We were scheduled to meet Tijen and Ayse Maya around 10:30 am up at Taksim Square, which we did. We immediately headed toward Eminonu to go see the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. We took public transportation and found ourselves in a very crowded, touristy part of the old city. The first stop was to go straight to the Hagi Sophia and see the beauty of this historic building. As we passed the building we notice a line, a very long line, that looked like it was at least an hour or two long. With the knowledge that if we wanted to go in this would be our whole day, we decided to check out Topkapi Palace.
We arrived inside the grounds of Topkapi expecting to take a tour of the magnificent history that awaits us in Istanbul. We thought the line at the Hagia Sophia was long, the one at Topkapi was even longer, with one line just to get day passes and another line to go into the palace. We were told that we could avoid the line by purchasing a Muzekart (Museum Pass), so we went looking for one of those. We found one place that only took cash and we didn’t have enough cash, and another who took credit cards, but the line was going to be at least 1 – 2 hours.
With all of this in mind we decided it was time to go try our luck at the Blue Mosque, but everyone said they were hungry so we headed for lunch first. We found a local Turkish restaurant that Tijen pulled us into. We were whisked upstairs and sat at a nice table for 6. We looked at the simple menu and ordered at least one of everything on it. There were meatballs, lamb kebaps, two different kinds of salad as well as French fries and rice. Everyone enjoyed their meal and Ayse Maya brought a card game with her that the kids started to play. Lunch was delicious and upon finishing our meal we headed out to visit the Blue Mosque.
We headed into the area only to find that the mosque was closed for services for another 30 minutes. We decided to just walk around and see the neighborhood, take some pictures of the Bosphorus harbor area from one of the hills by the mosque and just enjoy our new friends from Istanbul. When it was time to go into the Blue Mosque, the most famous mosque in Istanbul, we found ourselves directed to a line that wrapped around the building. It seemed like the line would go on forever. At this point we decided to wait on the line because we knew that once they started letting people in after the services, the line would move quickly, which it did.
We arrived in the Blue Mosque and it was simply immense and you can understand why so many people want to see it. Upon entering you are required to take off your shoes and the women are required to cover their heads. This was a structure that even Noah thought was pretty amazing, now that’s something. We all took a bunch of pictures and talked about how the building must have been so challenging to construct so many centuries ago. After completing our time in the mosque we headed out to find a bathroom and some ice cream, which we did and then headed back to Taksim to prepare for our Passover Seder. Tijen had set us up with a local family, the Meshulam’s, who she has known since she was a kid. I will save the Seder for a separate post. All in all, even though we didn’t get into the historic sites that we wanted to, it was a beautiful day and everyone really enjoyed themselves. Hopefully we can see some of the ancient sites another day, or maybe not.
‘Til next time ……