We arrived in Istanbul without a hitch as did our bikes and bags. Just by luck Maggie thought to ask if there was a long term storage in the Airport…..Yah! they’re keeping our bike boxes for the whole time we’re here. We fly out to Croatia on June 1st and will retrieve them before the flight. We were met by our U.S. friends Kirby and Rebecca who have lived here for 2 years. Dinner was at a Turkish restaurant including a flaming drink for dessert.
Rebecca teaches English at a university. Kirby is a computer programmer and works from home. They have a great apartment with 2 terraces. Istanbul is a massive city of 20 million people, very hilly and on the sea. The view from their apt. is gorgeous. The city crosses the Bosporhus so part of the city is in Asia and part in Europe. It has an excellent subway, bus and tram system but is so big that we did a huge amount of walking. It is always teeming with people, no matter where we went or what time it was.
The next day we visited Hagia Sophia Museum which began life as a church in the 6th century, was converted to a mosque during the Byzantine era and now has been retired and is a museum. It was once the largest church in the world with Christian mosaics that were preserved with plaster meant to cover the Christian images when the church became a mosque. Many have now been uncovered but there are many more to come in the restoration process.
Hagia Sophia Mosaic
Ceiling Mosaic Hagia Sophia
Hand carved columns at Hagia Sophia.
From there we went to Topkapi Palace the modest home of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire which did not dissolve until the end of the First World War. (The Ottoman Empire backed Germany.) It covers many acres with mosaics and tile art everywhere. Its extensive grounds and out buildings are well preserved and beautiful. It has an exquisite view of the harbor.
After Topkapi Kirby, Maggie and I had dinner with Jeff Fine at a lovely restaurant overlooking the sea. He’s been living and working in Istanbul for the past 3 years. It’s been a wonderful time here and it’s been great to have connections/ friends in such a huge city. We’ve seen and gone many more places because we have a local guide to move us around and share their knowledge of the history, etc.