my trip to istanbul and athens during the first week of december came suddenly, and i had less than a week to prepare for it. luckily, i already have a schengen visa (it takes at least two weeks to apply for one—if you have a filipino passport, that is), so no problem getting into greece. as for the turkey visa, through some "connections," my visa application was expedited. after all, i'm going to be promoting their country—pramis! this was my first time to turkey and i was excited!
it was a quickie tour, though, and our itinerary was amazing-race proportions. as in, visit a landmark, picture picture, then leave, and on to the next. not the way a lot of people like to tour. so here's a quickie guide to help you decide where to go if you plan a trip to istanbul. first up were the massive mosques: sultan ahmed mosque (more popularly known as the blue mosque because of the blue-colored tiles inside) and the hagia sofia.
before we entered the blue mosque, we had to remove our shoes, so make sure you have cute socks on hehe... (socks by bench)
these two mosques are located across from each other on the huge sultanahmet square. if you have a leisurely sked, try to walk down the narrow cobblestone streets around the area, which have charming little shops and cafés. the streets will lead you to the edge of the bosphorus river, where you can walk or sit and admire the view:
we also visited two palaces, which used to be occupied by one sultan or another during the reign of the ottoman empire. these palaces are now considered museums and are open to the public. the size and opulence of each one was mind-boggling! turkey is so rich in history that visiting istanbul made me want to read up on it. unfortunately, photos weren't allowed inside the two palaces.
here i am at the intricately carved entrance gate of the dolmabahce palace:
before we entered we had to wear these plastic bags to protect the carpets:
i was blown away by the sheer size and extravagant decorations of the palace. and the biggest chandeliers i had ever seen!! oh how i wish i had snuck a photo! well, i did sneak a couple of iphone shots of the ceiling. kunyari nag-te-text hehe...
the biggest one was hanging in the ceremonial hall, which can hold 2,500 people. the chandelier weighs 4.5 tons (the heaviest in the world), has 750 lights, and takes several weeks to clean. google nyo na lang to see what i mean. we also visited topkapi palace. it consists of four courtyards and the entire property is twice the size of the vatican and half of monaco. again we were only allowed to take photos of the outside:
so there's no photo of the fourth largest diamond in the world, on exhibit here—86 carats, surrounded by 49 smaller diamonds! legend has it that a poor man found the rough diamond among a pile of rubbish, brought it to a jeweler who gave the man three silver spoons in exchange for it. once it was cut and polished, many claimed to be the original owner. there is a holy relic section, which has on display what they claim is moses' staff. no photo of this chamber, which was full of beautiful blue printed tiles! so i just bought a book about it and posed by the exterior wall:
tomorrow: river cruise along the bosphorus and where we shopped!