Oct 162016
 

October 15, 2016

A boat ride up the Golden Horn is worth the trip if you have the time. I have already written about the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and the fascinating gravestones that surround the mosque. A trip to the Pierre Loti Café can be incorporated into the same visit if you plan ahead, if not, a trip to the Pierre Loti Café just for the view is also worth the trip.

Golden Horn of IstanbulIf you are staying in the Sultanhamet you can catch a ferry from Eminönü to Eyüp but if this is your plan, ask someone for very, very specific directions to the Eminönü Ferry landing, it is hidden in an out of the way spot near the bus station.

You can see the remnants of the industry that once lined the area.

You can see the remnants of the industry that once lined the area.

The Golden Horn, or Haliç in Turkish, is a horn-shaped fiord fed by two small streams. It is a natural harbor where the Byzantine and Ottoman fleets once anchored.

During the Byzantine period the entrance was blocked by a huge chain to stop unwanted ships from entering.

In the beginning of 16th century Leonardo da Vinci designed a bridge to be built over the Golden Horn for the sultan, alas it was never built.

Golden HornIn the first half of 18th century the Golden Horn was famous for its tulip gardens where the upper crust came to enjoy the flowers, row their boats, and watch the sunset.

Parks have sprung up along the Golden Horn underneath the sprawling neighborhoods of Istanbul

Parks have sprung up along the Golden Horn underneath the sprawling neighborhoods of Istanbul

With the population explosion in the 1950’s it became an industrial area with industrial waste and serious sewage problems. The 1980s brought clean-up programs and, as one can see, the area is a delightful place to enjoy a boat ride or hop off and enjoy the neighborhoods.

The Red Castle

Phanar Greek College

A structure that you will pass high on the hill is the Phanar Greek Orthodox College the oldest surviving and most prestigious Greek Orthodox school in Istanbul, Turkey. The school, like all minority schools in Turkey at present, is a secular school.

Established in 1454 by Thessalonian Matthaios Kamariotis, the locals call it  The Red Castle or The Red School.

Designed by the Ottoman Greek architect Konstantinos Dimadis, the building was erected between 1881 and 1883 with an eclectic mix of different styles. The large dome at the top of the building is used as an observatory for astronomy classes and has a large antique telescope inside.

You pass by the Rahmi M. Koç Industrial Museum A typical industry museum showcasing items such as a submarine, classic cars, railway carriages, an out-of-service Bosphorus ferry and a Douglas DC-3 aircraft as well as a re-creation of an old Ottoman cityscape.

Another area you pass is the Rahmi M. Koç Industrial Museum. A typical industry museum showcasing items such as a submarine, classic cars, railway carriages, an out-of-service Bosphorus ferry and a Douglas DC-3 aircraft as well as a re-creation of an old Ottoman cityscape.

Tram to Eyup Istanbul

The white between the trees are tombstones from the extremely large cemetery of Eyüp Sultan Mosque

When you get off at Eyüp walk just a little ways to the bottom of the tram that takes you up to the Pierre Loti Café, for the cost of one transit token.

The ride up is not all that spectacular as the glass in the tram bubbles is not real clear, but once you are at the top, you get a wonderful view of the Golden Horn running through the immense city of Istanbul.

You can either ride the tram back down, or you can walk down to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque past many of the newer gravestones.

View from the Tea House

View from the Tea House

Water taxis abound in Istanbul, for some reasons the ones at Eyup look like Venitian Gondolas

Water taxis abound in Istanbul, for some reasons the ones at Eyüp  look like Venetian Gondolas

Make sure you take the time to have tea at the café, it fits importantly into one of the great myths of Istanbul.

The teahouse is dedicated to French naval officer and novelist Pierre Loti. According to legend during Loti’s stay in Istanbul in 1876, he gazed from this exact location in search of inspiration for his first masterpiece, Aziyadé.

Aziyadé and Le Mariage de Loti were both published anonymously, but their huge success in France propelled Pierre Loti into fame.

