|The Bosporus and Ferries, the Bridge in the Background|
Ataturk Airport, Istanbul
Bosporus View from our Apartment
Europe foreground and Asia background
Playing host to millions of foreign visitors, annually, Istanbul was named a European Capital of Culture in 2010. It's the world's fifth-most-popular tourist destination.
A variety of visitors in Istanbul
It is almost impossible to pay full tribute to its wealth of culture, architecture, cuisine, handicrafts and its general atmosphere in one or two short visits. It remains a place that one can go to again and again and discover something new every time. The sheer variety and volume of experiences provided by Istanbul resulted in this blog on the city being divided into two parts so as to enable readers to get a flavour of what the author experienced.
Istanbul Old and New
Relics of a Bygone Age
Istanbul offers the visitor an almost endless choice of stay options, ranging from Luxury Heritage Hotels, excellent business hotels, budget hotels, hostels, B&B places and service apartments.
Istanbul Hotel and Residence Buildings
We had booked a service apartment in the happening Beyoğlu district. Our 3 bedroom flat was beautiful with modern furniture and appliances, and had stunning views of the Bosporus with Bridge in the background. We regularly breakfasted in the sit out balcony.
Bosporus Panorama from our Apartment
A word of caution for first time visitors, Istanbul is quite hilly and many buildings are approached through steep narrow streets. While most up-market hotels have vehicular access, many apartments and popular priced hotels require the visitor to climb stairs or walk up or down steep slopes to get to them, as not all are accessible to cars, people with restricted mobility may have difficulties.
Note the City's Hilly Terrain
If difficult access is an issue, please check before booking.
There is so much to see and do in Istanbul, that unless the visitors have enough time at their disposal, it is advisable to plan judicially and pick and choose those places that one wants to visit.
An Old Fountain
It is for this reason that the author is not a votary of that 'Corner Stone' of group travel - the dreaded 'Guided City Tour'.
Domes of the Blue Mosque
Istanbul's Metro Tram
The city's public transport system, specially on the European side is excellent. It offers almost all the known forms of public transit. One can ride on buses, metrobuses, subway trains, suburban trains, trams, funiculars, cablecars, ferries, fast ferries, sea-buses, sea-taxis and shared point to point taxis.
Antique Tram - Istikal Avenue
If you are in the city less than 4 days, don't bother with an IstanbulKart. Buy a “jeton” (token) or “elektronik bilet” (electronic tickets) from the vending machines clearly marked as Jetonmatik and Biletmatick. Alternatively, you can find electronic tickets at the newspaper stands, kiosks and ticket booths near stations, piers and stops.
Istanbul's Colourful, Convenient Trams
A Ferry Sets Off
Multicoloured Istanbul buses are easily available and inexpensive. They accept IstanbulKart and/or electronic tickets
Ferry Terminal near Apartment
Armed with electronic tickets the Bakshi party set-out to sample the delights of the city. A steep staircase down brought us to the Tram Terminal from where we embarked on our tour to the main attractions of Old Istanbul.
Public Drinking Water Fountain
THE BLUE MOSQUE
The Blue Mosque
It was a huge complex of a mosque, a madresa (theological school), turbe (tomb), hospital, caravanserai, primary school, public kitchen and market, although many parts were destroyed by a fire. The Blue Mosque is open all day except during prayer times.
Stained Glass Windows in the Blue Mosque
Dome, Tiles and Calligraphy
We wandered around, marveling at the magnificent architecture, stained glass windows, calligraphy and tile work, took the obligatory photographs and then crossed over to the Hagia Sophia, taking in one of the public fountains en-route.
Hagia Sophia from the Outside
The dome was opened up 20 years later by giving it 40 windows along its perimeter, after a partial collapse, both to reduce stress on the dome as well as light up the interiors.
Dome, Painting and Calligraphy, Hagia Sophia
It served as a church till 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottomans led by Mehmet II. He ordered the conversion of the church into a mosque.
Comenenus Mosiac Hagia Sophia
Interior Hagia Sophia
The exterior and interior of the building are both impressive. The massive emperor's door, 7 meters high and reputedly containing timbers from Noah's ark, gives access to the inside.
The stained glass windows in the dome convey a feeling of lightness. The dome itself is about 56 meters high and is supported by massive external buttresses. The interior of the dome is beautifully decorated with tile motifs.
Stained Glass Windows
The golden emperor's loge and the marble preacher's loge sparkle in the light of chandeliers modeled after ancient designs. The feeling of space is overwhelming.
Most visitors tend to ignore the upper galleries, a mistake. It is here that one finds the original mosaics and frescoes that decorated Hagia Sophia when it was a Church.
Details of Dome and Galleries - Hagia Sophia
Tomb of Kings outside Hagia Sophia
Tired - Gurmeet, Kavita
By late afternoon, the ladies were tired out after walking around the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, the nephew was suffering from a culture overdose.
Cruise Boat near Galata Tower
A far more expensive option than exploring old monuments!.
Turkish Ladies Dance
Turkish Folk Dance
Salutation Gate - Entry to Top-Kapi Palace
It was constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II, and added on to by various Ottoman Sultans.
1st Courtyard Hagia Irmi Church
Prophet Muhammad's Letter, TopKapi
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, consequent to the abolishment of the Ottoman monarchy in 1922, converted the Topkapý Palace into a museum in 1924.
Ornate Gates and Corridors, TopKapi Palace
Along with the Harem, there are four main courtyards in the palace, the first is known as the courtyard of the Janissaries or European slaves, who formed a part of the Ottoman army.
Domed Divan Chamber - Second Courtyard
The second courtyard served as the official working section of the palace, and holds the Divan - Chamber of the Viziers, the imperial kitchens, bakery and storage rooms.
Inside The Domed Chamber
Pavillion - TopKapi
The Imperial Harem, the Harem-i Hümayûn, is an independent complex opening out into the second and third courtyards.
Entry to The Harem, TopKapi
These apartments (Daires) were occupied respectively by the Harem Eunuchs, the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darüssaade Ağası), the Concubines, the Queen Mother, the Sultan's Consorts, the Princes and the Favourites. Except for the sultan, no one was allowed to trespass beyond the gates of the harem.
Golden Horn from TopKapi
Basillica Cistern, Istanbul
Bakshis at the Cistern
Gurmeet at a Medusa Pillar - Cistern
Restaurant Near TopKapi Palace
Kebabs for Lunch
A Gate to The Grand Bazaar
Gurmeet at The Grand Bazaar
Lamp Market - Grand Bazaar
Spice Shop - Grand Bazaar