Sunday, 10 August 2014

The pleasure of exploring at your own pace: Istanbul, City of Mosques

One great benefit to solo travel is that you get to go on your schedule. When in Istanbul, as with so many cities during tourist season, it is important to get to the sites early: as the day unfolds more and more people venture out. Queues are not my favourite things at the best of times but in the heat, it can be unbearable.

I set out early in the morning to visit the Chora Museum: The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, the most exquisite example of Byzantine churches surviving. In the 16th century, during the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque and in 1948, after the war, into a museum. It was raining and so nobody else was there. Perhaps this wasn't a bad idea as it was pouring rain, but I was grateful for having peeled myself out of bed as there was not another tourist in sight so I had the place to myself.

Much of the Museum was closed as it is being reconstructed but what was open was spectacular and only encourages me to return.

 Below you can see how the mosaic is added to the rebuilt wall

I've been here for a week now and, although people told me that I should travel outside of Istanbul, I thankfully didn't listen. I understood, and rightly so, that this city is abundant in Mosques decorated with Byzantine mosaics and I wanted to get my fill.

After I left, the sun came out and I headed to Istiklal Caddesi, the main pedestrian thoroughfare for a coffee at the House Cafe . What a perfect iced coffee: frozen coffee cubes in a glass, add milk as desired and wait for it to melt.

As a solo traveller you can comfortably sit while your coffee melts and watch the passers-by. Perhaps, if you're lucky enough, you will be serenaded by little people busking . .

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