Honestly, visiting this country was beyond my expectation. During my religious journey (Umrah) on last March – April 2019, I did not plan to visit Turkey as my initial visit. I just planned to go to Madinah and Mecca directly and focus on my worship. However, my plan has changed. Prior to Mecca and Madinah, I wanted to expand my knowledge about Islam, which could raise my solitude in prayer. This was one of my reasons to explore Islamic teachings to give the initial picture of Islam.
As long as we know that there are a lot of historic Islamic relics in Turkey. We could see varieties of beautiful building with strong characters, Mosque in harmony, museum and other relics. As the example, we could see some relics of Prophet Muhammad, his friends and other prophets, such as sword, beard, mustache, tooths, turban, and other interesting legacies in Topkapi Palace. However, to keep private, some of the stuffs were being saved in the closed box and we only could see during the special event. We also could see other legacies in other places in Turkey.
In this post, I would like to share my story about the places that I have visited in Turkey within 4 days. Hopefully, this story could inspire you to visit Turkey as the first destination before going to Mecca and Madinah.
Hello, Istanbul …
We has arrived in Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Saturday morning and it was really cold. I forgot how many degrees the weather was but it was really freezing. We were frozen out of sudden in the middle of Istanbul city. However, it was OK for me because I preferred cold weather rather than the hot one. Cold air is able to make my skin healthier as it can moisture and hydrate my skin in proper way.
This could be the warning of always checking the weather condition before starting the trip.
The cold weather and strong wind require us to wear :
- The thick jacket or a winter jacket. One layer of long-sleeved T- shirt should be enough under the winter jacket.
- Slayer. The wool slayer would be great to prevent the strong wind and this also could add the outlook to become more stylish.
- Gloves. A pair of gloves was needed to warm our palms, even-though these could limit our movement. If we used to take some pictures during traveling, the gloves with a holes in the finger would be a great choice. Because, we could still touch the camera button or mobile phone button by using our finger.
- Sneakers and don’t forget about socks. These foot wears were very good in facing the cold weather and also gave the convenience feeling during walking.
- Backpack or sling bag. Don’t ever complicate your life during traveling. Just use the simple and flexible bag, which were able to release our both hands to do other things rather than handling our bag.
- Sunglasses. Beside giving the best look of you after having lots of sleep during flight, sunglasses could also keep our eye from the the strong wind and the dust.
What’s inside the Old Town of Istanbul?
During our stay in Turkey, we were guided by Mr. Erdam as our friendly tour leader. He was continually explaining about the history of Turkey, the historical places, foods, culture, Turkish language and other things about Turkey in details during our road trip. And we were very excited listening to his explanation, as he explained it in Indonesian language very fluently. As a historical lover, I really think that his explanation was very useful for me in understanding more about Turkey and Islamic culture.
As an initial trip, we started from the old town area of Istanbul. We catch a bus from the airport and continued by walk in the old town area. The area was very beautiful with hilly road and it filled with small restaurant and cute shops on the sides. This was very unique and to be honest, it has the antique city style. Back to the hilly road, as we did the exploration by walk, we were very tiring because we should walk in the hill and we should step in the uneven stones. However, it was good as our exercises after 9.5 hours flight.
The plaza was our starting point to begin our journey in the old town. I think it was located in the middle of the old town. It was very beautiful wide area with lots of benches for resting, comfortable pathway and lots of birds flying that gave us nature feelings in surround area. There were also some historical buildings along the way, such as monuments, dome, museum, Mosque, and other unforgettable places. Just keep reminding your ways to avoid getting lost in the crowd.
Hagia Sophia Museum or Blue Mosque ?
I know that it was not a choice but we had to choose. Blue Mosque, which was our desirable place to visit, was under renovation at that time. Basically, we could still go inside the Mosque but we could not see the beauty of the ceiling as it was being covered for the renovation. We were a little bit disappointed but we understood the situation.
Then, we decided to have a view from outside the Mosque. Took some pictures with Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia as the background. Hopefully, next time I have the chance to go inside Blue Mosque.
Hagia Sophia Museum
Then, we turned to Hagia Sophia Museum, which was just located opposite the Blue Mosque. Hagia Sophia was one of the destination places that I dream about. I heard about the beauty of this place years ago, including the information about the ornaments’ combination between Church and Mosque. Currently, this place was functioned as the museum. However, there was a rumor that it will be functioned as a Mosque in the future and it has not confirmed yet. Through this trip, I wanted to see the museum directly with my eyes and built the engagement with the beauty of the architecture.
Beside enjoying the museum on the spot and get the information from our tour guide, I also looked into the Hagia Sophia Museum website and did some exploration further on. As stated in the website, this museum has been called “the eight wonder of the world” by East Roman Philon. At the beginning, Hagia Sophia was used as a church for 916 years and it was the biggest church. Because of the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, Hagia Sophia was changed the function into Mosque, which has been ended for 482 years. However, in 1935, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum based on the order of Atatürk and the Country of Ministers’ decision.
My experience while stepping inside the museum, I had the feeling of ellegancy. This was the reason why. The museum was so big and most of interiors were styled premium classic, starting from the floor, pillar, wall, windows, podium, rails, doors, ceiling and other ornaments that we could see in Hagia Sophia. The interior was decorated with mossaic and marble pillars. I saw the rich style in it. The ceiling was high, which could make the air circulation works well and the wider feeling would be accomplished.
The side that attracted my eyes was the platform with the picture of Maria in the glass window together with the caligraphy of Allah SWT and Prophet Muhammad SAW. I think it had different functions previously and they just kept both signatures there, which could maximize the beauty of the sides and it became the focal point. Besides that, the domes were also shower its beauty strongly, which were Cupola dome, semi dome and apse.
The other thing that I had my interest onnwas the hallway. I really love the hallway, which was located near the exit door. If we looked at the end of the alley from the starting point, we could see there was the bright light inside the door, which looked like a fire. Actually, it was just the light but its reflection was very beautiful.
Because of the limited time, we did not go to the upper floor. To be honest, I was desired to go to there as I was very curious what’s in there. Then, we just stayed in the first floor and did our exploration while finding the great spot for photo shoot.
The Information about Hagia Sophia
- Winter : 9.00 – 17.00 (01 November – 31 March)
- Summer : 9.00 – 19.00 (01 April – 31 October)
Entrance Ticket : 60 TL per person
What are the tips while in Hagia Sophia?
- If you want to buy souveniers of Hagia Sophia but you are in a rush, don’t worry you can find the souvenier shop inside the museum. There were also some shops just outside, near the exit door. So, the souvenier’s problem is solved!
- The very convenient and the ‘easy to find’ spot should be appointed as the meeting point. On our last trip, our meeting point just in front of the entrance and exit doors, which was located near the coffee shop as well. This was very friendly meeting point.
- Even-though the beauty of Hagia Sophia reach the high level, we better follow our tour guide for detail explanation while enjoying the beauty of the museum instead of just enjoying the beauty by ourselves.
- The ambience of Hagia Sophia was warm colour or yellow. So, if you want to take the picture, just set it manually and put some points in cool area (blue).
- And this would be the tips for enjoying the Old Town of Istanbul. Walking is better because there were many destinations that were convenient reaching by walk, instead of by vehicles.
Where to next?
In the Old Town area, we visited Topkapi Palace, the border line of Bosporus straight and other places but I will share my NEXT story in my NEXT post.
Thanks for reading.