Aziyadé is semi-autobiographical, based on a diary Loti kept during a 3-month period as a French Naval officer in Greece and İstanbul in the fall and winter of 1876. It tells the story of the 27-year-old Loti’s illicit love affair with an 18-year-old “Circassian” harem girl named Aziyadé. Although Aziyadé was one of many conquests in the exotic romantic’s life, she was his greatest love, he would wear a gold ring with her name on it for the rest of his life. Forming a love triangle, the book also describes Loti’s “friendship” with a Spanish man servant named Samuel, for which most critics believe, based on Loti’s diary entries, was some sort of homosexual affair. Importantly it also describes Loti’s love affair with Turkish culture which became a central part of his “exotica” persona.

This visit to the mosque was on a Saturday, and the area was very crowded. It makes for a fun and interesting scene for people watching.

Walking the plaza in front of the mosque

Walking the plaza in front of the mosque

You can buy anything from prayer beads to ice cream

You can buy anything from prayer beads to ice cream

After taking the ferry back, strolling the busy streets of Istanbul on Saturday can be a thrill unto itself.

Walking along the waterfront

Walking along the waterfront

Finding trinkets wherever you go

Finding trinkets wherever you go

 

Oct 152016
 

October 14, 2016

There are so many places to explore in a city that covers almost 600 square miles with a population of over 14 million people.

sabanci museum Istanbul One that is worth venturing out for is the Sakip Sabanci Museum. The museum’s permanent collection of the Arts of Calligraphy is comprehensive and stunning. It is comparable, and in my opinion slightly superior, to the Calligraphy Museum in Sultanhamet.  Located about 30 minutes by public transportation from the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul, it can be a trek, but is worth every moment.

horseIn 1925, Prince Mehmed Ali Hasan of the Hidiv family of Egypt commissioned the Italian architect Edouard De Nari to build the villa, now the museum’s main building, as a family summer house.

The mansion was purchased in 1951 by industrialist Hacı Ömer Sabancı from the Hidiv family to also be used as a summer residence, at that time it came to be known as Atlı Köşk, “The Mansion with the Horse”, because of the statue of a horse that was installed in the garden; the statue is the 1864 work of the French sculptor Louis Doumas.

The gardens of the museum are scattered with old ruins.

The gardens of the museum are scattered with old ruins.

sabaci museum istanbul

Do not go to the museum without planning on dining. In the museum is Changa, an award-winning restaurant that is worth seeking out for the food, and then it is accompanied by a view of the Bosphorus to make your day perfect.

Squash flowers stuffed with a piquant Lado cheese

Squash flowers stuffed with a piquant Lor cheese pine nuts and basil, sitting on a spoonful of Hoisin Sauce

Lamb braised to perfection with home made noodles

Lamb braised to perfection with home made noodles

Chili infused poach pears with mastic ice cream and Pişmaniye

Chili infused poach pears with mastic ice cream and Pişmaniye

The view from our table at Changa

The view from our table at Changa

A stroll along the water is a must after such a meal.

Walking the Bosphorus *Walking the BosphorusYou can view the yali that line both sides of the Bosphorus. Yali literally means “seashore, beach” and is a house or mansion constructed at the immediate waterside, almost exclusively on the Bosphorus. These were usually built as second homes.

Most date from the 19th century and are finely worked wood construction. The Yali of today are some of the most expensive homes in Istanbul, and a few are listed as the most expensive homes in the world.

An unrestored Yali on the Asian side

An unrestored Yali on the Asian side

Yali

Looking across the Bosphorus to the Yali on the Asian side

Looking across the Bosphorus to the Yali on the Asian side

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Stop in at one of the four most famous hotels along the Bosphorus for a waterfront cocktail. This fun cart is at the Four Seasons

Stop in at one of the four most famous hotels along the Bosphorus for a waterfront cocktail. This fun cart is at the Four Seasons

Now an underpass at one time this was part of Çırağan, once an Imperial Ottoman Palace, now the Çırağan Palace Kempinski Hotel

Now an underpass at one time this was part of an Imperial Ottoman Palace, The Çırağan, now the Çırağan Palace Kempinski Hotel.

Peek through the gates at the Dolmabahçe Palace, or better yet, go visit.

Peek through the gates at the Dolmabahçe Palace, or better yet, go visit.

People Watch

People Watch

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Enjoy the sunset over the Bosphorus

Enjoy the sunset over the Bosphorus

Sep 222016
 

September 22, 2016

I wanted to write about a few things to wrap up this part of my Istanbul trip. This is also a great place for me to post some pictures that have no rhyme nor reason.

