Things I Have Learned In Istanbul

Things I Have Learned In Istanbul

“Life cant be that bad, I’d think from time to time. Whatever happens, I can always take a walk along the Bosphorus”   Orhan Pamuk.

 Istanbul is the only city built on two continents – Asia and Europe.

Istanbul was first known as Byzantium . The name of Constantinople came from the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who rebuilt the city on seven hills, to match the famous seven hills of Rome. The name finally changed to Istanbul in 1930 when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk proclaimed the Republic. To ensure the usage of the new name, Turkish authorities resent all mail and packages that were sent to a previous city name.

Istanbul has been capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, yet it isn’t the capital city of modern Turkey, which is Ankara. Istanbul is however the largest city in Turkey.

The Basilica Cistern is the largest and most spectacular of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city. The cistern  was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor  Justinian.  It was used to bring water to the Imperial Palace and later Topkapi Palace. The cistern looks like an eerie underground cathedral with Roman columns and Medusa. It was the setting for the 1963 James Bond film, from Russia with Love. James Bond once again appeared in Turkey  more recently in Skyfall. We had dinner at the same restaurant.

Istanbul has the biggest car ferries in the world on the Sea of Marmara.

  Suleyman the Magnificent wanted a mosque qppropriate to his title. He commissioned architect Mimar Sinan to build the Suleymaniye Mosque which was completed in 1557. The mosque had a madrasa, houses, infirmaries, caravansarais, a medical school, hamams, a Hadeth school, a hospital and shops. It is the largest mosque in Istanbul. The Suleymaniye Mosque is a beautiful example of Ottoman Islāmic architecture. There is a wonderful light spiritual feeling inside. (inner courtyard, recycled columns, interior, exterior view)

Be physically and mentally prepared to shop in the Grand Bazaar. Be thirsty for you will drink many cups of tea.  Wear comfortable shoes because there are over 5000 shops and sixty streets. The street names refer to the different trades and crafts.  I must have been on leather jacket street. Be in a good mood to deal with shopkeepers who will try to lure you in. You will have many best friends and marriage proposals.  Hone up on your bargaining skills. Allow plenty of time to explore. Take advantage of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice for energy.  Most important  – never forget your luggage allowance or you will spend the rest of your trip wondering how you will get all the leather jackets home. The Bazaar has come a long way from the original construction in the fifteenth century. They now  have a website.

Bibliophiles will want to head towards Sahaflar Çarşısı (Old Book Bazaar), which is found in a shady little courtyard west of the Grand Bazaar at the end of Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi. The book bazaar dates from Byzantine times. Its stallholders sell books both new and old.

The Spice Market (also known as the Eygptian Bazaar because a few centuries ago it was the market for goods brought from Egypt) was built in the seventh century near the Galtaea Bridge on the Golden Horn. It is across from the ferry docks. Spices, dried fruits, olive oil, cheeses, sausages, jams, nuts and seeds, teas, lokum  (Turkish Delight), sweets, caviar and other edibles fill most of the shops. It has become a lot more touristy in the past ten years. It is not easy to make a living just selling spices and so many other shops are now in the market as well. I should have bought saffron.

The Pera Museum has a lovely collection of European, Ottoman and Turkish paintings. They have interesting temporary exhibitions as well.  It is closed Mondays.  My favorite new painting “The Turtle Trainer”  by Osman Hamdi Bey is there.

Rustem Pasha Mosque was commissioned by Suleyman’s son in law and built by Sinan. It was completed in 1561 It is located in an old and busy market area. The mosque is known  for its beautiful Iznik tiles from the sixteenth century covering entire walls. It is a very special mosque and really lovely inside.

The Bosphorous is the biggest canal in the world.

Hagia Sophia is the most important building in Istanbul. It was built in the fourth century and is the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.

People who live in Istanbul are called  Istanbulites.

The Asian side of Istanbul is a great place to live if you are a Turkish Yuppie. (T-uppie?) They have cool restaurants and stores, gyms, many Starbucks and a Pinkberry.

The historic Sirkeci Train Station is in Istanbul. This was the last stop on the Orient Express “king of trains and train of kings” – between Paris and Constantinople from 1883 to 1977. Agatha Christie was one of the passengers of this famous train. She wrote her  novel “Murder on the Orient Express”  in Istanbul at the Pera Palace Hotel ( I stayed there)  Her book fans always want to see her room.

