Scenes from Sultanahmet

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As with many of the world’s great places, images of Istanbul are instantly recognisable.  Icons are everywhere in this town, the capital of three empires over nearly two millennia.

Nowhere is this more obvious than Sultanahmet, the oldest part of the city.  Home to many of Istanbul’s most famous attractions, it sees a constant flow of people around the Blue Mosque, Ayasofia, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar.

Easy to find on public transport (the T1 tram runs straight past it), the streets around the Hippodrome are filled with stalls, restaurants and visitors from all over the world.  During the summer months Sultanahmet is best explored in the morning and late evening, avoiding both the heat of the day and the worst of the crowds.

Fishermen on the bridge

Fishermen try their luck from the Galata bridge, while Yeni Cami (the so-called New Mosque, a mere 400 years old) dominates the skyline beyond.  Just west of Sultanahmet, this busy port area is home to a never-ending stream of ferries, pleasure boats and people waiting to cross the Bosporus.

Over the water

Enroute to the bridge most water access is blocked by large buildings and even larger walls.  Straining for a glimpse of the waterway I sneaked off the pavement, down a small path and into an archway, and squeezed my camera between two railings.  Like millions of others in Istanbul, I’d apparently do just about anything for a sea view.

Street in Sultanahmet

Not all of Sultanahmet was busy.  The steep cobbled street that ran down to my hotel was virtually deserted, day or night.  With the ivy-clad wall, wandering cats and snatches of coastline, it wasn’t just a lack of fitness that caused me to pause every time I found myself here.

The writing is on the wall

A reminder on the wall above a side entrance to Ayasofia that for much of its history Turkey didn’t use the Roman alphabet as it does today.  One of the wide-ranging changes made by Ataturk in the 1920’s was to switch from the Arabic alphabet, in a successful bid to improve literacy rates.

Bear in the park

I’m sure there is some significance to the bear sculptures dotted around Gülhane Park – I just don’t know what it is.  They were pretty, though, in an odd sort of a way, and the park itself was perfect for both people-watching and lying gazing at clouds for hours.

I may have done both.

Turkish coffee

Walking along the rock wall beside the Sea of Marmara one morning, my caffeine levels dropped dangerously low. I chose a simple cafe set back from the water to savour my first Turkish coffee in Istanbul.

Waves crashed nearby and gulls screamed overhead as I soaked up both the beverage and the ambiance. It was good to be alive.

Ferry and old man

A few days later I found myself in the same spot as evening fell.  The sun was low in the sky, bathing an enormous cruise ship in its warm glow.  An old man in an orange jacket sat and watched it pass, nestled into the rocks beside the water’s edge.

I stood for a while caught up in the moment, before smiling and walking on.

Just another day in Sultanahmet.

10 Responses to “Scenes from Sultanahmet

  • Oh how I loved Istanbul! That deserted street looks so familar. I think I got lost there haha

  • Can’t believe I have stumbled across your blog at this moment… I have been reading Lauren’s blog for the last week and clicked on a link to your blog – first post Istanbul…

    Well this morning I had booked some flights to Istanbul for my girlfriend and I for my birthday in December so have enjoyed reading your posts about Istanbul!

    Thanks for the posts and love the photography as well!

    • Sounds a lot like serendipity to me! Thanks Alex, glad you’re enjoying the posts. There are a lot more Turkey articles to come in the next few weeks!

  • Have you tried the barbecued fish sandwiches by the Galata bridge at night yet?

    • wow that sounds good! Are they there every night? Will def. check them out!

    • yeah barbecued fish is must eat 🙂 all process of making these sandwiches is like little movie , and wooden small seats , and little boys trying to sell you napkins just because you are a foreigner =)))

    • You guys are definitely selling me on them! Are they on both sides of the bridge?

  • I’ve had five friends visit Turkey in the past six months and they’ve all raved about their time there.

    Shame it’s on the other side of the world and I’ve got so many countries to visit before I’m likely to get there.

    Ok, it’s not that much of a shame – but I am looking forward to tucking into some kebabs and Turkish coffee there as soon as I can.

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