Friday 29th June
The first half of our day was spent with Cengiz Alatli who guided us for four hours through Topkapi Palace, Aya Sophia and The Archeological Museum.
Topkapi Palace was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and was home to all of the subsequent Sultans. The place has a colourful history but today is most impressive for the collection of precious objects hosed in the Treasury. These objects include the arm and skull of John the Baptist (no one believes it though), an 86 carat diamond (enough for the whole family and more) and amazing furniture and objects studded with rubies, diamonds, emeralds and pearls.
Aya Sophia was one of the most magnificent and oldest churches in the world (537AD) until it was turned into a Mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror after 1453. This was only possible due to some simple but lucky Geography. All churches in this part of the Empire used to face Jerusalem and all Mosques have to face Mecca and, since there is only a 7 degree difference between these two places, the merger was possible. The mihrab, or niche of a Muslim mosque, sits slightly askew on the old altar for this reason. We also saw the oldest known cross to grace the front of a Church. It is an impressive building and currently receiving some TLC.
We did not dwell too long in the Archeological Museum but spotted the famous sarcophagus prepared for Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, he died elsewhere in the Empire and never got to use it.
Although it was not as hot as previous days we still headed home for a rest before tackling the New Town, Taksim area, on other side of the Bosphorus. Taksim Square is where all the Turks hang out to go shopping and it felt as if all 15 million were there last night. We managed to fit in a bit of shopping though and found a dud restaurant for dinner, courtesy of our of date copy of the Lonely Planet. Our tram ride home was made more pleasant though due to the magnificent sunset and rising of a near full moon.
Saturday 30th June
Today was a peaceful day with only a morning visit to the Museum of Mosaics and the Grand Bazaar for some more shopping. Annabelle spent the afternoon watching cable re-runs of Heroes with Turkish sub-titles.