If you ride trains in Turkey, they’ll most likely not be from Istanbul, as all intercity trains from Haydarpasa Station on the Asian side of the Bosphorous have been cancelled until 2014,  while the rail line eastward is upgraded.

Istanbul has the third oldest subway in the world, built in 1875. It is 573 meters long and located in the Tunel neighborhood in the Beyoglu district. The  London subway was built in 1863 and the New York subway was built in 1868.

Istanbul has the only soccer stadium where you can see two continents. Turkish people take their soccer seriously. It is not unusual to see the police ready for a big game.

The first recorded international treaty in the world was the Treaty of Kadesh between the Hittite and Egyptian Empires, Hattusilis III and Ramses II, in c.1275 BC. You can see it  at the  Istanbul Archeological museum. I wish I could say that I saw it, being that I was at that museum, but I was obsessed with the Alexander Sarcophagus.

The Alexander Sarcophagus was made in the fourth century (Greek) and is covered on four sides with an exquisite bas-relief of Alexander the Great in action. It was discovered in an excavation led by artist Osman Hamdi Bey who became director of the museum.  It was at first thought to have been Alexander the Great’s sarcophagus but that was found to be untrue.  The figures are quite lifelike as is the movement and pain on the faces. It is among the most important classical antiquities ever discovered. It is totally intact and in almost perfect condition. It is said to have been done by as many as six sculptors (which is what I figured out by staring at it for a while)

The Golden Horn is entirely in Europe. It leads into the Bosphorus, which is the water that divides the two continents,  which joins the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, which in turn leads into the Mediterranean.

Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Sultans for four hundred years. Construction began in 1459 by Sultan  Mehmed II and continued over centuries. Architect Sinan redid the kitchen quarters in the sixrteenth century. It is a good example of Ottoman architecture. It houses the famous Topkapi Dagger ( made famous by the movie Topkapi) and important holy relics from the Muslim world including Mohammed’s cloak and dagger.

The Harem of the Topkapi Palace  has more than 400 rooms and was home to   the Sultan’s  mother,wives, concubines, children, servants and eunuchs. Many of the rooms and features were designed by architect Sinan.

When Istanbul was part of the Ottoman Empire there were over 1,400 public toilets all around the city. At the same time, there weren’t any in  Europe.

I don’t know what to say about the Dolmabahci Palace after looking at so much beautiful pristine  Mosque architecture.  The design could be described as Baroque Rococco Neoclassical Ottoman style.  They were not afraid to use too much gold.  The Dolmabahci Palace is the largest palace in Turkey and  has a beautiful view of the Bosphorous.  It cost five million Ottoman gold coins  in 1856. It was home to six Sultans and Ataturk. The world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier is in the center hall. Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and one of the great staircases has banisters of baccarat crystal.  Turks  may come to see this because Ataturk died here but they do not like this palace. It was a lot of money to spend at a time when life was not easy for most people.

Four bronze horses which  decorate  San Marco Cathedral in Venice today, were taken from Istanbul (Constantinople back then) by the Crusaders in the 13th century. I took a picture of the stolen horses when I was in Venice if they need evidence.

The Blue Mosque is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets, which is the largest number you can have in a mosque. It is called the Blue Mosque because of the 20,000 blue Iznik tiles inside.  The façade is  built in the same way as the Suleyman mosque. It was designed by a student of Sinan. It Is exquisite but a major tourist attraction and always very crowded. You must just stare at the ceiling if you want to feel any spirituality.

Istanbul Modern is the first and only modern art museum in Istanbul.  It opened in 2004 and is home to modern Turkish artists and Istanbul fashion week.

.The most precious remnant  of the Hippodrome and oldest monument of Constantinople is the Egyptian Obelisk, which was erected by Pharaoh Thurmosis lll  in Karnak 1471 BC. (this looks exactly like my Washington Monument photo – we are copycats)

The old city walls are a nice place to hang out.

Whatever happens, I can always take a  cruise down the Bosphorus.

For more info read Top Ten Things in Turkey

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/my-top-ten-favorite-things-in-turkey/

Top Ten Meals In Turkey

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/top-ten-meals-in-turkey/

Iyi Yolculuklar.

JAZ

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Things I Have Learned In Turkey

.“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Things I’ve Learned  In Turkey

It’s hard to find turkey in Turkey ( but I found one in a cage at the caravanserai on the silk road).

