Beylerbeyi Palace is the largest and most elegant Ottoman Palace on the Asian Shore of the Bosphorus. The palace is open everyday except Mon and Thu from 9 am to 12.30 p.m, 1.30 pm to 6.00pm.
The palace and the neighbourhood was named for a beylerbey, a title which means "lord of the lords", this was Mehmet Pasha, Governer of Rumelia(Turkish territory in European Side). The first sultan who resided here was Mahmud II. It was constructed in 1861-65 by Sarkis Balyan, a famous Armenian architect. 5000 people from all over Anatolia including the best masters worked for the construction. They were all paid by the Sultan. It was mainly used as a summer residence, first famous visitor was French Impress Eugenie in 1869, later visitors were Franz Joseph of Austria, King Edward of England. The palace is now used as a museum.
The palace is divided into two sections as the other Ottoman Palaces, selamlik and harem. Selamlik was the section which was open to men and where the meetings, receptions took place.
Bosphorus is the name of the strait which lies between Europe and Asia. The strait Bosphorus connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea and its length is approximately 30 km., 21 mile long. It runs in the general direction of NE to SW and varying greatly in width from 700 m. 0.45 mile to over 3500m. 2 miles at its widest. Its depth is generally 50-75 m., 150-200 feet but at some points reach to 100 m. 300 feet. There are two strong currents in the sea, one is from the Black Sea towards the Sea of Marmara which runs from the surface due to the low salt density and level difference of two seas. The other current lies from the reverse side, from the deep, towards the Black Sea. Because of the dangerous currents and the narrowness of the strait, all the ships passing through the strait should have pilot captains.
Bosphorus Cruise is a must-see tour for the Istanbul visitors because it is a wonderful opportunity to observe the both sides of Istanbul. There are municipal ferries which operate daily three times from Eminonu, port number 3.(BOGAZ HATTI). The first ferry is at 10:35 am, the second one is at 1:35 pm.
The word "Chora" means "in the countryside" in Greek because of the original church which was outside the city walls. There are no remains left from the original church and the first form of the present structure dates back to 11C. The church was founded by Maria Doukaina, mother-in-law of Alexius Comnenos I between 1077-1081. Today's church was constructed after two centuries, the walls were revetted with superb mosaics and a pareclession was added decorated with beautiful frescoes. The founder of the church was Theodore Metochites who served as a prime minister during the time of EmperorAndronicus Palaeologus I. He was also an astronomer, poet, theologian and philosopher. Actually he lived a very sad life, after Palaeologus was replaced by another emperor, he was sent to exie. After he came back to Konstantinople, he devoted himself to the church as a monk and he died there. Early in the 16C, the church was converted to a mosque by Atik Ali Pasha and the mosaics were covered with plaster. In 1970s, it was restored by Byzantine Institute of America and opened as a museum in 1958.
The mosaics in Chora Museum dates back to 14th C and they can be divided into 4 parts, the ones on the nave, outer narthex(entrance), inner narthex and frescoes in pareclession(funerary chapel).
The word "Dolmabahce" in English means "The stuffed garden". Because the Dolmabahce Palace is founded upon a reclaimed area by filling up the sea. It's a beautiful 19th C palace right by the Bosphorus, on the waterfront. It's in baroque and rococo style and very French. Many people think that it is a small model of the palace of Versailles in Paris, France. It can be visited with a tour guide of the palace as a group. Open everyday from 9:30 am-5 pm
Closed: Monday, Thursday
When one enters the palace area, the first thing to see is the beautiful French style gardens. After having a lovely walk by the Bosphorus, one reaches the main building. The palace was constructed between 1842-1853 by one of the Ottoman Sultans, Sultan Abdulmecid. The architect was a famous Armenian architect, Nikogos Balyan. The palace reflects the European and more "modern" side of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultans moved to Dolmabahce Palace after its construction was finished and never went back to Topkapi Palace which hosted them nearly 4 centuries.
Fish is a very special food for Turks which has a different ritual of dining. In ordinary restaurants, you have a look at the menu and order something but in fish restaurants, you know what to order beforehand. Because there's usually no menu in many of the fish restaurants. A good meal in a fish restaurants takes at least two hours because the food keeps on coming to your table and while you are sipping either your raki or wine, you chat and eat without giving any break. Surprisingly you don't feel anything wrong with your stomach because the food is shared by the other people on the table. The first type of food is the appetizers. You may ask several different appetizers, like Turkish white cottage cheese, melon, red beans cooked in olive oil, Haydari (a very thick yoghurt with dried mint, like Tzatziki),Acili Ezme (spicy appetizer with pepper and tomato paste),Patlican Közde (grilled eggplant), Lakerda(raw fish marinated in salt and vinegar), Karides (shrimp) and good season's salad with fresh cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce. Then comes the hot appetizers, like Borek (pastry with cheese or pastrami), Kalamari (fried squid) or Midye (fried mussels). Before you order your appetizers, always order your fish so that you don't need to wait....! The recommended fish are Seabass, Turbot, Bonito and Blue Fish.
