We started the day at the Topkapi Palace. Walking through its great central courtyard and through its rooms demonstrated the power and wealth of the Ottoman Sultan.
The Palace suffered serious damage during the earthquake of 1509 and the fire 1665, but it has been refurbished since and holds true to its original features.
The Palace is full of incredible murals as well as colorful tile mosaics. Fountains and water features are abound.
On the north east corners of the Palace you will find the Treasuries, housing gifts that were presented to the Sultans through the years, including an 86 karat diamond. As you walk through these display rooms you will exit to an open terrace where you get a spectacular view of the Asian side of Istanbul, along with the Sea of Marmara.
In a separate set of display rooms, you will also find what is said to be the staff of Moses, the staff of David and several artifacts of the Prophet Muhammad.
We exited through the Imperial Gate of the Topkapi Palace and headed to the Hagia Sophia, which is located just outside the gates.
The first church, an Orthodox church, built on this site was completed in the year 360, but burned down in 404. The church was rebuilt, but was destroyed during riots in 532. In 537 the Emperor Justinian inaugurated the church structure we see today.
The Hagia Sophia features giant columns and domed ceilings with great artwork. However, very few its original mosaics remain, and those that do are far from intact. But I must say that what is left is incredible.
The altar of the Orthodox church remains, but the focal point has been moved off center to face Mecca.
As with most buildings in the early days, there was a separate gate for the Emperor. The massive wooden doors of the Imperial gate are said to be made from the wood of Noah’s Ark.
After our visit to the Hagia Sophia, we headed to the Blue Mosque.
To enter the Mosque, you are required to be appropriately dressed, and if you are wearing shorts or if women do not have proper head covers, they will be provided for you. You are also required to remove your shoes and are provided with a bag to carry them in when you enter.
Outside the Mosque is a courtyard where many sit to observe the architecture of the structure.
The Imperial gate of the Mosque features a chain, just above 6 feet high, for the Sultan to bow to enter the gates when he was on horseback.
As we exited the gates, we were in the U-shaped Hippodrome of Constantinople. This was the venue for sporting events in Constantinople and considered its social center.
The Hippodrome features two obelisks. The first, is the Obelisk of Thutmosis III. It was brought to Constantinople in 390 by Theodosius the Great. The obelisk is over 3,500 years old. The second obelisk is the Walled Obelisk, which was commissioned by Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century.
Our day ended with a flight on OnurAir to Izmir where we will spend the night.