14 Jun 2007 - Istanbul, Turkey
I left my job yesterday and start my new one next week so what better than to spend time before a new job than by visiting somewhere far off? I can think of nothing else so the target of my visit was Istanbul; Constantinople, Nova Roma, Byzantium - call it what you want but all it does is reflect the 2000 years of history that can be seen all over this city.
I arrived at my hotel at 10pm and after checking in I thought I would make use of the couple of hours left to have a quick recce of the area and to get a kebab whilst in the home of the kebab.
I established my location in relation to the outstanding monuments and buildings that I had to see but not only working out what was where, I took some time to have a look at the Blue Mosque - one of the major sites of the city. While wandering around some chap must have thought I was an easy target at this late hour and came over to me to tell me that the mosque was shut (no shit) and tried to engage me in conversation. This put an end to my wandering and my thoughts quickly turned to the sanctuary of my hotel.
As he followed me it turned out that he was a tourist too (really?) but from one of the islands (oh right) and he is here on work. His colleagues are all in the hotel. So what is he doing out then? Maybe the same as me. But I think he was either:
1) Trying to sell me something and was building up his patter.
2) Wanted to mug me/lure me away to his mates.
3) After a slice of tourist cock and arse.
Or he might have just been a really friendly chap...nah, he was definitely cruising.
Istanbul - My hotel room
Not the best hotel in town but certainly not one of the worst either. With my only need being a central base from which to explore, this hotel met the requirement. Only 4 minutes walk to the Hippodrome and the Sultanahmet historical centre, I was more than happy. Plus, I had good views of the Sea of Marmara and the Blue Mosque at night.
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque from my hotel's roof terrace
After fearing for my ability to remain anally retentive after the scare I had looking around the Hippodrome area at night, I returned to the hotel and took a trip up to the roof top terrace. On a warm night with a light breeze this was very pleasant and I sat back and tried to believe that I was sitting looking at an area which has been the centre of so much of world history. This is the view to the Blue Mosque.
Istanbul - The Hippodrome of Constantinople
Horse racing and chariot racing were popular in the ancient world and hippodromes were common features of cities in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras.
Today, the old racetrack has been indicated with paving, although the actual track is some two metres below the present surface. The surviving monuments of the Spina (the middle barrier of the racecourse) are two obelisks and the Serpentine Column.
Istanbul - The Haghia Sophia at night
For almost 1000 years the Haghia Sophia was the largest enclosed space in the world, designed to impress the strength and wealth of the Byzantine emperors upon their own subjects and visiting foreign dignitaries. The 30m dome that hovered over empty space rather than being supported by walls was unprecedented.
Istanbul - The Blue Mosque
On my nightime trip I got this great photo of The Blue Mosque. It was as I went to have a closer look at it that some annoying chap latched on to me.