On the second day in Istanbul, I started my day with visiting Topkapi palace, strolled down to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and then make my way across Galata bridge: from Europe to Asia within a walking distance. You can read more posts about my experience in Istanbul here.
Over the course of researching for my trip, I learnt that Topkapi palace is highly-regarded, understandably being the throne seat of the Ottoman Empire, I expected glamour and the display of wealth, culture and art fitting of a palace but little that I expected what they managed to achieve at the height of their empire. The details of the decorations, elaborately designed ceramic tiles and beautiful Islamic calligraphy were just mind-blowing. The visit to Topkapi Palace turned out to the highlight of my stay in Istanbul; I visited the place just when it opens the door and get to have the entire place for myself for awhile before being stormed by the crowd.
The best part of the palace is Harem section where the private chambers of the Sultan are located. I read that there is a daily limit for the admission to Harem section and that was the reason why I visited early but it didn’t seem that way when I was there but maybe that’s because I was really early.
One great reason to visit Topkapi palace is for Privy Chamber that houses the Chamber of Sacred Relics, containing the vast collection of holy relics considered to be the most sacred relics of the Muslim world: the cloak of Prophet Muhammad, hair relic from of his beard, the sword of David and the staff of Moses among many. For one who doesn’t belongs to the faith, I could only imagine the symbolic significance of seeing the holy relics with your own eyes.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum
After finishing my visit to the Topkapi Palace, I walked over to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum housing rather impressive amount of artifacts and it is a place where you can spend for hours going through the sections. My intention is to see the Babylonian Lion and the Islamic ceramic arts.
Egyptian Spice Bazaar
Whilst there is one main building for the bazaar, I assume it has expanded over the years, spreading over to nearby streets. The streets are practically a maze to navigate through, teeming with energies from all the market goers and shop sellers makes the walking rather pleasant even though I got lost in the streets most of the times.
Going into the main bazaar, all the colors and aroma bursts in front of me. I love visiting markets because they usually tells me a little bit about the daily life of the people. Apparently, the main bazaar is not the right place for that. Yes, the market is really interesting with all the dried fruits, sweets & desserts but I can’t imagine the locals buying these for their home; definitely not Turkish lamps or key chains. The nearby streets feels more like a local wholesale market for sewing materials, accessories and clothes that seems rather dubious.
I revisited the bazaar a few times during my visit, hopping to see if I could crack my way into the local scene as possible as a tourist can but didn’t work out at all. So, maybe this is not the right place but seeing all these colors again worth coming back.
I dropped by to Yeni Cami (New Mosque) near the Egyptian bazaar. While it is not as grand as Sultan Ahmed mosque, the place really feels like a place of worshiping for the locals who works in the area. A few times that I passed by, I saw many people washing themselves in preparation for their prayers.
Galata Bridge to Asia
After finished walking around the bazaar area, I walked over to the Galata bridge: the bridge where you can walk across from Europe to Asia and back again in 15 minutes. (Do watch out though, there are spam artists around the bridge). The view of Istanbul Europe side with the minarets from Sultanahmet mosques dominating the skyline at the sunset is breathtaking.
I contemplated about going up the tower after reading the mixed reviews from other travelers but I went up in the end. There isn’t any queue and they have a lift to bring you up to the top floor, so why not? Yes, the view wasn’t fantastic as mentioned in the reviews but I enjoyed the breeze carrying the scent of the sea and looking at the Bosphorus where the east meets the west.