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Istanbul - History starts here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
























 

Istanbul embraces two continents, one arm reaching out to Asia, the other to Europe. In the city's heart, the Bosphorus Strait, course 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, castles, 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 evening light 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.

In addition to its unique historical and cultural background and innumerable attractions, the modern hotels, exclusive restaurants, night clubs and shops make Istanbul a superb site for meetings, conferences and conventions.

A JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF HISTORY

Although Istanbul has a past of more than two thousand years, it's not a city whose antiquity is apparent at first glance. Much of the cultural heritage that Istanbul has acquired as a result of its being a capital of several empires is hidden away amidst modem buildings lining streets that have frequently been redrawn from one generation to the next. Palaces, mansions, fountains, and monuments of every kind lurk silently within the bustling vitality of this giant metropolis' day-to-day existence and patiently wait to be discovered and seen by those with a more discerning and inquisitive eye.

For those who want to follow the trail of Istanbul's ancient past however, the "Historical Peninsula" lying between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara is like an oasis because a substantial part of the city's rich store of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman works is to be found lying on this elongated arm of land.

Sultanahmet Meydani, lying close to the southeastern tip of the peninsula, is surrounded by a bevy of historical monuments lovingly put there by nations and cultures that were as different from one another as it was possible be.

The area that is today Sultanahmet Meydani and its vicinity is the site of Istanbul's first urban settlement. This is where, according to legend, Byzas of Megara established a colony in 657. The hill now occupied by the Topkapi palace then served as the city's acropolis.

Throughout its long history, Istanbul's has never been an ordinary city. When it became the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire and renamed Constantinople, a marble shaft called the Milion was erected to mark the spot as the center of the world -the world's "ground zero" as it were, the point from which all roads radiated and all distances were measured. Although the world's center has long since shifted, the remains of the Milion still stand on a corner opposite the Ayasofya museum on Divanyolu -a thoroughfare that follows the same route as the Romans' Mese street.

During Byzantine times, the Sultanahmet district was where all the city's most important structures were built: the imperial palaces were located here; so was the Hippodrome, the center of Byzantine social life, and of course Haghia Sophia, the empire's greatest church.

Even after the Turkish conquest of Istanbul by Mehmed II in 1453, this district continued to be the heart of the city and of an empire and the Ottomans added to its treasures by constructing their palaces, mosques, and baths here. The Hippodrome remained and though its name was changed to Atmeydani (a literal Turkish translation of the Greek "hippodromos") its traditional Roman and Byzantine functions were not, for it continued to be a venue for sports and entertainment.

After this brief introduction, let's take a quick walk around this celebrated plaza starting with the most magnificent work from the Byzantine period.

Istanbul embraces two continents with one arm reaching out to Asia and the other Europe.

Through the city’s heart, the Bosphorus, course 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, Istanbul today honors preserves the legacy of its past while looking forward to a modern future.

It is Istanbul’s endless variety that fascinates its visitors. The museums, churches, palaces, grand mosques, bazaars and sights of natural beauty seem innumerable. Reclining on the western shore of the Bosphorus at sunset contemplating the red evening light reflected in the windows of the opposite shore you may suddenly and profoundly understand why so many centuries ago settlers chose to build on this remarkable site. At such times you can see why Istanbul is truly one of the most glorious cities in the word.

PALACES

On a finger of land at the confluence of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara stands the Topkapi Palace, that maze of buildings that was the focal point of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. In these opulent surroundings the sultans and their court lived and governed. A magnificent wooded garden fills the outer, or first, court. In the second court, on the right, shaded by cypress and plane trees, stand the palace kitchens, which now serve as galleries exhibiting the imperial collections of crystal, silver, and Chinese porcelain. To the left is the Harem, the secluded quarters of the wives, concubines, and children of the sultan, charming visitors with echoes of centuries of intrigue. Today the third court holds the Hall of Audience, the Library of Ahmet III, an exhibition of imperial costumes worn by the sultans and their families, the famous jewels of the treasury and a priceless collection of miniatures from medieval manuscripts. In the center of this innermost sanctuary, the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle enshrines the relics of the Prophet Muhammed brought to Istanbul when the Ottomans assumed the caliphate of Islam. (Open every day except Tuesday).

