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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My Top Ten Favorite Things In Turkey

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” 
—Roald Dahl 

My Top Ten  Favorite Things In Turkey

. 1.Cappadocia could be among my favorite places in the world.  The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions  years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, and caves and underground cities.

Goreme Open Air Museum is a group of cave churches and monasteries from the 11th-13thcentury.  The most famous and most restored one is Karanlik Killse (Dark Church) which is filled with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. Early Christians escaping from Roman persecution found shelter in Cappadocia.

Yunak Evleri Hotel is an amazing  Cave Hotel carved into a mountain in the ancient city of Urgup. (.yunak.com/en/index.html)

Ziggys  is not the restaurant you would expect to find in an  ancient cave city.  It is cool with interesting decor and great music . It is owned by Selim and Nuray Yuksel. Nuray is an artist and also runs a beautifully displayed  gallery filled with crafts and jewelry from local Turkish artists  downstairs.   The food is so good that we ate there both nights. ( ziggycafe.com )

Hiking through the Mushroom  Valley, Love Valley,  Goreme Valley, walking all around Urgup early in the morning

Hot Air Balloon at dawn over Goreme valley.

2.Any restaurant or menu chosen by Oguz Kaya.  I  have never eaten Turkish food before.  I had no idea it was my favorite food.  Every meal was “the best one”. We ate in expensive restaurants,   gas stations,  hotels, outdoor seaside restaurants, an organic garden , a mosque,  –even the food in Ankara airport was good. (Uzun Ev Restaurant in Behramkale, Daruzziyafe,  Ottoman restaurant in Suleymaniye Mosque by Sinan in Istanbul, Orient restaurant in Cappadocia)

3.Any mosque by architect Sinan especially Selimiye Mosque in Edirne I loved the Selimiye Mosque and it turns out that it is Sinan’s favorite mosque as well. He wanted it to be greater than the Hagia Sophia.  His genius was in his  use of form, simplicity, light and balance. It all worked when you walked in. He is also considered to be  one of the first earthquake-proof engineers. ( Selimiye mosque,1575, notice the recycled columns)

4. Hearing the call to prayer early in the morning at the Hotel Manici Kasri in Yesilkurt.  In a tiny village of stone houses at the foot of Mt Ida is this charming hotel. Yesilkurt (which I still can not pronounce – it is harder than it looks.) has the second highest concentration of oxygen in the air  in the world. It is a small hotel  with pomegranate trees and great food.  It was very quiet in those mountains and early in the morning I awoke to the call to prayer – the only sound in this village. I could have been in any mountain village but the call to prayer in Turkey always reminds me to take a minute and be in the present. (www.manicikasri.com )

5 Hammam.   I like a good hammam. I didn’t know  that until I got to Istanbul and found out what it was. You’re taken to a warm, humid room with a raised stone platform (goebektas) in the center, surrounded by bathing alcoves. The light, diffused through glass in the ceiling is soft and relaxing. You lay  on the platform (usually with other people), and you’re scrubbed cleaner than you have ever  been. They use  a coarse mitt to remove layers of dead skin and then comes the soap. A lacy cloth is used , like an icing bag, and  they blow through it to create bubbles so you’re covered from head to toe with white frothy bubbles. It is followed by a massage.

6 Hagia Sophia   I studied this masterpiece of Byzantine architecture in  school and always wanted to see it.   It was built in the fourth century as a church and converted to a mosque in the sixteenth century. It was the world’s largest cathedral for 1000 years and contains remnants of all the renovations.    It is now a museum and very crowded but I was able to block out the noise and feel the history and remember the architectural elements. I had so many questions but I  was overwhelmed and couldn’t  speak.  It was real. I was finally in Istanbul at the Hagia Sophia.

7.Drinking fresh pomegranate juice on the street and picking one from a tree and eating it.

8. “The Turtle Trainer” by Osman Hamdi Bey.  This painting is in the Pera Museum in Istanbul.  It shows a man ( self-portrait of the artist) in what looks like a religious red robe, holding a sufi flute trying to train turtles. But the turtles have no ears and a thick shell  so they probably don’t hear him.   The lesson is that change is difficult and requires patience.  Osman  Hamdi  Bey was an important artist and intellectual in the Ottoman Empire. He established the first School for the Arts in Istanbul. Who can say why a painting touches you?  But I will always remember this painting.

9. Shopping for leather, carpets,  scarves, bracelets and pottery .    Shopping again .  And again.

10. Stopping at  an empty caravanserai on the silk road from China to Europe  and hearing the call to prayer.  This time, I pictured the caravan drivers hearing the same thing.   The caravanserais were built like forts. They were a safe places for caravans.  Once within the caravanserai a weary caravan could look forward to warm food, a bath and a safe shelter for the night for both men and animals. They provided food and lodging reportedly at no charge for 3 nights and free repair to footwear. They were conveniently spaced a day’s camel ride apart. (camels can ride from sunrise to sunset. The riders worked like truckers and had their routes.)  Built to promote trade, they brought prosperity to the communities hosting them. Nobility and their entourages used them too. So did the military. (Hoca Mesut Caravanserai 1231-1239)

“Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai, Who portals are alternate night and day, How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp, Abode his destined hour, and        went his way.”             Omar Khayyam

There are countries I visit that I love and then there are countries where I leave a part of myself so I will come back. Turkey  is  a place I will return to.

For more info on  Turkey read Things I Have Learned In Istanbul https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/things-i-have-learned-in-istanbul/

Top Ten Meals In Turkey

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

Things I’ve Learned In Ephesus

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

In Ruina

Iyi  Uguslar,

JAZ