Istanbul is one of those cities that had always suggested me since I was little. The mythical Constantinople, the fantasy of a thousand and one nights, the colossal Ottoman Empire and its army of half moons that swept merciless villages. The Bosphorus and the crossroads of cultures that unite the busiest port in the world with the frontal clash of old Europe and the Asian continent.
So it was an obligatory trip and together with a friend we decided to travel through these lands for three good weeks.
We arrived in Istanbul and the embarrassment welcomed us as if it were a sedative that appeases the energies. We got on the bus Havas that left us in the center of the city and its ups and downs and labyrinthine streets confused us a bit. With the map under my arm - I recommend taking it at all hours - we arrive at the mythical Santa Sofia. Behind her and Topkapi Palace we find the backpackers area where most hostels are located. Most have a terrace and breakfast included with the price - although it is still some tomato, olives, cucumber and a hard-boiled egg. Depending on the time of the year, you must book in advance. We had to kick the streets for a while but fortunately we found a place without too many problems but with few bargaining options.
We leave the backpacks and immediately start visiting the city. The good location of the hostels allows you to visit the area of Topkapi Palace, Santa Sofia and the Blue Mosque on foot without problems. So we divide the days into areas to visit.
It is ideal to organize because Istanbul is huge and with three days they will not be enough if you want to see the city as it deserves. It can be done but with so little time you will end up shattered and with a few sores on your foot.
So during the first day in Istanbul we dedicate it to contemplate the spectacular and historic Santa Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Cistern and surroundings.
Santa Sofía or Agia Sofia, the famous mosque was largely under construction so we could not admire it as it deserved. It is the only mosque that is no longer considered official, that is, it is no longer dedicated to worship. It began to be built in 537 and a few architectural styles have passed through it as is evident. It leaves no one indifferent. Some repeat the visit to satiety and others, for some reason, disappoint them. Not surprisingly, this place has been the largest religious center created for ten long centuries.
We subsequently visited the neighboring Blue Mosque. They are separated by Sultanahmet Square and together they form one of the most famous photos of Istanbul. The mosque is undoubtedly an extraordinary work of art in geometry and good taste. It may not ooze as much past and fervor as Santa Sofia but it is certainly a poem in the eye with its splendid carpets decorating the vast interior of the mosque. This, unlike Santa Sofia, is a cult and you must control your manners, clothes and follow an orderly visit inside. It has six minarets and at the time of its construction it was something unheard of as that number was only owned by Mecca and that turned out to be an affront to the Islamic world. To avoid discussions, the Sultan ordered to build another minaret in Mecca and the matter was settled.
The cistern: More than one will pass by. It is a small cabin that is located next to Sultanahmet. They charge entrance and one thinks, "Well, there won't be much for that ..." I advise you to take a look. It is the largest cistern that was built in the Byzantine era. It is one of the most amazing places in Istanbul. Enter it, look for the jellyfish heads.
Already tired, after the trip and our first contact with Istanbul, we decided to fill our stomachs with the first purely Turkish kebab and returned to the hostel. Two more days of Istanbul were waiting for us before leaving for the interior of the country, so it was better to guard forces for what still awaited behind the ancient walls of this great city.