The façade of the Dolmabahce Palace, built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdulmecit I, stretches for 600 meters along the European shore of the Bosphorus.The vast reception salon, with its 56 columns and four-and-a-half ton crystal chandelier with 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. Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died in the palace on November 10,1938. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).

In the 19th century, Sultan Abdulaziz built the Beylerbeyi Palace, a fantasy in white marble set amid magnolia-filled gardens, on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus. Used as the Sultan’s summer residence, it was offered to the most distinguished foreign dignitaries for their visits. Empress Eugenie of France was among its residents. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).

In addition to the State Pavilions at the Yildiz Palace complex, the compound includes a series of pavilions and a mosque. Abdulhamit II completed it at the end of the 19th century.

The Sale, the largest and most exquisite of the buildings, reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. Set in a huge park of flowers, shrubs and trees gathered from every part of the world, the palace grounds offer one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Bosphorus. Because of restoration work, only the Sale and park are open to the public. (Open every day except Tuesday)

The Goksu Palace, also known as Kucuksu, takes its name from the streams, which empty into the Bosphorus near the tiny palace. Built by Abdulmecit I in the middle of the 19th century, it was used as a summer residence. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).

Originally built in the 18th century and later restored by various sultans, the Aynali Kavak Summer Pavilion assumed its name, Mirrored Poplar, when its famed mirrors, a gift from the Venetians, were installed in 1718. This palace on the Golden Horn is one of the most beautiful examples of traditional Turkish architecture. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).

The 19th-century Ihlamur Pavilion is named for the linden trees that grow in its gardens. Now in the heart of metropolitan Istanbul, when it was originally constructed, the pavilion lay in the rolling countryside that surrounded the city. The Merasim Pavilion was used for official ceremonies while the Maiyet Pavilion sheltered the sultan’s entourage and, on occasions, his harem on the their excursions out of the palace confines. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).

The Maslak Pavilions on a shady green hill were conceived by Sultan Abdulaziz as hunting lodges. These are particularly noteworthy as superb examples of the late 19th century Ottoman decorative style. The Malta Pavilion is presently used as an inexpensive restaurant while both the Maslak Pavilion and Limonlu Gate are open as cafes. (Open every day).

The Florya Ataturk Sea Pavilion served as a summer residence for Turkish presidents, beginning with Ataturk. Built in1935 in a T-shaped design on land jutting out over the Sea of Marmara, this building serves as a showcase for some of the loveliest examples of early 20th century furnishings. (Open weekdays except Monday and Thursday)

MOSQUES

Across from Hagia Sophia stands the supremely elegant Imperial Sultanahmet Mosque with six minarets. Built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet, the building is more familiarly known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles. During the summer months and evening light and sound show both entertain and inform visitors.

The cascading domes and four slender minarets of the Imperial Suleymaniye Mosque dominate the skyline on the Golden Horn’s west bank. Considered the most beautiful of all imperial mosques in Istanbul, it was built between 1550 and 1557 by Sinan, the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire’s golden age. Erected on the crest of a hill, the building is conspicuous for its great rise from each corner of the courtyard. Inside are the mihrab (prayer niche showing the direction to Mecca) and the mimber (pulpit) made of finely carved white marble and exquisite stained-glass windows coloring the incoming streams of light. It was in the gardens of this complex that Suleyman and his wife, Hurrem Sultan (Roxelane), had their mausolea built, and near here also Sinan built his own tomb. 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 Rustem Pasa Mosque, another skillful accomplishment of the architect Sinan, was built in 1561 by order of Rustem Pasa, Grand Vizier and son-in-low of Suleyman the Magnificent. Exquisite Iznik tiles panel the small and superbly proportioned interior.