One of the shop owners on my street, they are all suffering badly from the lack of tourism

One of the shop owners on my street, they are all suffering badly from the lack of tourism

Turkey is changing, for good or bad is not my place to say. I had an opportunity to talk to a few people about Erdoğan’s “New Turkey”. One gentleman that spoke no English uttered “crazy” I laughed and said yes, that emboldened him, and he finished the conversation with “hate”.

I visited cemeteries one day, this is what a non-muslim cemetery looks like in town.

I visited cemeteries one day, this is what a non-muslim cemetery looks like in town.

A gentleman in his mid 20s told me, while he did not want to sound prejudiced, he was tired of seeing women draped in black with their faces covered. He was especially angry that his favorite bar in the airport, where he says goodbye to his overseas girlfriend, had been closed. He was sure it was because Erdoğan is trying to make Turkey a total Muslim country. I could not disagree, it is what I am seeing also.

A fisherman in the town of Camakkale

A fisherman in the town of Camakkale

If you are unaware of Turkish history I suggest you read about the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Following WWI Atatürk embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. Under his leadership, many good things occurred, especially the fact that women were given equal civil and political rights. In 1924 Turkey outlawed the Mogul symbol, the Fez, veiling of women was discouraged, and western clothing for men and women were encouraged.

The headscarf was never officially banned by Atatürk, but with a constitutional principle of official secularism, the Turkish government has traditionally banned women who wear headscarves from working in the public sector. The ban applies to teachers, lawyers, parliamentarians and others working on state premises.

In 2007 Prime Minister Erdoğan campaigned with a promise of lifting the longstanding ban on headscarves in public institutions. This was not a very popular concept.

In June 2008, after much back and forth in parliament, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that removing the ban was against the founding principles of the constitution. The highest court’s decision to uphold the headscarf ban cannot be appealed.  Erdogan, however, has managed to circumvent the Constitutional Court by throwing everyone out and appointing his own people.  The head scarf is not accepted in government offices and in the military.  It will be interesting to see when it becomes mandatory, and how long until that is the only covering women will be wearing.

The Trojan horse, a sales gimmick, at the dig site of Troy.

The Trojan horse, a sales gimmick, at the dig site of Troy.

I feel fortunate to be here at this time. The Turkish people are some of the most accommodating, and kind people. Their economy is suffering and it is not their fault. Tourism has dropped off remarkably. So many places I have visited I was told that, had I come last year I would be in a crowd of thousands, when I visited Troy, I was the only person in the entire park.

I stayed at the Sirkeci Mansion at Taya Hatun Sokak #5. The hotel is absolutely perfectly located, the rooms are just divine and the staff could not have been nicer or more accommodating, I cannot recommend them enough.

Saffron Zerde Turkish dessertMy dear friend Bing suggested I lunch at Nar Lokanta on the roof of the Armaggan building, a very, very chic store. I had intended to, but as is common in Istanbul, I got lost. I asked for directions and I got even more lost. Sadly I had a plane to catch. I did, however, make it in time to have the dessert that Bing had recommended, or maybe not, as he couldn’t remember the name. What I did have was Safranlı zerde, that with a cup of Turkish coffee, was absolutely worth the effort to find the place, next time I will leave enough time to do a full meal.

Fish Sandwich in IstanbulSince I did not get to eat lunch I asked if my driver would stop at the Galata bridge so I could run under the bridge and get a fish sandwiches. If you do not know what I am talking about, on the European side, under the bridge are restaurants, at the end are sidewalk stands selling nothing but grilled fish on a white bread roll with shredded cabbage. There is nothing else on the sandwich and it is such an Istanbul experience I would never leave without having had one. Thanks to my very accommodating driver, and I mean that, what he did was completely illegal, i.e. stopping on the bridge while I ran, I scored my sandwich.

Looking down onto the town from one of the seven hills

Looking down onto the town from one of the seven hills

This is my second trip to Istanbul so I had the luxury of time, and therefore the chance to get farther than the Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu. This is when I realized how huge Istanbul is. It is a town of 14 million people, and with that it has traffic and humanity everywhere.

