The short visit my brother and his family had made to our catamaran Sunday, at Viaport Marina in Tuzla, Turkey, was rapidly drawing to a close but we had an excellent last day together seeing some of the sights that Istanbul has to offer before they flew back to England.
The day was made all the more special because my eldest sister and her husband had arrived the previous evening so they were able to join us for our sightseeing excursion.
We took the metro in – a very cheap way to travel but quite slow on a very crowded train. However, once at Sirkeci station in the centre of Istanbul it was only a short walk to the wonderfully atmospheric Mısır Çarşısı (Spice Market).
The grand market buildings, constructed in 1664, have majestic domed ceilings and at each side there are stalls that extend much deeper than their narrow shopfronts would suggest.
The colours and fragrances of all the spices on display were mesmerising but there were also many more gorgeous items on sale that heightened our senses and made our mouths water – wonderful floral teas; Turkish Delight in every flavour you can imagine; wonderful shimmering strips of colourful confectionery – often embedded with piercing green pistachio nuts; dried fruits such as apricots, figs, dates, strawberries and kiwis; honey and nut soaked baklava; olive oil soaps; brightly painted ceramics; fragrant Turkish coffee and much more besides. An absolute visual and olfactory feast!
From the spice market we walked a short way to the diminutive but fabulous Rustem Pasha Mosque which was completed in 1563.
This small mosque is lavishly decorated with the most beautiful traditional Iznic tiles in an array of colours – predominantly the traditional iridescent blues and turquoises.
After a quick lunch of one of our Turkish favourites Balık Ekmek (fish sandwiches- delicious fresh fried fish served with salad between two halves of the scrumptious local bread) we strolled through the streets of Istanbul towards the old city district of Sultanahmet.
We gazed in wonder at the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, pondered whether to queue to see the Basilica Cistern (we didn’t, the queue was too long) and decided to go and have a look at the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
On the way we stopped in front of the Topakı Palace to take some photos and a very obliging local person offered to take one of all of us!
We spent some time wandering through this wonderful museum – Turkeys’s oldest – which has more than one million artefacts on display.
There was wealth of well preserved sculptures, pottery, art and jewelry – all beautifully displayed and arranged chronologically and by origin (Roman, Greek Ottoman, Byzantine).
We hadn’t realised at first that there are three parts to the museum – the main building which we explored thoroughly, the Museum of the Ancient Orient (which we missed) and the Tiled Kiosk Museum which several of our group found and described it as an absolute highlight! Unfortunately Jonathan and I lingered too long in the main museum but we will be back!
It was getting late and there was packing to be done and a last dinner all together to enjoy so we all hopped on the metro again and headed back to our catamaran, “Sunday”.
What a wonderful week it had been with a lot of different activities packed in as well as plenty of relaxation and “catching up” with family!