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Friday, January 12, 2007
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul II
Part 2 (as in day2)
December 31st, 2006

We started the day with a great breakfast in the hotel restaurant. By 8.30 am we were already done and ready to start visiting the wonders of Istanbul. While also looking for an exchange office, we took a walk around Aksaray.

Aksaray Valide Sultan Camii

Built in 1871 by Italian artists, this mosque is a perfect mix of different architectural arts.

More photos from the neighborhood here.

We then took the tram to Sultanahmet (the neighborhood, not the mosque situated there). The Blue Mosque was one of the two places I revisited, along with Kiz Kulesi.

Sultanahmet Mosque

Built by the architect Mimar Sedefkar Aga for Ahmet I, between 1609-1616. Its six minarets are unique. Surrounded on three sides by courtyards with five portals, the portico is covered by 30 cupolas supported by 26 marble columns with stalactite capitals. In the centre of the main courtyard there is a hexagonal fountain. The mosque itself has three doors. The largest opens into the main courtyard, and it is this door which is used as the entrance today.

The mosque is almost square in plan. The central dome is supported by four marble piers with four arches sprung between. The dome is flanked on all four sides by a semi-dome with cupolas at the corners. The extraordinary height of the dome (23 meters) allowed for an unusual number of widows (260 in all) which provide the interior with a warm, overall light which illuminates the rich tiling and tracery. According to the sources, there are a total of 21, 043 faience tiles, each valued at 18 silver akches.

The sultan's gallery - mahfil - is in the left corner of the mosque, and has a fine mihrab decorated with mosaic and green tiles. The mother-of-pearl inlay door, gilded faience and filigree relief-carved marble balustrades are beautifully mixed. The mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is so-called due to the faience revetments. Those on gallery level are countered by tracery on the dome in similar tones. The dome is also inscribed with the name of the caliphs.

It was from the steps of the marble pulpi - mimber - that Mahmut II declared the dissolution of the Janissary in 1826. The mihrab, also in white marble, is decorated with precious stones and a piece of rock from the Ka'ba. The mausoleum of Ahmet I, founder of the mosque, is situated in the northeast, together with those of Osman II and Murat IV.

Until the 19th century, Sultanahmet was the traditional starting point for the pilgrimage to Mecca. More photos of the mosque here.

We then walked through the park outside the mosque, on our way to Topkapi Palace. A wonderful site, relaxing, warm and simply breathtaking.

The street shops were so full of color and little mesmerizing objects that I had no idea where to look first. And I just loved the negociations!

These sherbet sellers near the mosque are fierce businessmen. They have no problem allowing tourists to take photos of them in their traditional costumes, but they may ask for payment for their work.
To see more photos, click here.

As Topkapi was closed until one o'clock, we had lunch at Sultanahmet Koftecisi. The real one! The one everyone copies! Even on the same street! Why are they not worried? Well, simple, if they are always full and customers keep coming, why bother to think about what the competition does?

Burial Sites

Walking down the tram line from Sultanahmet to Aksaray, there are burial sites on both sides of the street. Caliphs, Pashas and other important dignitaries rest here. Sultans also, but their tombs are within separate building which were of course closed at the time we were there.

What we found interesting was the fact that in each site there was a small cafe or terrace. Come see the tombs, have a coffee then nearby!

Click here for more photos.

Topkapi Palace

When the palace opened, we got in to get our tickets. There was a huge line, but luck and Ana made us get our tickets quite fast.

After the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmet the Conqueror chose a site on the Forum Tauri (Beyazit square) for his first palace. The so-called "Old-Palace" - Saray-i Atik - is referred to in the sources as a walled complex, although no traces of it now remain. After the construction of Topkapi palace, the old palace became the abode of the members of the sultan's harem who had lost favour or the wives of previous sultans.

Mehmet II began the construction of a new palace at Selaglio Point, which became known as Topkapi Saray after a shore palace near the Cannon Gate(Topkapi) of the sea walls. The walls surrounding the point, which is known as the first hill of the city, were 1400 meter long. The old Byzantine sea walls on the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn were linked up with land walls enclosing the palace known as the "Sur-i Sultan", and supported by 28 towers. The main gate, now the imperial gate - Bab-i Humayun - was formarly surmounted by a keep which was later removed. The flanking bays in the gate were also revetted in marble.

The new palace was begun withing these walls between 1472-1478, and construction continued throughout successive eras with additions being made up to the mid 19 century. The palace complex includes lodges, pavilions, state offices, dormitories and barracks, private quarters, a mosque, library and a huge kitchen. The last pavilion to be built on the site was of the Mecidiye Kosk, which is at present open to the public as a restaurant. Several pavilions and villas in the palace grounds were burnt down during a fire in 1863. All trace of them was lost on the construction of the present railway at Sirkeci.

Topkapi palace became a museum in 1924. It has undergone a number of restaurations since then. If you want to have an idea of how big the place is, think that we spent 4 hours there and we had not had the chance to see it all. Or take a look at this photo:

And we ran into a Romanian sword within the museum. The sward of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great), reason of intense discussions between the two countries. We want it back, they want to keep it, the right way is somewhere in the middle if you asked me.