he tower was the focus of the Genoese fortifications of Medieval Galata. Originally known as the "Tower of Christ", it was built in 1348 in connection with the first expansion of the Genoese Colony. The first fortified area, walled in as early as 1304, was a long, narrow rectangle along the Golden Horn between today's two bridges over the Golden Horn. On the 17th C, an Ottoman citizen, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi attempted to fly from Galata Tower to Asian Shore of Uskudar and he worked on his project for years. With the wings he invented, he succeded to fly to his target and this was a great success of that time. It was used as an observation tower and constituted an important part of their defense system. It was used as a fire observation tower till 1960s, and later restored and converted to a touristic attraction.
The observation deck is spectacular, it gives one the opportunity of a 360 degrees of vision. It is 61 meters, 183 ft. tall. From the deck, one can observe the Asian Side, the highest point of Istanbul, the Bosphorus, the Bophorus Bridge, the harbour for the cruise ships, the Golden Horn, the old Galata settlement with rather poor neighborhoods, the Suleiman's Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, the Spice Market, the New Mosque, the Halic (Golden Horn) settlements, the new part of the town, Beyoglu(old Pera) and so on...
Hagia Sophia Church
The word "Hagia" in Greek means "Divine" and "Sophia" means "Wisdom". "Divine Wisdom" is one of the attributes of Jesus Christ and this church is devoted to his divine wisdom. The Church of Hagia Irene was another church which was also devoted to "peace" attribute of Jesus Christ. The church was first completed in 360 during the reign of Constantinus. It was called as "Megala Ekklessia", the Great Church. This church was burnt in 404 during a revolt. A new church was built in the same place, by emperor Theodosius on Oct,405. It was also destroyed in a fire. The third and the last church was completed in 537 by Emperor Justinian I. It was completed only in 5 years. Emperor Justinian I was a very strong believer of Christianity and he wanted to use the church as a means for enlarging the scope of Christianity. This church served as the heart of the empire, all coronation and major baptism ceremonies took place here. When Turks conquered Istanbul in 1453, the first thing Mehmed "the Conqueror" did was to order the conversion of the church into a mosque. Because Prophet Mohammad had said that the army who conquered Istanbul would have Allah's Grace. From then on, the Church served as a great mosque, with four minarets added in different periods. The mosaics on the walls were covered with plaster because they were forbidden in Islam.
Pera(Beyoglu) District and Istiklal Street
Beyoglu and the Istiklal Street are two popular places among people from every age category, from teenagers to elderly people. The Istiklal Street is the meeting place for the lovers and friends. The district starts with the statute of Ataturk in Taksim Square. The prominent landmark of Taksim Square is the Marmara Hotel, a tall building which is another meeting place for the people. The Istiklal Street is a pedestrian street which is approximately 3-4 km. long. The cobber stone street reminds one of the old days...There are cozy cafés, restaurants, shops, bookstores, movie theaters, music stores on this street. Most of the movie theaters are located here. There are small back streets where you can discover little but friendly cafés. When one comes to the halfway of the street, the area changes its name to "Galatasaray" which is also the name of the Junior High School which gives training in French and the major soccer team of Turkey.
The Suleiman's Mosque (Suleymaniye in Turkish and Arabic) is the second largest but finest and most magnificent of the imperial mosque complexes in the city. It's as magnificent as its founder Suleiman the Magnificent and a masterwork of the greatest Ottoman architect, the incomparable Sinan. Suleiman the Magnificent is the 10th Sultan of Ottoman Empire who expanded the boundaries of the Empire far to Vienna's City Walls. Conquering Vienna was his ultimate aim but he could not succeed.
The construction of the Suleiman's Mosque began in 1550 and the mosque itself was completed in 1557. The mosque is actually a complex building with the tombs of Suleiman and his wife, Hurrem Sultan(Roxelana). The other buildings were finished some years later. The mosque is preceded by a courtyard with columns of the richest porphyry, marble and granite. At the four corners of the courtyard rise the four great minarets. The four minarets are said to signify that Suleiman was the fourth sultan to rule in Istanbul and the 10 balconies denote that he was the 10th Sultan of the Ottoman Dynasty.
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is one of the most prominent landmarks of Istanbul, especially when viewed from the First Hill or from the Asian shore of the Sea of Marmara. It is very impressive with its beautiful domes and semidomes, nice courtyards and six slender minarets.
The Blue Mosque was founded by Sultan Ahmet I. He ordered Architect Mehmed Aga to begin constuction in 1609 and the whole complex was completed in 1616. The location of the mosque is just opposite of the splendid Church of Hagia Sophia as it is trying to compete with it. That is actually true because Architect Mehmed wanted to construct a bigger dome then Hagia Sophia's but he could not succeed. Instead, he made the mosque splendid by the perfect proportion of domes and semidomes as well as the splendid minarets. There is an interesting story of the mosque; according to it, Sultan Ahmet I wanted to have a minaret made of gold which is "altin" in Turkish. The architect misunderstood him as "alti" which means "six" in English. However, when the architect was shivering as "am I going to be beheaded?", the Sultan Ahmed I liked the minarets so much. Prior to that time, no sultan had a mosque with 6 minarets.
