After having a nice break between semesters at home, I’m back in Turkey and leaving for Denizli tonight. It was to see everyone in VA/DC and Madison and recharge for the rest of my time in Turkey.
Before going home and since coming back, I’ve spent a lot of time in Istanbul. Apart from seeing the major tourist attractions (Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet, etc.), there is so much more to do and see in Istanbul. I stayed on the Asian side of Istanbul (in Kozyatağı), so every day I would have to take the ferry over to the European side to see places. Although the commute over took awhile, I still really enjoyed it. While on the ferry you get nice views of both sides of the city. The Bosphorus is always a little choppy, and is a greenish-blue color, which makes for some nice pictures.
Since I stayed in Istanbul for over a week before going home, I’m pretty familiar with the city now and have a lot of “favorites.” One of my favorite things to eat is a balık ekmek (fish bread), a grilled mackerel on a big piece of bread. If you walk across the Galata Bridge (which goes over the Golden Horn), you’ll see fishermen working for the restaurants that are on the bridge, and you can always smell the grilled fish when you’re in the area.
My favorite historical site is the Kariye Müzesi (Chora Museum), which is in the neighborhood Eyüp, a little further out from the downtown area. Kariye was originally built as a church in the 5th century, and was converted into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in the 15th century. The mosaics and frescoes that were part of the church were plastered over when it was converted into a mosque, but uncovered when it became a museum in the 1940s. I like Kariye because of all the mosaics and frescoes that are pretty well-preserved and colorful. It is similar to the Aya Sofya in terms of the church–>mosque history, but it is much smaller and much less crowded.
My favorite mosque (there are several large mosques in Istanbul!) is Yeni Camii (New Mosque). It is hardly new, having been built in the 17th century, but compared to many other things you see in Istanbul (including the Aya Sofya) it is relatively new. Yeni Camii is in Eminönü, an area right by the Galata Bridge. It is also right next to the Spice Bazaar.
So I have seen so much of Istanbul, but there is still so much more to see and do! I’m leaving tonight to go back to Denizli, but hopefully I will be back soon!