Further photos here.

After Topkapi, we headed home walking, so that we could see the Grand Bazaar (its entrance only), the Istanbul University and Beyazit Mosque

The Covered(Grand) Bazar

This was the largest covered market in Istanbul. It was originally founded by Mehmet II in 1461 in order to provide traders with a safe and orderly place in whcih to do their daily business. The market was enlarged during the reign of Suleyman I and finally rebuilt to the present plan in 1701. There are a total of 65 streets within this market, which covers 30.702 square meters. It is surrounded by a large number of hans - tradin-inns, which have access to the interior of the bazaar.
Well, the bazaar was closed when we were there. A nice man told us it would be open only after we left. Tough luck!

Istanbul Universitesi

One of the main characteristics of Istanbul University is its leadership in higher education for centuries. It has played a guiding and influential role in the social and cultural life of our country. We can clearly see this when we trace the line of historical development of the University.

Istanbul University, as one of the oldest educational institutions, not only of Turkey, but also of the world, was founded when Mehmet the Conqueror conquered Istanbul. Education began to be available in theological schools ("medrese/madrasah" as they were then called) and, until the end of the 16th century, these schools were instrumental in educating the ruling cadres of the Ottoman society. However, when the "madrasahs" were no longer able to meet the needs of the modern world, a restructuring process began, and as a result, the institutions of higher education called "Darülfünun," the core of Istanbul University, were established. Through the educational reforms, introduced by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk , the " madrasahs" were abolished in 1924. As a first step in modernization, the Istanbul Darülfünun was established, comprising the departments of medicine, law, literature, theology, and science. The institution was renamed "Istanbul University" in accordance with Ataturk's University Reform, and higher education was restructured in Turkey to meet the demands of contemporary society. During these early years, Istanbul University welcomed foreign academics who fled Germany as teaching staff.

When the Turkish Republic was founded, Istanbul University was the only institution of higher education. That is the reason why it is the provider of teaching staff for all the universities in Turkey today. Many academics educated here have initiated the establishment of the other higher education institutions. Thus, Istanbul University has always been instrumental in the training and strengthening of our country's scientific cadres.

Beyazit Camii

This is the first mosque of the classic Turkish tradition, built during the reign of Beyazit II, between 1501-1506. It is best known for its unique minarets and its interior courtyard.
More photos from the area here.

Cross-posted at Light Within.

Tags: Travel Destinations, Turkey, Istanbul, Sultanahmet Mosque, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul University, Beyazit Mosque
posted by Alina @ 2:21 PM  
  • At 1/12/2007 10:55 PM, Blogger doshar said…

    the trip sounds great. I am thinking that I did not really visit all the places there properly when I went there. It makes me want to go there again.

    I think you can make a good job in tourism promotion btw. :)

  • At 1/14/2007 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice details... I've been to Istanbul in 1990. Ofcourse, I was only 8 at the time and barely remember anything.

    So I'll just assume I saw all these beautiful sights.

  • At 1/14/2007 3:28 AM, Blogger loloma said…

    Great pictures! They remind me of the time I went there. Plus I'm hungry now... I think Turkish cuisine is one of the best in the world (actually I think it's the best, but didn't want to be that straight ;).

  • At 1/14/2007 4:07 PM, Blogger LouLou said…

    Wow Alina! That was an amazing read!

    Did you take all the pics yourself?I mean, I've been to Turkey & to most of those places but your photos are nicer than anything I came back with.!

    You're still my favorite on-line travel-writer.:)

  • At 1/14/2007 8:02 PM, Blogger Alina said…

    Doshar, thanks so much! I also want to go back there again, there's so much I have not seen yet.

    Mak you should try seeing them again!

    Loloma, I also like Turkish cuisine! It is sooo tasty.

    Thanks, Lou. Yes, these photos are all mine :) You made me blush here!

  • At 1/15/2007 8:31 AM, Blogger أُكتب بالرصاص said…

    iam alwyas enjoying your photos and your repotres..!
    very nice photos!

  • At 1/15/2007 10:09 AM, Blogger Alina said…

    Thanks so much!

  • At 1/16/2007 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    its nice to visit new places and get to know part of the history and culture of that place ,that surely broadens one's horizons,
    i invite you to visit damas ,it is a city of great history and heritage:)

  • At 1/16/2007 3:31 PM, Blogger Alina said…

    Thanks Yaser, I will keep your suggestion in mind!

  • At 1/17/2007 9:31 AM, Blogger Ali la Loca said…

    Wow, this all looks so amazing. I can't wait to visit this part of the world some day, hopefully with someone as knowledgeable and adventurous as you for a guide!

  • At 1/17/2007 10:18 AM, Blogger Alina said…

    Well, Ali, what are you doing next year on Christmas and New Year's? :D I plan to go there again. Maybe this time I can finally see everything I want to see :)

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Name: Alina
Home: Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania
About Me: "This is my church. This is where I heal my hurts". It's also where I feel free and my preferred means of expression.
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