Skembe (tripe soup) is a popular hangover cure.

If a hotel  in Turkey has a good personality, it is not five-star.

The tulip originated in Turkey and was exported to Europe during the Ottoman Empire. There are tulip tiles in many of the old mosques. (Rustem Pasha Camii , Istanbul)

In some villages, if a girl doesn’t know weaving and a man cannot make pottery, they shouldn’t get married.

Most Christians were illiterate in the time of Constantinople.  Now Turkey has a literacy rate of one hundred per cent.

Fresh Turkish bagels in Istanbul are better than Jewish bagels in New York. Pastirma is Pastrami in Turkish. It does seem strange having amazing pastrami and bagels  in Turkey. ( no mustard or cream cheese)

The world’s tallest man is Turkish (8 feet 1 inch).

Turkish toilets are like Japanese toilets.

Hillary Clinton and I both stayed at the Lugal in Ankara,

People can go into any mosque in Turkey.You do not have to be a member of a mosque –even on the Bayram  (high holidays).I happen to be in Istanbul on the Bayram ( last four days of the Muslim calendar). On the first day ( while many  Muslims are in Mecca) according to the story of Abraham sacrificing his son, livestock is slaughtered and shared with the poor, friends and relatives.  Traditionally the skins are given to the Turkish Airforce to make jackets.  Every part of the lamb must be used for God.  It is a holiday for visiting the sick, elderly, honoring the dead and giving to charity.  It is a bloody day in the villages.   I ate some amazing lamb meatballs wrapped in phyla dough in honor of the holiday. ( Uc Serefeli Camii, Edirne)

There is no such thing as buying too many leather jackets in Turkey. Everything is best quality and best price. (www.kircilar.com.tr)

The highest peak in Turkey is Mount Agri (5,166 m). It is also said to be the place where Noah’s Ark came to rest.(Mount Ararat)

It was in ancient Anatolia that writing was first used by people.  The first coin in the world was minted in Turkey as well.

Anatolia is the birthplace of Homer, King Midas, Herodotus and St Paul the Apostle.

Turkey is the only secular Muslim country among all the Muslim countries in the world. The thirteen countries surrounding Turkey are unstable. “You take Iraq, Iran and Syria and we will take your problems.”

Pide is Turkish pizza. Pita is not. (Nar Lokantsi restaurant, Istanbul)

It is better to read a book about Ataturk written by a foreigner because it will be unbiased. Turks worship him and rightly so – He is responsible for the way Turkey is today. (Ataturk memorial, Ankara)

Turks accidentally became Muslims. They started as shamans and encountered Islam on their way to Turkey.

Restaurants connected to gas stations in Turkey are delicious. Don’t try this in the U.S. (  If you are headed to the ancient  Greek city of Pergamon stop at Saglam Restaurant – Mehmet Saglam -Bergama)

We are luckier than the ancient Greeks because we got to take a cable car up a very steep hill  to  the Acropolis of Pergamon. We are also lucky that it wasn’t windy.

Turkish people take care of the old, sick and homeless in their families. If someone is homeless, the Turks blame the family for not taking care of them. If they don’t help them “they put them in the fire.” I think I saw one homeless person in the time I was there. Where was his family?

According to a Global Sex survey, Turkey is the world’s most virile nation.

I like the name Turkish Delight much more than the actual candy. I like the green m and m  pistachio candies a lot.

Don’t tell a Greek or Turk this but their food, dessert, liquor , coffee, evil eye jewelry, prayer beads, backgammon sets and seaside resorts are very similar.

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If you are a woman, the only establishments that you need to be aware of are the Turkish tea houses. If you are in doubt look around and see who else is in there.

Some hotels in Turkey have airport security. Airports have double security, first to come into the airport and then to go on the plane.

A hotel that cannot be run worse can have a restaurant that can be run best.

In a Hammam (Turkish baths), the Turkish women and children wear bathing suits. The foreigners do not . If you did not know this and you end up in a small hammam with Turkish families, it can be awkward.

It’s best to wear light slip on shoes when visiting mosques.

Julius Caesar proclaimed his celebrated words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey.

You can still get on the 6:00  car ferry from Gallipoli across the Dardanelles to Cannakale if you arrive at 5:57. (Cannakale morning)

Azerbaijan looks like a nice place to vacation. They have a lot of commercials for tourism  on Turkish TV.