The Imperial Fatih Mosque, constructed between 1463 and 1470, bears the name of the Ottoman conqueror of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, and is the site of his mausoleum. Standing atop another of Istanbul’s hills, its vast size and great complex of religious buildings-medreses, hospices, baths, a hospital, a caravanserai and a library make it well worth a visit.

The great Mosque of Eyup lies outside the city walls, near the Golden Horn, at the traditional site where Eyup, the standard bearer of the Prophet Mohammed, died in the Islamic assault on Constantinople in A.D. 670. The first mosque built after the Ottoman conquest of the city, this greatly venerated shrine attracts many pilgrims.

Built between 1597 and 1663, the Yeni (New) Mosque looms over the harbor at Eminonu, greeting the incoming ferryboats and welcoming tourists to the old city. Today its graceful domes and arches shelter hundreds of pigeons that make this area their home. Marvelous Iznik tiles decorate what was once the sultan’s balcony.

The 16th-century Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque built on an awkwardly shaped plot on a steeply sloping hill neat Sultanahmet, is one of the most beautiful examples of classical Turkish architecture and another masterpiece of the architect Sinan. Inside breathtaking blues, purples and reds color the elegant designs of the Iznik tiles.

Walls of glass fill the four immense arches that support the central dome at the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque inside the Edirne gate of the old city walls. One hundred and sixty-one windows illuminate this mosque, built in 1555 by Sinan for Mihrimah Sultana, the daughter of Suleyman the Magnificent.

MUSEUMS

The Basilica of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), 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. Linger here to admire the building’s majestic serenity as well as the fine Byzantine mosaics. (Open every day except Monday)

The Archeological Museums are found just inside the first court of the Topkapi Palace. Included among its treasures of antiquity are the celebrated Alexander Sarcophagus and the façade of the Temple to Athena from Assos. The Museum of the Ancient Orient displays artifacts from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hatti and Hittite civilizations. (Open every day except Monday).

Rumeli Hisari, or European Fortress, 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. In the castle is the Open-Air Museum amphitheater that is the site for some events of the Istanbul Music Festival. (Open every day except Wednesday).

Originally built in the 15th century as a kosk, or pavilion, by Mehmet the Conqueror, the Cinili Kosk, which houses the Museum of Turkish Ceramics, contains beautiful 16th-century specimens from Iznik and fine examples of Seljuk and Ottoman pottery and tiles. (Open every day except Monday).

Like the Ayasofya Musesum, the St. Irene Museum was originally a church. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Istanbul. Constantine commissioned it in the fourth century and Justinian later had the church restored. The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. (Open every day except Monday, but requires special permission for admission).

The dark stone building that houses the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art was built in 1524 by the Grand Vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent, Ibrahim Pasa, as his residence. It was the grandest private residence ever built in the Ottoman Empire. Today it holds a superb collection of ceramics, metalwork, miniatures, calligraphy, textiles, and woodwork as well as some of the oldest carpets in the world. (Open every day except Monday).

Across the street from the Ibrahim Pasa residence is the Museum of Turkish Carpets, which contains exquisite antique carpets and kilims gathered from all over Turkey. (Open every day except Sunday and Monday).

Near Hagia Sophia is the sixth-century Byzantine cistern known as the Yerebatan Sarnici. Three hundred and thirty-six massive Corinthian columns support the immense chambers fine brick vaulting. (Open every day except Tuesday).

The Mosaic Museum, preserves in situ exceptionally fine fifth and sixth-century mosaic pavements from the Grand Palace of the Byzantine emperors. (Open every day except Tuesday).

The Kariye Museum, the 11th-century church of “St. Savior” in the Chora complex, is after Hagia Sophia, the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul. Unremarkable in its architecture, inside the walls are decorated with superb 14th-century mosaics. Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigor of Byzantine art. In restored wooden houses in the area surrounding the church you can enjoy tea and coffee in a relaxed atmosphere far removed from the city’s hectic pace. (Open every day except Wednesday).

The Aviation Museum in Yesilkoy traces the development of flight in Turkey. (Open every day except Monday).

