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Istanbul - Part 2 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

Hagia Sophia is undoubtedly one of the most important and imposing religious buildings in the world. The gravity defying domed basilica remains an architectural wonder, providing the blueprint for countless Ottoman-era mosques. Sparkling with gold mosaics, Hagia Sophia is surely the ultimate, must see Byzantine building in Istanbul.

Built more than 1, 000 years after Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque is a divine statement of voluptuous domes and gorgeously spindly minarets. The interior space gleams with the dreamy hue of blue Iznik tiles from which its name derives. The trip by ferry to the fine arts Sakip Sabanci Museum is half the fun. Set in a sumptuous private villa, the often overlooked museum is one of the best in the city. It has touring exhibitions along with its own collections concentrated on exquisite Ottoman calligraphy. Plan your visit in time for lunch on a terrace overlooking the strait.

If you only do one thing then see The Basilica Cistern. The subterranean depths and a sunken palace known as the Basilica Cistern are not for everyone, yet this marvel of Byzantine engineering remains unmissable. Invisible beneath the streets of Istanbul, it’s an urban fascination in the bowels of a 1, 500-year-old building supported by 336 ancient columns. Look for the twin blocks carved into snake-haired Medusas, and the lazy carp idling in the shallow waters.

This tremendous melting pot of cultures is now a major destination for both business and tourism so, naturally, a number of luxury hotels have sprung up in recent years. There are too many to name in this short overview, you will be spoilt for choice.

You can’t possibly eat your way around Istanbul in one visit, but it’s well worth a try. Driven by the cultural and culinary influences of ancient Greeks, Romans, Venetians and the Ottomans, it’s no surprise that the gastronomic scene in Istanbul is equally vibrant and colourful. It is diverse with aromatic Asian dishes, Mediterranean mezze and European classics along with the omnipresent variations of the local köfte.

Breakfast is a huge deal in Istanbul, usually taken banquet style with trays of freshly baked flatbreads to soak up the array of delicacies on offer, some off the radar yet worth leaving your hotel to experience.

It’s not your regular fresh fruit and a skinny latte, but often lemony rice stuffed mussels, salty white cheeses, muhammara which is an addictive red pepper and walnut spread; bal kaymak, a delicious clotted cream with honey. Try kuru fasulye, a white-bean stew in fruity olive oil and tomato sauce which is Turkey’s unofficial national dish, served at breakfast or any time of the day. Look for large fresh figs, and eat eggs scrambled with tomato and chilies alongside condiments of pickled everything.

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