Zeus was born on Mt Ida. King Priam sent his son Paris there to grow up with the bears.

Turkish carpets have double knots which make them the strongest carpets in the world.  Seeing how carpets are made are a big part of Turkish culture.

Hand woven carpets are dyed naturally.  Red – rhubarb, pomegranate; brown –wet walnut, blue-indigo, yellow-saffron, orange-onionskin and green –sage. (gallerycappadocia.com)

The Turkish government subsidizes the carpet industry. Carpets are shipped  anywhere in the world for free. Yes, I took advantage of that and also the best price for a beautiful dowry rug. (made by a village girl)

The most valuable silk carpet in the world, is in the Mevlana Museum in Konya with 144 knots per square centimeter. In the 13th century, Marco Polo wrote “the best and handsomest of rugs are woven here, and also silks of crimson and other rich colors”.

Turks introduced coffee to Europe but they do not grow coffee. Their coffee is famous for the way it is prepared. One of the few words I learned in Turkish ( a very hard language for me) is “tsekeses” – no sugar.

The property rates for homes are quoted in dollars and not Turkish lira.

According to Turkish tradition a stranger at one’s doorstep is considered “A Guest from God” and should be accommodated accordingly.

Mother in-laws in Turkey are smart. They know they have to get along with the daughter in-laws.  Daughter in-laws in Turkey are smarter, they know they have to respect the mother in-law.

Turkey provides 70% of the world’s hazelnuts; the nut in your nutella was most probably grown in Turkey.

If you happen to be on the road to Iraq and Syria, stop off in Cappadocia.

In Turkey, you can change continents several times a day. In one day, you can be in Troy, Mesopotamia, Byzantium and Constantinople.

The most important thing to bring to Turkey is pants with elastic waistbands. The food is amazing. It is a combination of Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean.

The Famous Trojan Wars took place in western Turkey, around the site where a wooden statue of the Trojan Horse rests today. There is another wooden horse that was sold to the city of Cannakale (nearby) from the Hollywood movie Troy. I saw both fake Trojan horses.( Troy, Troy, Heinrich Schliemann excavation at Troy, Cannakale-Trojan Horse from the movie Troy)

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Part of Turkey’s southwestern shore was a wedding gift that Mark Anthony gave to Cleopatra.

The are eight million Kurds living in Turkey. They are not all terrorists. The ones who are, control the drug trade through Turkey.

Iranians and Turks are not considered Arabs.

Gallipoli was the bloodiest battle in World War One.  It was an eight month campaign. In that time the total Allied deaths were 43,000. The total Turkish deaths were 63,000.  Many Australians and New Zealanders died there. (ANZAC forces) Many come to Gallipoli on April 25 which is ANZAC day. I met a few Australians in Cannakale who had come to see it. There are many memorials and cemeteries in the Gallipoli memorial park. (ANZAC memorial, location of fighting).

Quote on the Ataturk Memorial at Gallipoli ” Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”  Ataturk 1934

Whirling dervishes fascinate me. Belonging to the order of Sufism, they dedicate themselves to a life of poverty and spinning around.   They detach themselves from the here and now, to reach a state of religious ecstasy that I think can be achieved in easier ways.  Also, whirling dervishes are slow.

Turks do not throw their own garbage away in Starbucks or McDonald’s.

The opera and the ballet are state-owned and not as popular as soccer.

There are no images in mosques because God is unseen. The ban on images of people led to the development of the detailed and beautiful calligraphy that is the principle adornment of mosques and other Islāmic religious items. (Eski Camii, Edirne, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Sokullo Mehmet Pasa Mosque, Istanbul)

The only thing you have to do in Turkey is accept a drink every time it is offered. ( This will  happen in every shop you walk into. It is very time-consuming but pleasant -especially if you like apple tea or Turkish coffee).

for more info see

Top Ten Favorite Things in Turkey

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/my-top-ten-favorite-things-in-turkey/

Things I Have Learned In Istanbul

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/things-i-have-learned-in-istanbul/

Top Tem Meals In Turkey

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/top-ten-meals-in-turkey

Things I Have Learned in Ephesus

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/all-roads-lead-to-ephesus/

In Ruins

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/in-ruins/

I am “very good lucky” to have been on this trip.

Tsekkeru Edarim Turkey,  Fly Safe ,

JAZ