Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday November 22 (Day 8 of Gate 1 Tour) Istanbul

We're picked up at 9am by our tour guide, Arcan for the next 2 days and join our fellow travellers on the bus.
The group is pleased to be together again. We tell the group that we made dinner reservations in our part of town for the evening if they are interested. 6 of the 8 are interested and we asked the guide if we could all be dropped together at Taksim Square when we finish for the day.

Arcan explains that because of the fog he will be re-arranging to tour schedule to ensure we can see everything. The boat cruise gets moved to tomorrow as the fog doesn't clear.

Fog as we pass the aquaduct.

 First stop - the Hippodrome of Constantinople was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square), with only a few fragments of the original structure surviving. It is sometimes also called Atmeydanı (Horse Square) in Turkish. In AD 324, the Emperor Constantine the Great decided to move the seat of the government from Rome to Byzantium, which he renamed Nova Roma (New Rome). This name failed to impress and the city soon became known as Constantinople, the City of Constantine. Constantine greatly enlarged the city, and one of his major undertakings was the renovation of the Hippodrome. It is estimated that the Hippodrome of Constantine was about 450 m (1,476 ft) long and 130 m (427 ft) wide. Its stands were capable of holding 100,000 spectators.

Egyptian obelisk dating back to the 15th century B.C. (from the Karnak Temple in Luxor - Thutmose III) that makes it 3500 years old!

Cafe in the area and some street vendors.

The Blue Mosque is within a few feet of the Hippodrome.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii )
Blue Mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction. We were not required to cover our heads but we all had to remove our shoes and were given plastic bags to carry them in.

Konyali Lokantasi  Topkapi Palace was next on the agenda.
The Topkapi (Gate of Cannons in Turkish)Palace is the biggest and one of the most popular sites to visit in Istanbul. It was built between 1466 and 1478 by the sultan Mehmet II on top of a hill, dominating the Golden Horn to the north, the Sea of Marmara to the south, and the Bosphorus strait to the north east, with great views of the Asian side as well. The palace was the political center of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries, until they built Dolmabahce Palace by the waterside.

The palace compound, seen from above, is a rough rectangle, divided into four main courtyards and the harem. The main axis is from south to north, the outermost (first) courtyard starting at the south, with each successive courtyard leading north. The first courtyard was the most accessible one, while the innermost (fourth) courtyard and the harem were the most inaccessible, being the sole private domain of the sultan. The fifth courtyard was in reality the outermost rim of the palace grounds bordering the sea. Access to these courtyards was restricted by high walls and controlled with gates. Apart from the four to five main courtyards, various other small to mid-sized courtyards exist throughout the complex. The total size of the complex varies from around 592,600 square meters[10] to 700,000 square meters, depending on which parts are counted.
The palace and grounds are huge and there are certain sections that photography is not allowed. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the palace with superb photos.

 The large Gate of Salutation (Arabic: Bâb-üs Selâm), also known as the Middle Gate (Turkish: Orta Kapı), leads into the palace and the Second Courtyard.

 The Baghdad Kiosk (Bağdad Köşkü) is situated on the right side of the terrace with a fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638.

It is time for lunch at the Palace. The appetizers were good as were the desserts but the main course was a dubious selection of chicken and beef(?). The view, however, from the restaurant over the Bosphorus was amazing even though the fog was hanging in.

After lunch we head to the Bosphorus cruise as the fog has lifted somewhat.

Here are the sights you see (including six Ottoman palaces), divided into two parts, the Southern Bosphorus (from the Golden Horn and city center to the Bosphorus Bridge) and the Northern Bosphorus, (from the Bosphorus Bridge to the Black Sea):
The most impressive sights are along the southern shores of the Bosphorus, nearest to the city: Topkapı Palace, the mid-Bosphorus Maiden's Tower, the Selimiye Barracks (where Florence Nightingale worked), Dolmabahçe Palace, Çirağan Palace, Yıldız Park & Palace, the chic art-boutique-and-cafe scene in the village of Ortaköy, the pretty Ottoman baroque Mecidiye Mosque, and the Bosphorus Bridge.
Beyond the Bosphorus Bridge there's plenty more to see: Beylerbeyi Palace, the village of Çengelköy, Kuleli Naval Academy, Arnavutköy with its photogenic Ottoman yalıs (wooden Bosphorus seaside mansions), Rumeli Hisarı (the mighty Fortress of Europe), the town of Bebek with its pretty bay, and Bosphorus University.

Then onto the Spice Bazaar where I took more photos than shopped.

We dropped one couple off at their hotel and then the rest of us got off and Taksim Square and we strolled down Independence Avenue to dinner.

All in all a great but long day!

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