beautiful city on the Bosporus, where
and I went for four days after I finished a workshop there. Our hotel room
just overlooked the river, of which you see an overview on top, and we could
see boats like these going up and down all day and night. There were also
fireworks in the evening, which was a beautiful sight. Once, we took a boat
to Princes Islands, in Turkish Red Islands (Kizil Adalar), beautiful places
that are only one our by boat from Istanbul.
We went to the farthest island, where there are no cars and transport is
done by horse drawn carriages. Nature is beautiful and there are only little
very rich people have beautiful villa's on the hills with enormous gardens.
On one of the most central squares of Istanbul, you find the blue mosque
as well as the Aya Sofia. The Aya Sofia was built on 27
The words Aya Sofia mean "Holy Wisdom" and it was first an Orthodox
Patriarchical Basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.
The blue mosque is called the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet (Sultan Ahmet Camii) who had the mosque built between 1606 and 1616.
You may wonder where the blue comes from, well it is from the tiles inside.
Unfortunately, most of them are hidden in a gallery which is not opened
to public. Sultan Ahmet and his brothers are buried inside. The real worshippers
are allowed through the main entrance; poor heathen tourists like us had
to use the side entrance, although the entrance fee was high enough to arise
expectation of an entrance with orchestra and Sultan Ahmet coming out for
a personal greeting.
Aya Sofia, even though only five hundred meters away from the Blue Mosque
as the crow flies, is more than 1,000 years older and that is clearly visible.
Aya Sofia means Divine Wisdom in more than one language.
Emperor Justinianus built the church in the 6th century. Before that there
was already a church in the same place, that was destroyed in 532. Some
ruins of the Theodosian church (middle 5th century) still lay around in
the garden. Within the church, there is a mixture of impressions that go
hand in had. Part of it still looks like a church, while the other part
is a mosque.
And the parts are not separated, on the contrary, both are all over the
inside. Leaded windows and gilded verses from the Koran, a beautiful combination.
The church itself is huge and has a nice comforting atmosphere.
To the left you see the outlines of the Galata tower above the riverside,
once the highest point of the Genoese fortifications, nowadays a nice viewpoint
Another beautiful attraction
forms the Topkapi palace, which is situated in the middle of a big park
and has a nice view over the Bosporus. Mehmet the Conqueror built the palace
in the middle of the 15th century, and sultans have lived there until the
beginning of the 19th century. The place is vast and has some beautiful
buildings, the most interesting is the harem. Also there are many things
on display that the sultans kept to decorate their houses, showing their
very expensive and extravagant taste.In
the 19th century, Topkapi palace became old-fashioned and rulers moved
to places like Dolmabahce, outside the center of town on the riverside.
was built in the middle of the 19th century by the Ottoman ruler whose power
was failing, in an attempt to copy European (French) styles. Dolmabahce
means filled-in garden, because Sultan Ahmet already in the 17th century
made a filled-in cove to built a kiosk and gardens.
Kemal Atatürk died in this palace at 9.05 hours, and therefore all clocks
are set at this time. Furthermore the palace is stuffed with things and
very Bohemian, and absolutely horrible. Our guard was thrilled by the happenings
in the circumcision room, and he told this story at least three times. In
Istanbul there are, apart from seven hills, many beautiful mosques, the
Süleymaniye just behind the university being the largest. It was
built in the middle of the 16th century by the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman
1, the Magnificent. Since it is situated on top of one of the hills, you
can see it from everywhere.
The bazaar is also worth a visit, even though we found the small Egyptian
spices bazaar a lot more attractive than the far more famous Grand Bazaar,
where eager sellers scream after fleeing tourists to sell their Dutch gold
and machine-embroidered T-shirts with Istanbul in big letters on the front.