After a Turkish coffee, head out today to explore Sultanahmet. By the way, just around the corner from the Four Seasons, near the Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya, is a bank of ATMs which are the best in this area of town. Check out the Hagia Sophia which is among the world’s greatest architectural achievements and is more than 1,400 years old. In the rear are a series of four mausoleums which you can visit through a separate entrance. I really loved the splendid Byzantine mosaics. Most of these are found in the gallery upstairs which is accessed by ramps from the lower level. Don’t miss this.
Across the street near the corner, on Yerebatan Caddesi, is the amazing Basilica Cistern. This is a vast underground water cistern, with the roof held up by large Corinthian and Doric columns which are beautifully lit. Make sure you walk to the end to see the two large stone Medusa head bases supporting two columns.
For lunch, enjoy a traditional Turkish meal at the House of Medusa (how appropriate since you just saw the Medusa heads in the Cistern). This restaurant is on Yerebatan Street at No. 19, just up from the Cistern. Found in an old mansion, it has a nice outdoor terrace and garden and attractive inside dining rooms.
After lunch explore the famous Blue Mosque. Enjoy the wonderful courtyard, Ixnik tiles and beautiful inside domes. Make sure you check out the men washing their feet in special taps outside the mosque. Women, I believe, need to cover their heads so pack appropriately. You may have to wait a while until prayers are over for admittance.
Just outside the mosque is a Mosaic Museum, the Istanbul Crafts Center, which never seemed to be open, and a small crafts bazaar called the Arasta Bazaar which has many small shops, some of which serve tea, coffee and snacks. I purchased some wonderful Uzbeki suzzanis from one of the stores. These are very popular textiles and are being used for throw pillows and to upholster chairs and benches here in the United States.
For dinner, I recommend Rami Restaurant at Utangac Sokak No. 6. (0212) 517 6593. A block or so from the Empress Zoe, it is located right across from the Arasta Bazaar. It is a beautifully decorated Ottoman style restaurant in an old house with amazing views of the Blue Mosque. Make sure you request a table by the window. I loved item #24 on the menu, the elbasan tara, an ottoman style lamb dish with amazing sauce. I also enjoyed drinking Turkish red wines at every dinner! Check them out.