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[Virtual Travel] Turkey + Bulgaria Day 10: Istanbul

9am: Breakfast at Sofa Cafe

Sofa Cafe is located on the ground floor of Noble Hostel. It reminds me of a Paris-style coffeeshop. You can spot the beautiful Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) from the alfresco dining area. Take a walk at the nearby Arasta Bazaar if you will like to grab some souvenirs.

10am: The Blue Mosque

Actual name, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, was a friday mosque during the Ottoman era. It was nicknamed as “Blue Mosque” as blue tiles were used to decorate the interior. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Sultan Ahmed I. After the end of Turkish war in 1606, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power. It would be the first imperial mosque for more than 40yrs.

Sultan Ahmed I wasn’t very successful in regards to warfare, so he came up with the idea of building a huge mosque that had to surpass the Hagia Sophia (at that time the most respected mosque) in size and beauty to appease Allah. It was built opposite of Hagia Sophia and next to the Hippodrome, on the exact same spot where the Great Palace of the Byzantine Emperors was standing, using the existing foundations and vaults. The mosque combines the best of two architectural styles, a mixture of traditional Islamic architecture with Byzantine elements, taken from the adjacent Hagia Sophia.

11am: Lunch at Marbella Restaurant & Bar

Marbella is a romantic Turkish-style seafood restaurant located near the coast, get a seat at its rooftop alfresco area for great sea views. Their menu offers both international and Turkish dishes.

12:30pm: Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace is the largest palace in Turkey, and one of the most glamorous palaces in the world. It served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856-1887, and from 1909-1922; Yildiz Palace was used in between. The palace was ordered to be built by the Empire’s 31st Sultan, Abdulmecid I, built between 1843-1856. The Sultan and his family lived at Topkapi Palace previously, but felt the medieval Topkapi was lacking in contemporary style, luxury and comfort, as compared to the palaces of the European monarchs, thus he decided to build a new modern palace. The construction costs 5 million Ottoman Lira, equivalent to about $1.5 billion in today’s values. The huge expense placed an enormous burden on the state purse and contributed to the deteriorating financial situation of the Ottoman Empire.

3pm: Ortakoy Mosque

The Ortakoy Mosque is one of the most popular locations of Istanbul. It was ordered to be built by Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid and was built between 1854-1856, on the ruins of the Cantemir Palace. The dome was originally built using bricks, but cracks were developed over time and it was going to collapse anytime. It was reconstructed using concrete. The mosque can be viewed from the Bosphorus Cruise that brings you from the Asian side of Istanbul to the European side.

4:30pm: Walk Around Taksim Square + dinner

Taksim Square is considered as the heart of modern Istanbul, with the central station of the Istanbul metro network. It is also where the Republic Monument is located, a notable monument built in 1928 to commemorate the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. “Taksim” means “distribution”, where Taksim Square used to be where the main water lines from the north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other parts of the city, hence its name. Taksim Square is now a major tourist and leisure district.

6:30pm: Back to Hotel to Rest

After dinner, head back to the hotel to take a rest. Flight back to Singapore is departing at 2am.

11pm: Check-out of Hotel, to Istanbul Airport


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