The weather in Istanbul has been gradually improving, and we have been slowly moving our activities outside. Sunday was still overcast but not cold, so we used that day to visit the Topkapi Palace on top of the hill behind the Hagia Sophia. Construction on the Topkapi Palace began in 1459 and it was the primary residence for the Sultans until nearly 1856 when the court moved over to the Dolmabahce Palace.
The palace grounds today hold the Hagia Irine Church (not usually open to visitors) with its legendary acoustics, the Archaeology Museum, along with the exquisite palace and grounds and the relics and Ottoman treasures (including the arm and scull of John the Baptist and the sword of Mohammed). We spent most of the day wandering the grounds and admiring the beauty of the building and the view from the hill. This sight is one of the top attractions listed in most tour books and it is certainly not one to miss.
On Monday the sun came out, the temperature rose and we ventured out doors to do a modified version of this National Geographic Walking Tour. We skipped the attractions that we had already visited and instead used the tour to see the French Quarter and the more modern part of Istanbul on the other side of the Golden Horn.
Our tour took us from the Galata bridge, up the steep, narrow street to the Galata Tower, then up the colorful Galip Dede Caddesi - a cobbled lane lined with musical instrument shops, and then along the famous İstiklal Caddesi - a shop-lined pedestrian avenue.
We returned to the Galata bridge for a fish-wich lunch from one of the fishing boats by the bridge before heading back to the old town for the afternoon.
To old again
Later in the evening we returned to Istiklal to celebrate Christmas eve at the Duch Reformed church and to dine. The highlight of our evening trip was a trip in the first subterranean urban rail line in continental Europe (the second oldest in the world). The Tunel funicular, has only two stops and it takes you from the Galata Bridge to the bottom of Istiklal.