In the Military Museum the great field tents used by the Ottoman armies on campaigns are on display. Other exhibits include Ottoman weapons and the accoutrements of war. The Mehter Takimi (Ottoman military band) can be heard performing Ottoman martial music between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. (Open every day except Monday and Tuesday).

Ataturk’s former residence in Sisli now serves as the Ataturk Museum and displays his personal effects. (Open every day except Saturday and Sunday).

The grand imperial caiques used by the sultans to cross the Bosphorus are among the many other interesting exhibits of Ottoman naval history that can be seen at the Naval Museum located in the Besiktas district. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).

Also in Besiktas is the Museum of Fine Arts that houses Turkish paintings and sculptures from the end of the 19th century to the present. (Open every day except Monday and Tuesday).

The City Museum, located within the gardens of the Yildiz Palace, preserves and documents the history of Istanbul since the Ottoman conquest. (Open every day except Thursday). Also within the gardens are the Yildiz Palace Theatre and the Museum of Historical Stage Costumes, with its exquisite costumes. (Open every day except Tuesday).

The Rahmi Koc Industry Museum, in the suburb of Haskoy on the coast of the Golden Horn, was an Ottoman-period building, formerly called Lengerhane, for iron and steel works. Today it houses exhibits on industrial development. (Open every day except Monday).

Up the Bosphorus in the picturesque suburb of Buyukdere, the collections of the Sadberk Hanim Museum fill two charming 19th-century wooden villas. A private museum, which originally displayed only Turkish decorative arts, it has recently been expanded for a new collection of archeological finds. (Open every day except Wednesday).

For something different try the Caricature Cartoon Museum in Fatih on Ataturk Boulevard under the Bozdogan Aqueduct in the 16th century Gazanfer Aga Medrese. (Open daily 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.)

HISTORICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS

The ancient Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life, stood in the area that is now in front of the Blue Mosque. The area is now named for the mosque, Sultanahmet. Of the monuments which once decorated it only three remain: the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine. Remains from the curved end of the Hippodrome wall can be seen on the southwest side of these three monuments. Today the square forms the center of Istanbul’s historical, cultural and touristic pursuits. Take particular note of the surrounding wooden houses, especially the 18th century homes on Sogukcesme Street. Delightfully restored, they have a new lease on life as small hotels; one houses a fascinating library of books on Istanbul.

The Ahmet III Fountain, built in 1729, stands at the entrance to Topkapi Palace. A generous roof shades the waterspouts where the thirsty can stop for a cup of refreshing water. This highly ornate, freestanding fountain is a superb example of the late Ottoman style.

Mahmut II built the Beyazit Tower (85 meters high) in 1828 as a fire tower. Today it is included in the grounds of Istanbul University.

The Bozdogan-Valens Aqueduct, built in A.D. 368, supplied the Byzantine and later the Ottoman palaces with water. Today part of the remaining 900 meters of double-tiered arches straddle the major highway that runs through the old part of town.

The Istanbul city walls, once an impenetrable fortification, stretch seven kilometers from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. Recently restored, as also many times before, these walls date from the fifth century and the reign of Emperor Theodosius II. UNESCO has declared the walls and the area, which they enclose to be one of the cultural heritages of the world.

The Galata Tower, a Genoese construction of 1348, rises 62 meters above the Golden Horn. From the top there is a marvelous panorama of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. In the evening you can enjoy its popular restaurant, nightclub and bar.

Rumeli Hisari, or European Fortress, 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. In the castle is the Open-Air Museum amphitheater that is the site for some events of the Istanbul Music Festival. (Open every day except Wednesdays).

Kiz Kulesi, also known as Leander’s Tower, is one of the most romantic symbols of Istanbul. On a tiny island at the entrance to Istanbul’s harbor, the first tower was constructed in the 12th century. The present building dates from the 18th century.

ISTANBUL BOGAZI (THE BOSPHORUS)

A stay in Istanbul is not complete without a traditional unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, that winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to yali (shorefront wooden villas), marble palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. The best way to see the Bosphorus is to board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the shores. You embark at Eminonu and stop alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait. The round-trip excursion, very reasonably priced, takes about six hours. If you wish a private voyage, there are agencies that specialize in organizing day or night mini cruises.

