Maria and Derek's Travels

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Istanbul - What To Do in One Day - Part Two

November 11, 2016

With Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace already under our belts, we still had half a day to go, ready to explore more of the Blue Mosque, wander the Basilica Cistern, get lost in the alleys of restaurants and end up at Galata Tower before heading back to the airport late that night.

We entered the impressive Blue Mosque through the huge courtyard, greeted first by a few friendly carpet salesmen trying to get us to stop by their shop after our visit.  Passing through the gateway, the courtyard opens up to a magical square surrounded by huge minarets (towers), high archways and domed ceilings.  It's a spectacular entrance, and I believe it was also used in the early scenes of the movie Argo, where Ben Affleck walks in to a mosque that is supposed to be in Iran.

During non-prayer hours, visitors can enter the mosque (though you may have to don one of the shared robes to cover up properly), so we took a look inside.  A huge carpeted room with sweeping ceilings, all covered in delicate tilework and beautiful mosaics of elegant colors and Arabic script lay before us.  We shuffled through the hushed room, amazed by the beauty and peace of the place.

Moving on, we decided to visit the Basilica Cistern.  This underground cave of stately pillars was originally built in 532 AD, sometimes using leftover pillars from other temples.  It was designed to store water for the aqueducts.  Apart from the history, it's simply an impressive place with magnificent lighting contributing to the eerie, somber mood, lighting up just the bases of the 336 pillars in the huge cave.

Next, we decided to wander the streets a bit, eventually finding a wonderful spot for dinner with pide, a traditional Turkish dish that is sort of like a long pizza, though usually without the cheese.  After dinner, we still had time to walk across the bridge over the river to the Galata area, where we followed some steep alleyways up to the Galata Tower.

Finally, we decided it was time to head back, so took the train back to our hostel, grabbed our bags and headed to the airport for our 2 am flight over to Singapore.  All in all, we both loved Istanbul (it was my second time there), and the fascinating mix of cultures, incredible history and beautiful architecture definitely make it a place worth visiting.

Me and Maria outside the Hagia Sophia.  Starting off with rain, it turned into a beautiful day for us.

The interior courtyard of the Blue Mosque.  Absolutely beautiful.

Practicing my ninja kick skills in the courtyard of the Blue Mosque.  Not perfect form, but not too bad.

The inside of the Blue Mosque.  The details of the place are unbelievable, and visitors are allowed to enter with proper attire during non-prayer times.

As a woman, Maria had to cover up, so we bought this colorful scarf just outside the mosque.  You can also borrow ones for free, but we figured this will be very useful during the rest of our trip in SE Asia.

A close-up of the beautiful domes atop the Blue Mosque.

In addition to having a great view of the Blue Mosque from our rooftop patio, this is the view looking the other direction from the patio.  That's the Bosphorus separating the European side (where we are) and the Asian side of Istanbul.

Dark clouds coming in over the Hagia Sophia, though we didn't get any more rain that day.

Built in 532 AD, the Basilica Cistern is an amazing underground reservoir, just a few minutes' walk away from the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque area.

336 pillars stand in the still water, majestically lit and creating a beautiful, ethereal atmosphere.

Pide - a Turkish version of pizza, usually served without cheese (though it can be added).  I opted for the minced beef one in the front, and Maria chose a diced chicken one.  Both were delicious and cooked in a traditional brick oven.

Our last stop for the night at the Galata Tower.


  1. Thanks Derek & Maria for your most interesting travel stories and excellent photos. I enjoyed everything I read. I am very envious that you can afford to travel for 5 months in one trip! :) You are a good travel writer and I will read more of your writing! My girl friend and life partner have done some traveling (including Niagara Falls) and we both thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventures there.

    Bill Morgan

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Brief Bio

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Taking advantage of our laptop lifestyle and wandering this world together. Maria Renee is an online health and fitness coach, and Derek is an actuarial seminar instructor. Traveling together since 2015. Also see

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