In a nutshell. Best way to describe a long weekend away with the family. We flew over on thursday and arrived at the night time. Having never been to Istanbul and not knowing much about the city, we took the touristy thing seriously and managed to see the top 10attractions in 3 days.
Firstly we went to visit Haghia Sophia, one of the greatest icons of the Christian Church, it has stood for a miraculous 1,500 years and has survived fire, war and earthquake and outlived 2 great empires. It was a magnificant building and interior that was overwhelming. They do however charge a fortune to go in along with thousands of other tourists but the building was in amaculate condition. We saw here the 'Virgin Mary' which was breathtaking.
We also visited the Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cisterns which were built by the Byzantines to hold upto 80 million litres of water. It is also used for film locations and concerts. It was a spooky but eary place that felt cold, the water marks on the walls could still be seen but the lighting bounced of the 36o columns that supported the vast space.
Topkapi Palace was also a must see: fit for a sultan and his many wives it was not only a royal residence but also the Ottoman Empire's Centre of government. Filed with thousands of colourful tiles which were the main attraction for me as I love anything patterned was something quite amazing. Kept in tip top condition everything is well preserved, even the sultans bed was still there!!
Istanbul is a bustling city with a combination of tourists and locals, walking around the town its easy to encapture their religion as they are called to prayer and women are non existent. But it was lively, colourful and welcoming.
In the Asian side (known for this as Istanbul is the only place that lies on 2 plates : the Asian and Europe plates) I saw lots of grafitti, but not tackly kids spelling their name but institutions publicising themselves. Whether they felt oppressed or promoting themselves it was very cool. I even saw the Kino4 film 'The Corporation' film stencilled onto the wall - very weird and de ja vu as I had just worked on it.
Amazing and a must see experience to all those who havent been.