Istanbul has one of the finest, most inexpensive and most understandable transit systems in the world, but you still need to take a bus, driver or cab from the airports and this is where you get to see the traffic situation first hand.

It takes one hour to go from the Sultanahmet to the domestic airport, about the same time it takes to get to the International airport. I realized if I ever wanted to rent a car, I would find someplace outside of the town to do so, as once you leave the city the country is wide-open spaces.

One last comment, after the bombings and the “coup” many people were concerned about my being here. I feel as safe as ever. I walked everywhere as a single woman with a camera around my neck and never felt threatened. Yes the storeowners will follow you for blocks trying to get your business, but that is a completely different type of “hassle”.

Sitting in the evening, sipping on a beer and enjoying the atmosphere

Sitting in the evening, sipping on a beer and enjoying the atmosphere

It has been raining, but fortunately never enough to be a bother, the temperatures have been hovering in the mid to high 70s, perfect weather.

An abandoned art deco building in the center of town

An abandoned art deco building in the center of town

Sep 202016
 

September 20, 2016

The Grand Bazaar needs no words, photos will do all my talking. You might like a little history however, so here goes. The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops, and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. In 2014, it was listed No.1 among world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. the Grand Bazaar is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world.

The bazaar has been an important trading center since 1461 and its labyrinthine vaults feature two domed buildings, the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly enlarged in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1894 underwent a major restoration following an earthquake.

The complex once housed two mosques, four fountains, two hamams, and several cafés and restaurants. In the center is the high domed hall of the Cevahir Bedesten.

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Buy a scale to keep the merchants honest

The Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Brooms

Chess boards of every color and size

Chess boards of every color and size

The tea pot shop

The tea pot shop

Sieves of every size and shape

Sieves of every size and shape

Skewers for Kabob

Skewers for Kabob

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The paper stop

The paper stop

Bread and Pastries

Bread and Pastries

Candy

Candy

Olives

Olives

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Spices

Spices

Fish

Fish

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Have your shoes shined

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Hot roasted chestnuts

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Even the men’s mannequins are unique

Jewelry

Jewelry

Lamps

Lamps

The center hall

The center hall

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Potpourri

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The juice stand

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This is a unique form of kebab in a jar

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Roasted corn dripping in butter

Hope you enjoyed!

Sep 202016
 

September 20, 2016

This is not my first time in Istanbul, so if you are looking for a rundown on the highlights, such as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, I am sorry.

The symbol of Istanbul

The emblem of the town of Istanbul was designed by Metin Edremit, after winning a 1968 contest put on by the Municipal Administration.

The lower part of the emblem represents the Bosphorus, the river that separates Istanbul into two parts, Europe and Asia. The city walls of the historical town are shown on each side. The major draw for tourists is said to be the famous mosques and their minarets, those are shown as Istanbul’s skyline.  These sit atop seven triangles representing the seven hills on which Istanbul was built.

You will find the symbol everywhere, including in this wrought iron fence along the metro

You will find the symbol everywhere, including in this wrought iron fence along the metro

The walls of ConstantinopleYou are still able to see parts of the old city walls, or The Walls of Constantinople, built when Istanbul was Constantinople and the capital of the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great. They were the last great fortification system of antiquity, and one of the most complex and elaborate systems ever built.

Theodosian Walls of IstanbulThe walls surrounded the city on all sides, protecting it against attack from both land and sea.

A double walled portion of the wall was built by Theodosius II in AD 412-22. The famous double line of the Theodosian Walls contained 11 fortified gates, 192 towers and four miles of wall. It was built of red tile alternating with limestone blocks.

Entry through the Walls of ConstantinopleAlthough the other sections of the walls were less elaborate, when well-manned, they were almost impregnable for any medieval besieger, saving the city, and the Byzantine Empire with it, during sieges from the Avars, Arabs, Rus’, and Bulgars, among others.

Theodossian Walls of IstanbulThe walls were largely maintained intact during most of the Ottoman period, until sections began to be dismantled in the 19th century, as the city outgrew its medieval boundaries. More of the wall was demolished in the 1950s to make way for a roadway. Despite the subsequent lack of maintenance, as you can see, many parts of the walls are still standing. A large-scale restoration program has been under way since the 1980s.