During the journey you pass the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace; farther along rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of the Yildiz Palace. On the coastal edge of the parks stands the Ciragan Palace, refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdulaziz, and now restored as a grand hotel. For 300 meters along the Bosphorus shore its ornate marble facades reflect the swiftly moving water. At Ortakoy, the next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a street side gallery. The variety of people creates a lively scene. Sample a tasty morsel from one of the street vendors. In Ortakoy, there is a church, a mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by side for hundreds of years – a tribute to Turkish tolerance at the grass roots level. Overshadowing Istanbul’s traditional architecture is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges, the Bosphorus Bridge, linking Europe and Asia.

The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian side. Behind the palace rises Camlica Hill, the highest point in Istanbul. You can also drive here to admire a magnificent panorama of Istanbul as well as the beautiful landscaped gardens. On the opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutkoy create a contrast with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few kilometers farther along stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisari and Anadolu Hisari facing each other across the straits like sentries guarding the city. The Goksu Palace, sometimes known as Kucuksu Palace graces the Asian shore next to the Anadolu Hisari. The second link between the two continents, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge straddles the waterway just past these two fortresses.

From Duatepe Hill, on the European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge and the Bosphorus. Below Duatepe, the beautiful Emirgan Park bursts with color when its tulips bloom in the spring. On the Asian shore is Kanlica, a fishing village that is now a favored suburb for wealthy Istanbulites. Crowds gather in the restaurants and cafes along its shores to sample its famous yogurt. Shortly after Kanlica and Cubuklu is the Beykoz Korusu (Ibrahim Pasa Woods), a popular retreat. In the cafes and restaurants there you can enjoy the delightful scenery and clear, fresh air. Back on the European side, at Tarabya Bay, yachts seem to dance at their moorings. The coastal road bustles with taverns and fish restaurants from Tarabya to the charming suburbs of Sariyer and Buyukdere. Sariyer has one of the largest fish markets in Istanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk puddings and borek (pastries). On past Sariyer, the narrow strait widens and opens into the Black Sea.

HALIC (THE GOLDEN HORN)

This horn-shaped estuary divides European Istanbul. One of the best natural harbors in the world, the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial shipping interests were centered here. Today, lovely parks and promenades line the shores where the setting sun casts a golden hue on the water. At Fener and Balat, neighborhoods midway up the Golden Horn, whole streets full of old wooden houses, churches and synagogues date from Byzantine and Ottoman times. The Orthodox Patriarchy resides here at Fener. Eyup, a little further up, reflects Ottoman architecture. Cemeteries dotted with dark cypress trees cover the hillsides. Many pilgrims come to the Tomb of Eyup in the hope that their prayers will be granted. The Pierre Loti Café, atop the hill overlooking the shrine is a wonderful place to enjoy the tranquility of the view.

ART, CULTURE, AND ENTERTAINMENT

Istanbul is an international art and cultural center. The International Arts and Cultural Festival is held each year in June and July with famous artists coming from all over the world. These performances are held mostly at the Ataturk Cultural Center. The Istanbul Science Center (Bilim Merkezi), founded by the Science Center Foundation and located on the campus of Istanbul Technical University, has hands-on experimental and theoretical opportunities for adults and children of various educational levels. In March and April you can take in the International Film Festival. Those who enjoy classical music can hear it at the Cemal Resit Rey Hall. Operas, operettas, ballets, films, concerts, exhibitions and conferences all contribute to the cultural palette of the city.

Istanbul also has a rich program of light entertainment. Nightclubs provide splendid entertainment throughout dinner, ranging from a selection of Turkish songs to belly dancing. Alongside these are modern discos, cabarets, and jazz clubs in the Taksim-Harbiye district.

In Sultanahmet, there are a number of restaurants in restored Byzantine and Ottoman buildings, which offer a unique setting for an evening out.

