Highlights

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Istanbul embraces two continents, one arm reaching out to Asia, the other to Europe. Through the city's heart, the Bosphorus strait courses the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. The former capital of three successive empires - Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman - today Istanbul honors and preserves the legacy of its past while looking forward to its modern future. Indeed, it is Istanbul's variety that fascinates its visitors. The museums, churches, palaces, great mosques, bazaars and sights of natural beauty seem inexhaustible. As you recline on the shores of the Bosphorus at sunset, contemplating the red twilight reflected in the windows on the opposite shore, you understand, suddenly and profoundly, why so many centuries ago settlers chose to build on this remarkable site.

At times such as these, you feel that Istanbul is truly one of the most glorious cities in the world.

Beylerbeyi Palace, a fantasy in white marble amid magnolia filled gardens, is on the Bosphorus' Aegean Shore. Used as the Sultan's summer residence, it was offered to the most distinguished foreign dignitaries during their visits. The Kariye Museum, the 11th century church of "St. Savior" in Chora, is, after St. Sophia, the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul. Unremarkable in its architecture, inside, the walls are decorated with superb l4th century frescoes and mosaics. Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigor of Byzantine art. Restored wooden houses in the area surrounding the church offer tea and coffee in a relaxed atmosphere far removed from the city's hectic pace.



Across the street from the Ibrahim Paşa Palace is the Museum of Turkish Carpets, which contains exquisite antique carpets, and kilims gathered from all over Turkey. During the journey, you'll see the green parks and imperial pavilions of Yıldız Palace. On the edge of this park, on the coast, stands Çırağan Palace, now restored as a grand hotel. Refurnished in 1874 by Sultan Abdülaziz, it stretches for 300 meters along the Bosphorus shore, its ornate marble facades reflecting the swiftly moving water. The great field tents used by the Ottoman armies on campaigns are displayed in the Military Museum. Other exhibits include Ottoman weapons and the accoutrements of war. The Mehter Takımı (Ottoman military band) perform Ottoman martial music between 3:00 and 4:00 p.
m.

Dolmabahçe Palace stretches for 600 meters along the European shore of the Bosphorus. The vast reception salon, with 56 columns, and a huge crystal chandelier weighing four and a half tons and lit by 750 lights never fails to astonish visitors: At one time, birds from all over the world were kept in the Bird Pavilion for the delight of the palace's privileged residents. Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, is died in Dolmabahçe. The Galata Tower, a Genoese construction of 1348, rises 62 meters high over the Golden Horn. From the top, you see a marvelous panorama of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. In the evening, tourists enjoy its popular restaurant, nightclub and bar. Rumeli Hisarı was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452 prior to his capture of Istanbul.
Completed in only four months, it is one of the most beautiful works of military architecture in the world.

Known as Leander's Tower, Kız Kulesi is one of the romantic symbols of Istanbul. First constructed in the l2th century on a tiny island at the entrance to Istanbul's harbor, the present building dates from the l8th century.

People have been meeting for years in Beyoğlu district's Çiçek Pasajı for snacks and seafood specialties. Also in this district, the narrow Nevizade Street, near Çiçek Pasajı, is the best place in Istanbul for eating Turkish specialties and drinking rakı.

Originally built as a köşk or pavilion by Mehmet the Conqueror in the l5th century, the Çinili Köşk, which houses the Museum of Turkish Ceramics, contains beautiful Iznik wares from the l6th century and fine examples of Seljuk and Ottoman pottery and tiles.
The Archaeological Museums are found just inside the first court of Topkapı Palace. Included among the displays is the celebrated Alexander Sarcophagus among its treasures of antiquity. The Museum of the Ancient Orient displays artifacts from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hittite civilizations. Facing St. Sophia stands the supremely elegant, six-minaret, imperial Sultanahmet Mosque. Built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet, the building is known as the Blue Mosque because its interior gleams with a magnificent paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles. The cascading domes and four slender minarets of Süleymaniye Mosque dominate the skyline on the Golden Horn's west bank. Considered as the most beautiful of all imperial mosques in Istanbul, it was built between 1550 and 1557 by Sinan, the renowned architect of the Ottoman golden age.
On the crest of a hill, the building is conspicuous by its great size, which the four minarets that rise from each corner of the courtyard emphasize. Inside, the mihrab (prayer niche) and the member (pulpit) are of finely carved white marble; fine stained glass windows color the incoming streams of light. It was in the gardens of this complex that Süleyman and his wife Hurrem Sultan, Roxelane, had their mausolea built, and Sinan’s tomb is also near here. The mosque complex also includes four medrese, or theological schools, a school of medicine, a caravanserai, a Turkish bath, and a kitchen and hospice for the poor.

The Basilica of St.Sophia, now called the Ayasofya Museum, is unquestionably one of the finest buildings of all time. Built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, its immense dome rises 55 meters above the ground and its diameter spans 31 meters. You should linger here to absorb the building's majestic serenity and to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics.

Circuitloss says:
Good entry
Posted on: May 01, 2007
dodge says:
I don't need Lonely Planet anymore :) What is raki?
Posted on: Jan 06, 2007
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photo by: Memo