early March compared to a few years ago in mid-summer. There were no queues and no crowds. The Hagia Sophia is undergoing renovation still so half of the main hall is covered in scaffolding. This cathedral/mosque/museum is 1400 years old and looking a bit scruffy around the edges (mind you at only 62 years old I’m looking a bit scruffy too).
|The ablution block outside Hagia Sophia - note the Byzantium column, Ottaman rotunda and the fog|
|Marble doorway into the main hall|
|Ceiling with Christian and Islamic symbols|
|Huge candles and ornate doorway|
It was a quick visit to Istanbul but I will be back in a few weeks to pick up my new passport.