Be the geek at the back of your tour group with facts not even the guides all know.
1. Ostrich eggs have the magical power to keep away spiders. The Blue Mosque has a couple suspended on the chains from the central dome which only the most eagle-will be able to spot. Of course it could just be the smell of cheesy feet that the spiders object to.
2. Two of the minarets of the Haghia Sofia are not straight. Architect Sinan, of the Boy Scout ‘Be prepared’ school erected them at slightly over a 90 degree angle so, in the event of an earthquake, they won’t fall inwards onto the building.
3. Muslim ablutions continue even post-mortem and for a regular Ali, the water used is just thrown away. However, when a Sultan died at Topkapı Palace, the water was collected and left in the pool in the gardens of the fourth courtyard to evaporate in the sun. Or get lapped up by dogs, whichever came first.
4. A fortress is only as strong as the nerve of its defenders. When the Turks invaded Istanbul, the Genoese Captain of the Guard knew he was beaten and gave up the keys to the Galata Tower without a fight so he could be home in time for the football.
5. Much like London’s Millenium Dome, the public was completely against the stratospheric cost of building Dolmabahçe Palace. So Sultan Abdülmejid financed it from his own pocket and it later became a major tourist attraction. Much unlike the Dome.
6. The Underground Cisterns were discovered when someone wondered why the hole they had been throwing their rubbish into for years never filled up. Really.
7. In the 1960s one Arctic winter saw ice from the Black Sea freeze the Bosphorus completely so people could walk across from Europe to Asia. One way to solve the traffic problem on the Bridge.
8. The First Bridge – Boğaziçi Köprüsü – is a popular suicide spot. Popular with suicidees, that is, not the huge lines of cars that clog up the roads for miles back in the aftermath. 3% of attempts are survived.
9. The Spice Bazaar’s L-shape is formed by the intersection of the two ancient Byzantine streets that it was built on top of.
10. Not just for tourists, the Grand Bazaar is still a centre of commerce and currency exchange today. The dealers here find out the rates of gold and foreign currency before the banks and trading markets.
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