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi in Turkish) is one of the the largest covered markets in the world with its 4400 shops, 3000 firms, some 17 hans (separate inns for specific type of products), 64 streets,25.000 employees, 4 fountains, 2 mosques and 22 gates. It's a real heaven for shoppers and a good opportunity for people to discover the Turkish hospitality. It looks like a labyrinth at first sight but it's actually not that complicated. All you have to do is to keep your eyes on the main street (Kalpakcilarbasi Street, the jewelry street). The Bazaar was first constructed in 1464 with the order of Mehmed II 'the Conqueror' and had many restorations over the years due to the extensive fires and destructive earthquakes. There are tens of cafés, a police station, little mosques, tourists information points in the bazaar.
There are thousands of things you can find and purchase in the Grand Bazaar. The gate that one usually enters into the bazaar is called "Nuruosmaniye Gate" that means "the light of the Ottomans". That takes you directly to a shining street full of jewelry stores.
When Sultan Mehmed II captured Constantinople in 1453, he found the palaces of the Byzantine Emperors in such ruins as to be uninhabitable. He chose a large area on the broad peak of the Third Hill as the site of his first imperial residence. He constructed a great complex of buildings and gardens here and they came to be known as "Eski Saray" which means "The Old Palace". A few years later, he decided to have his palace on the N side of the First Hill which had been the acropolis of the ancient Byzantium. He constructed a massive wall surrounding the area along the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. This took place during the period 1459-65 after the Sultan left the former palace to women of his father's harem. The Harem in Topkapi Palace in its present state dates back to the reign of Murat III(1574-95), Mehmed IV(1648-87) and Osman III(1754-57).
Topkapi Palace was more than just the private residence of the Sultan and his court. It was the seat of the supreme executive and judiciary council, the Divan and the training school, the Palace School. In the First Courtyard, there were a hospital, bakery,arsenal, a state mint, a part of the treasury and the Outer Service. It was open to public. The Second Courtyard was open to people who had business with the council.
Tours in Istanbul
Istanbul is quite a large city where public transport can often be confusing. It is hard to avoid long lines and get accustomed to the hustle-bustle of a large city. You may like to prefer to hire a tour guide and a minivan with driver for your party. Hiring a tour guide and driver will save you time and make your trip a memorable experience.
A Full-Day Classical City Tour
A Half-Day Bosphorus Cruise
A Full-Day Byzantium Heritage Tour
A Full Day Mosques Tour
A Half-Day Golden-Horn Tour
A Full-Day Prince's Islands Tour
A Half-Day Asia Side Tour
Istanbul By-Night, Dinner and Shows
if you hear "Traditional Turkish Cuisine", you may automatically think that it is "Shish-kebab" or "Doner Kebab"...However, Turkish Cuisine does not only consist of kebabs and they are considered a different category.
Traditional Cuisine is the dishes which are actually cooked and eaten in a typical Turkish family's house.
A typical dinner of a Turkish family is usually had at 7-8 pm after all the members of the family return back home. The mother cooks the food, the daughters(sisters) usually make up the table, bring the tablecloth, plates, the silverware, fresh, sliced Turkish bread, freshly prepared shepherd's salad, and after the father, or grandfather and grandmother sit down, the food is brought to the table.
The most common starter is soup(Corba). There are several nutricious soups, like Tarhana Corbasi( prepared with green pepper,tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, flour,yoghurt and dried mint), Yayla Corbasi(rice, yoghurt, eggs, flour,dried mint, butter and red pepper sauce on top) or Mercimek Corbasi(red lentils,onions, tomato paste cooked and filtered).
The structure was known in Byzantium as "Basilica Cistern" because it lay beneath the Stoa Basilica, the great public square on the First Hill. The Basilica Cistern was built by Justinian I after the bloody Nika Revolt in 532, probably as an enlargement of an earlier cistern which was constructed by Constantine the Great. During the Byzantium Period, it was used as a reservoir for water storage for the Great Palace and other buildings in the First Hill. During the Ottoman Period, the water was used for Topkapi Palace and watering the gardens of it. However the cistern had its brighest days during the Byzantium Period. The water was brought from Belgrade Woods via aquaducts.
The interior of Underground Cistern is breathtaking. It is 138 m, 452 ft long by 65m, 213 ft wide. There are 336 columns in the cistern. Most of the column capitals are either in Corinthian or Doric Style. At the far end of the Cistern, there are two heads of Medusa which are put upside down or side ways. The Medusa Heads are taken from an ancient Pagan site but they complement the pillars very beautifully and add a different taste to the building.