This is one place we had not been to before, mostly because every time we were in Topkapi the crowds were crazy and until 3 years or so ago entry was in fixed groups. Now it is possible to just wander around and take as much time as wanted. We managed to go fairly early in the morning, so there were very few others within the Harem. by the time we left the Harem, Topkapi was filling up so we spend a bit of time wandering (we particularly enjoyed the exhibits in the old kitchens – some wonderful architecture and a picture of palace life) and then headed off to meet a friend for lunch by way of the Grand Bazaar.
Back to the Harem, it is hard to describe in words. So instead a photographic gallery.
After the museum we wandered out through Gülbahce all the way down to the Spice bazaar where we quite surprised ourselves by not buying anything. From there we crossed the Galata bridge and strolled around the back streets around Istiklal. We got the tram back to Sultanahmet with the intention of visiting Aya Sofya Museum ahead of the Pope. We have, of course, been before but felt it was time for a return visit. Especially as there is restoration work going on inside and we saw different bits this time.
The place is a strange combination of Muslim and Christian religious art – very old and very beautiful in its own way but, of particular interest to us was a small piece of 9th century Viking graffiti – written by a bored guard, according to the label…
Of course we took a lot of photographs, though with the crowds and the difficult lighting a lot of them did not come out as well as we hoped.
On the second day we went to the Archaeological museums and took far too many photographs.
The Ancient Orient Museum is one of Hilary’s favourite places on this earth. It houses the beautiful brick reliefs from around the Ishtar gate, a small but rather nicely formed Egyptian Section and lots and lots of lions.
The Archaeological museum is undergoing restoration in the cause of modernisation and earthquake protection. So, whilst may beautiful things were on view, the Alexander sarcophagus (and the other two in adjacent rooms) are not. This constitutes an excuse to return to Istanbul in the very near future.
And that was just the morning…