Wandering around the Grand Bazaar area, we came across the 16th century Beyazit Camiisi (mosque). Like many structures in Istanbul, this too was built after the destruction of the earlier Fatih mosque due to an earthquake. On entering the mosque we had flashbacks of the Hagia Sophia and as it turned out, this was indeed patterned like a smaller scale version of it. That’s not to say it’s any less impressive.
A little distance away we then reached the mausoleum of Sultan Mahmut II, it also includes 2 other Sultans and their close family members. Of interest wrt the Sultan is that he had gotten built a warship which was the largest in the world for quite a while. Also notable was his role in the abolishment of a corrupt military corps that both extorted money from the state and dictated government policy. Beside the structure is a relatively small graveyard with other prominent members of the court and families.
As the day drew to a close, we were drawn back to the waters of the Bosphorus- just because it seemed like such a microcosm of Istanbul and we daresay Turkey. People of all shapes, sizes and attires, tourists, street-side food vendors, children having a ball of a time, all in the backdrop of the calm waters and squawking seagulls.
Our personal favourite of the street side food was the Dolma not in the least due to the cheery sellers who even fed Anand a free Dolma since we shared a few words with them and complimented their pictures on our camera.
We decided to have a meal by one of the sea-side restaurants overlooking the Bosphorus. We incidentally had an Afghani waiter who, on knowing we were from India, cheered up and admitted he was a major Salman Khan fan! We tucked into our meal of grilled fish, babaganoush and bread, particularly unhappy that the next day would be our last day in Istanbul, for now.
We’d chosen our only “fancy” stay for our last night in Turkey just to end the trip on a high.
We slept deeply and woke up fully refreshed to tackle our breakfast in a relaxed manner at the hotel’s buffet.
Well refreshed, we checked out and leaving our luggage at the reception, headed to the Dolmabahce Palace. It was the 19th-century residence of the Sultan to suit more his more contemporary style, taste and needs after their stay at the much older Topkapi palace. It is also more recently known for being the residence of the founder of the Republic of Turkey- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and housed him to the last days of his life. Once we got there, we were first welcomed by a very long queue of visitors. It didn’t faze us but we realised that the “palace” spanned an area of 11 acres and we just wouldn’t be able to enjoy it at leisure and catch our flight that afternoon. We, therefore, decided to just go around the exteriors of the palace and admire it from afar.
We instead decided to wander around the Spice bazaar and stumbled into a miniature calligraphy /art exhibition. The signboard was instantly evocative of my attempt at reading the book “My name is Red” centred around miniaturists and therefore piqued my curiosity.
However, there was much more to it. The same building was a heritage structure with so much colour and art that we wished to just get lost in the space. We wandered from room to room gasping at its beauty and pointing at every wonderous corner that was crafted so meticulously.
After all our wandering and wondering, however, it was finally time for us to leave.
If we got an opportunity to visit Turkey again, in addition to the blue waters of Fethiye, we’d definitely want to spend a few more days just in Istanbul- we’d warmed up to the city, a city that, for us, glistens with its generous, kind and very good-looking people, enjoys its food, embraces colours, rebuilds its structures and societies despite earth-shattering tragedies, and celebrates its traditional arts- we’d just be a bit more wary of the pickle juice the next time!
Hoşça kal! (Stay well)