Kumkapi, with its many taverns, bars and fish restaurants, is another attractive district. People have been meeting for years at Cicek Pasaji in the district of Beyoglu for snacks and seafood specialties. Also in the area near Cicek Pasaji is the narrow Nevizade Street, which is the best place in Istanbul for eating Turkish specialties and drinking raki.

On the Bosphorus, Ortakoy is the best place for nightlife in Istanbul, with its nightclubs, jazz clubs, fine seafood restaurants and bars.

At Eminonu don’t miss an opportunity to see fishermen dressed in traditional Ottoman clothes and their Ottoman-style boats, which you may board to sample their delicious fried fish.

You may also want to visit Tatilya Cumhuriyeti, a large amusement park in Beylikduzu past Haramidere on the road to the Ataturk International Airport.

SHOPPING

One could visit Istanbul for the shopping alone. The Kapali Carsi, or Covered Bazaar, in the old city is the logical place to start. This labyrinth of streets and passages houses more than 4,000 shops. The names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter: the goldsmiths’ street, the carpet sellers’ street, and the street of the skullcap makers. Still the commercial center of the old city, the bazaar is the original shopping pocket.

Charming souvenirs and gifts can be selected from among Turkish crafts, the world-renowned carpets, brilliant hand painted ceramics, copperware, brassware, and meerschaum pipes. The gold jewelry in brilliantly lit cases dazzles passersby. Leather and suede goods of excellent quality make a relatively inexpensive purchase. In the heart of the bazaar, the Old Bedesten offers a curious assortment of antiques. It is worth poking through the clutter of decades in the hope if finding a treasure.

The Misir Carsisi or Spice Bazaar, next to the Yeni Mosque at Eminonu, transports you to fantasies from the mystical East. The enticing aromas of cinnamon, caraway, saffron, mint, thyme and every other conceivable herb and spice fill the air. Sultanahmet has become another shopping mecca in the old city. The Istanbul Sanatlari Carsisi (Bazaar of Istanbul Arts) in the 18th century Mehmet Efendi Medresesi, and the nearby 16th-century Cafer Aga Medrese, built by Sinan, offer you the chance to see craftsman at work and to purchase their wares. In the Arasta (old bazaar) of the Sultanahmet Mosque, a thriving shopping arcade makes both shopping and sightseeing very convenient.

The sophisticated shops of the Taksim-Nisantasi_Sisli districts contrast with the chaos of the bazaars. On Istiklal Avenue, Cumhuriyet Avanue, and Rumeli Avenue, you can browse peacefully in the most fashionable shops selling elegant fashions made from Turkey’s high quality textiles. Exquisite jewelry as well as finely designed handbags and shoes can also be found. The Atakoy Galleria Mall in Atakoy and the Akmerkez Mall in Etiler have branches of Istanbul’s most elegant shops. In Bakirkoy, the Carousel Mall is worth a visit, as is the Atlas Passage in Beyoglu. Bahariye Avenue, Bagdat Avenue, and Capitol Mall on the Asian side, offers the same shopping opportunities.

In Istanbul’s busy flea markets you can find an astonishing assortment of goods, both old and new. Every day offers a new opportunity to poke about the Sahaflar Carsisi and Cinaralti in the Beyazit district. On Sundays, in a flea market between the Sahaflar and Covered Bazaar, vendors uncover their wares on carts and blankets. The Horhor carsisi is a collection of shops that sell furniture of varying age and quality. Flea markets are open daily in the Topkapi district, on Cukurcuma Sokak in Changir, on Buyuk Hamam Sokak in Uskudar, in the Kadikoy Carsi Duragi area, and between Eminonu and Tahtakale. After a Sunday drive up the Bosphorus, stop between Buyukdere and Sariyer to wander through another lovely market.

THE ENVIRONS OF ISTANBUL

The Princes’ Islands, an archipelago of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara, were places of exile for Byzantine princes. Today, during the summer months, wealthy Istanbulites escape to the cool sea breezes and elegant 19th century houses. Buyukada is the largest of the islands. Here you can enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn phaeton (carriage) among the pine trees or relax on a beach in one of the numerous coves that ring the island. The other popular islands are Kinali, Sedef, Burgaz, and Heybeliada. Regular freey boats connect the islands with both the European and Asian shores. A faster sea bus service operates from Kabatas in the summer.

