Thursday, June 4, 2015

It's Istanbul, Not Constantinople...

For our spring break this year, Hector and I decided to head off to the biggest city in Europe....can you guess which city that is? Actually I think I've already given it away, but it's Istanbul!

These are all of my favorite things we did in the city!

Spice Bazaar & Grand Bazaar:
The Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar are both indoor markets that have been around since the Ottoman Empire. They are stuffed to the gills with shop after shop after shop. Once outside of the bazaars, the shops don't stop- the entire city is an enormous market!

           One of the entrances to the Spice Bazaar

We went on a food tour on one day but it was so delicious and I had so much to say that it has its own post. If you want to see what kind of food to eat in Turkey, click here

                             Book Bazaar                     This is from a shop with a very eccentric shop                                                                                    owner who was bringing me tons of                                                                                                      scarves to try on and wanted to take a 
                                                                     picture of me wearing them all!

One of six entrances to the Grand Bazaar

We visited innumerable mosques, each one completely different than the other, and each beautiful in its own way. There are several that are famous in Istanbul- The New Mosque, The Blue Mosque, Sülimaniye, Rüstem Pasha, Hagia Sofia (which was originally a Byzantine church, then a mosque, and now it's a museum)

New Mosque-this mosque is called the new mosque because it was built the most recently, in the 1600s. This was my favorite mosque on the inside- everything was covered in meticulously hand painted tiles from Iznik.

 Blue Mosque- This mosque gets its name from the blue tiles from Iznik that decorate the inside. It is one of the most famous religious buildings in the world and was built in the 1600's in only 7 years. It was also the center of many arguments because it has six minarets which were thought to be an attempt to rival Mecca.

Süleymaniye- This is the most important mosque in Istanbul. It was built by a famous sultanSüleyman. It was built in 1550 and took only 8 years to complete. It was a campus-with a hospital, university, public baths, kitchens, and poor house.
Looking out over the rooftops to the Golden Horn and Karikoy

Rustem Pasha - This small mosque is hidden in the Spice Bazaar. It is beautiful because it is completely covered in Iznik tiles- inside and outside. It was able to be so lavishly decorated because of its creator's corruption

Hagia Sofia - This one almost doesn't count as a mosque because it was a church first, and when the city was taken over by the Ottomans, it was turned into a mosque. Now it is a museum with art from both empires. There has been a church in this same spot since the year 500, but almost nothing remains of it. Most of the interior is from the 6th century and there were many additions made by the Ottomans in the 1600's.

The Hagia Sophia with the ablutions fountain in the foreground

Solid stone doors!

Original Byzantine mosaics- On the left is Christ and on the right is the virgin with the emperor and empress paying tribute to the Baby Jesus.

 The inside of a two different mausoleums- each Ottoman Sultan has his own mausoleum with his whole family buried inside. 

Basilica Cistern: 
The cistern was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in 532. It was constructed by stealing pillars from many ancient buildings, as you can see from the Medusa statues. There are over 300 pillars now, but you can only visit a third of the original cistern. After the Ottomans conquered the city, it took them over 100 years to discover the cistern-and they discovered it because people would put buckets down through holes in their basements and bring them back up full of water, and sometimes even fish!

This teary column pays tribute to the slaves that died
during the construction of the cistern.
Medusa's head is upside down to save us from her death stare

Topkapi Palace:
This palace was built in the 1450's by the first Ottoman Sultan for him to live in. It was more a campus than just one building, and the governmental meetings were also held there. The Sultans moved to Dolmabache Palace in the 1920's. My favorite part of this visit was the Harem- this is where the Sultan's family and concubines lived and was closed off to any men except the sultan and the eunuch guards.

The royal library 

 The Imperial Room- used by the Sultan and his family to watch entertainment.

 A fountain inside the Sultan's private room 

                              The Sultans' bed                                          The Princes' quarters

                                                                                                  The eunuchs' patio

Dolmabache Palace: 
This palace was built in the 1850's because the Sultan had visited Europe and decided that he wanted a palace like theirs. You can't take pictures inside, but here are a couple from outside.

                The Imperial Door- Only  the Sultan                        Gate to the Bosphorus
                   and his men could enter here

The Golden Horn:
This is an offshoot of the Bosphorus Strait that separates the old city center and the more modern part of the European side. The bridge in this picture is the Galata Bridge. It is two stories tall and is lined with restaurants on the lower level and fishermen on the upper level.

We made our way up to a small cafe called Pierre Lotte and had a lovely coffee in the sun with a beautiful view all the way down the Golden Horn.

Chora Church: 
Or Church of the Holy Savior in the Country, this church is another Byzantine marvel- it has some of the best mosaics and frescoes of the Byzantine era. The main part of the building was built in 100 but the frescoes and mosaics are believed to be from the 1300's. This may be the most beautiful church I have ever seen. I love mosaics and these are just breathtaking.

 Galata Tower:
This was a defensive tower built in 1348, then was used by the Ottomans as a fire lookout, and now it houses a restaurant and night club. It also offers beautiful views of the city. We tried to go up at dusk, but had to wait in line so long that it was night by the time we got to the top!

                                                                                Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

                New Mosque                                                

Now I'll leave you with some other favorite pics that didn't fit into any category!

In the Arcaeological Museum: (L) Mosaics from the entrance to Mesopotamia, and (R) the oldest love poem ever written- It's about 3000 years old.

Tulip gardens

The walls of Constantinople- an enormous double wall that surrounded and protected the city for 2000 years. In the end, the Ottomans made it through and took over the city in 1453.

If you want more, keep an eye out for the next two posts: Food in Istanbul and the one I wrote about the bus tour we did of Turkey: Bussing our way around Turkey. Until next time!

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