On our third and final day in Istanbul we started out close to home with a climb up the Galata Tower. We’d walked by the tower a couple of times, but decided to save the visit for a clear day. The tower was built in 1348 (though it’s gone through restorations and several roof replacements since then) and at the time of its construction was the tallest building in the city.
From the top you get amazing 360 degree views of the city, the Bosphorus, and the surrounding areas. It was pretty cool to see the whole of Istanbul laid out in front of us and to see all the landmarks we’d visited so far.
After Galata Tower we again crossed the Golden Horn to Eminönü, where we spent the majority of our trip, this time to check out the Süleymaniye Mosque. It was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent (hence the name), was constructed in the mid-1500s, and is the second largest mosque in the city.
When we arrived at the mosque the first things that struck me were the exterior gardens and the rows and rows of domes that seem to encapsulate every built inch. We wandered around the perimeter for a while, sticking our heads through open gates and archways, before making our way inside.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is much less elaborate inside than the Blue Mosque, but the huge domes, impossibly large chandeliers, and vibrant carpet were striking nonetheless. I also found this mosque to be slightly less touristy than the Blue mosque and there seemed to be more people using the space for its intended purpose – prayer.
Following our tour of the interior we wandered to the back of the complex where we stumbled upon some amazing views and another adorable stray. They were all over Istanbul and I wanted to take them all home, clean them up, feed them, and find them proper homes!
Our last activity before we headed back to Scotland was a cruise on the Bosphorus. We walked back towards the Galata Bridge where we caught our boat and were on our way.
We’d done boat tours in other cities and have found it a relaxing, informative way to see a different side of the city. This tour was no different and the accompanying audio guide gave us plenty of information about the areas and structures we passed.
The mansions and palaces lining the straight were just incredible. Many of them were built by Ottoman sultans and other members of the upper class during the 19th century and several of the palaces are open to visitors.
We also saw the Rumelihisari or Rumelian Castle, a medieval fortress built by Sultan Mehmed II in the 1400s. The fort, juxtaposed against the mansions, palaces, mosques, and modern suspension bridges was a reminder of the long and ever changing history of Istanbul.
So that was Istanbul. My first real taste of a non-Western (not completely western anyway), non-Christian majority country. It’s very much a blend of east and west and a perfect manifestation of its position straddling two continents. It wasn’t on the top of our Europe bucket list when we moved to Edinburgh, but I’m so glad the collapse of our Middle East trip led us here instead. I can’t wait to return one day to explore more of Turkey.