Eyup, Istanbul

Eyup Sultan Mosque

Eyup Sultan Mosque

It is impossible to describe how many grave sights are in this area, they go on forever.

It is impossible to describe how many grave sights are in this area, they go on forever.

The Eyüp Sultan Cemetery is one of the oldest and largest Muslim cemeteries in Istanbul, it hosts graves of Ottoman sultans and court members, grand viziers, high-ranked religious authorities, civil servants and military commanders as well as intellectuals, scientists, artists and poets.

Eyup Sultan MosqueThe cemetery was very popular to the Ottoman people, who wanted to be buried next to the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (576–circa 672 or 674) a close companion of Prophet Muhammad. After the Conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, a tomb was constructed above his grave and the mosque, Eyüp Sultan Mosque, was built in his honor. From that time on, the area now known as Eyüp has become sacred, and many prominent people request burial in proximity of Abu Ayyub.

I was told this was the grave of an executioner, I do not know if that is actually true.

I was told this was the grave of an executioner, I do not know if that is actually true.

Among the most interesting graves are of those of the Ottoman-era public executioners who were not allowed to be buried in public cemeteries. A separate burial ground, called the “Executioner Cemetery” existed on the Karyağdı Hill aside the Eyüp Cemetery. Their burial took place only in two cemeteries in Istanbul, and secretly during the night. The headstones were blank without any name and date in order to avoid retaliation by the relatives of the executed persons. Unfortunately, only a few executioner graves have survived up to date.

An what is a cemetery without a few thousand cats?

An what is a cemetery without a few thousand cats?

If you get to the mosque, make sure you take the time to visit the Pierre Loti Cafe, which I did on a separate day, and you can read all about here.

Fatih District of Istanbul

The Valens Aqueduct, a Roman aqueduct, was the major water-providing system of the then Eastern Capital of Rome, Constantinople. Completed by Roman Emperor Valens in the late 4th century AD, it was maintained and used by the Byzantines and later the Ottomans.

Aqueduct of IstanbulThe construction of a water supply system for the city (then still called Byzantium) had already begun under the Roman emperor Hadrian. Under Constantine I, when the city was rebuilt and increased in size, the system was expanded.

Valens AqueductThe Valens aqueduct was merely one of the terminal points of this system of aqueducts and canals – which eventually reached over 160 miles in total length.

The exact date that construction on the aqueduct began is uncertain, but it was completed in 368 AD.

Istanbul AqueductThe first row of arches is built with well-squared stone blocks; the upper row is built with four to seven courses of stones alternated with a bed of smaller material with iron clamps. The width of the aqueduct bridge is approximately 25 feet. The pillars are approximately 122 feet thick, and the arches of the lower order are around 13 feet wide. A survey performed in 2009 showed that the pillar’s foundations were about 20 feet below where they are today.

The Sehzade Mosque

The Sehzade Mosque

The Sehzade Mosque sits next to the ancient aqueduct and has an impressive series of mausoleums as well. There are five in the funerary garden to the south of the mosque. The earliest and largest is that of Şehzade Mehmed. The interior walls are covered with multi-colored unglazed Iznik tiles, and the windows have stained glass. An unusual feature, and something that made photographing difficult, is the rectangular wooden throne over Mehmed’s sarcophagus, which symbolized his status as the heir apparent.

The tomb of Shezad Memed

The tomb of Shezad Memed

A close up of the windows in the tomb of Shezad Mehmid

A close up of the windows in the tomb of Shezad Mehmed

The tomb of Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha

The tomb of Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha

Tomb of Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha, son-in-law of Murat III, who died in 1601

Tomb of Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha, son-in-law of Murat III, who died in 1601

To the south of the Şehzade mausoleum is the tomb of Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha. Rüstem Pasha was the son-in-law of Suleiman the Magnificent.

An example of grave stones scattered outside of the mausoleums.

An example of grave stones scattered outside of the mausoleums.

This was an unusual day spent visiting sites that are well off of the beaten path.  This day required an over 12 mile walk and at least 8 tram tokens.

Tram tokens are used every time you get on a tram, when you leave the tram, even to make a connection, you must buy another token.  Tokens at this time are 4TL or $1.34.