On the European side of the Black Sea coast, 25 km from the outskirts of Istanbul, the long, broad sandy beaches of Kilyos draw crowds of Istanbul residents in the summer. The Belgrad Forest, inland from the Black Sea on the European side, is the largest forest around Istanbul. On weekends, Istanbulites drive out to its spacious shade for family picnics and barbecues. Seven ancient reservoirs and a number of natural springs refresh the air. The Ottoman aqueducts, of which the 16th-century Moglova Aqueduct built by Sinan is the most splendid, lend majesty to the natural surroundings. Overshadowing the entrance to Kemer Golf and Country Club is the 750-meter long Sultan Suleyman Aqueduct, also built by Sinan. It is one of the longest in Turkey. The 500-stable Equestrian Center offers trail riding.

On the Asian side, Polonezkoy, 25 km from Istanbul, was founded in the 19th century by Polish immigrants. Istanbul residents come to its pastoral landscape for walks, horseback riding and to enjoy the traditional Polish food served by descendants of the original settlers.

On the Black Sea, 70 km from Uskudar, Sile’s sandy beaches, fish restaurants and hotels make it one of the most delightful holiday places near Istanbul. Cool cotton clothing called Sile bezi is popular with tourists and is fashioned here.

The Bayramoglu-Darica Bird’s Paradise and Botanic Park, 38 km from Istanbul, is a unique place to relax. Many species of birds and plants from all over the world can be seen in this park, which also has restaurants and a promenade for pedestrians.

The charming fishing town of Eskihisar, southeast of Istanbul, boasts a marina where yachtsmen can moor their boats after a day out on the Sea of Marmara. In town, the house of Osman Hamdi Bey, Turkey’s great 19th-century paonter, has been converted into a museum. Neighboring sites include the tomb of Hannibal between Eskihisar and Gebze, and a Byzantine castle.

Many Istanbulites have summer homes near Silivri, popular vacation area about 65 km from Istanbul. A large holiday resort, it offers sports, health, and fitness facilities, that include the Klassis Country and Golf Club, and excellent dining. The conference center attracts business people who want to escape the city’s fast pace for a working holiday. A regular sea bus service connects Istanbul to Silivri.

YACHTING

Yachting is very popular in Istanbul. This is the only place in the world where you can enjoy the beauty of a mystical landscape while sailing back through history to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times, and view magnificent castles, palaces and mosques.

From the North Sea through the European interior, yachters can sail down the European channel system and the Rhine and Danube Rivers into the Black Sea harbors and to the Istanbul Bogazi and Istanbul Marinas-a safe and short way to come.

Sail on the Istanbul Bogazi under the enormous bridges spanning two continents and around the Princes’ Islands to their beautiful bays, where you may anchor and enjoy the serenity of the area. After enjoying all of the sights return to one of the two large marinas. Atakoy Marina with a blue flag rating is on the European side and Kalamis Marina is on the Asian side. Both offer 24-hour service. International Offshore Yacht races are held in Istanbul every summer. Moving on from Istanbul through the Sea of Marmara you come to Canakkale and the famous Dardanelles, site of an historic World War I campaign that sealed Mustafa Kemal as a man of destiny. Continue on into the Aegean Sea for fine cruising and end up along the golden sands of the Maditerranean.

GOLF

Istanbul offers lovely opportunities for golf enthusiasts:

The Klassis Golf and Country Club, 65 km from Istanbul in Silivri, is one of the area’s largest golf clubs, with an 18-hole course and a 9-hole course.

The Kemer Golf and Country Club, 18 km from Istanbul in the Belgrad Forest near the town of Kemerburgaz, offers a formidable test of golf skill on its 9-hole course.

The Istanbul Golf Club in the Ayazaga district of Istanbul also has a 9-hole course.

 

 

 

 

 


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