(not to be) Missed Turkey & Istanbul Sites and Facts

summer 2009 / more feed with intelligence to refine your tours

add IQ -Istanbul for advanced visitors :)

Lesser Known Jewels of İstanbul

Istanbul For Advanced Visitors

( until I include  the photos to the article below , you may access the photos  included version of this text at http://www.scribd.com/doc/28502758/Add-IQ-Istanbul-for-Advanced-Visitors )

This tour program is designed for visitors who have already been to the typical highlights of Istanbul like Ayasofya, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market.

At each site on this tour the duration is between 45 minute to 1 hour which is plenty to appreciate each site without overdoing it; this also enables inclusion of other sites to the program. The detailed site description is below the itinerary information.

We will begin our day with a stop at the Byzantine church Chora – now a museum; famous for the Mosaics and frescoes showing the life cycles of Christ and Mary; especially Mary’s life cycyle based on St. James’ apocryphal Gospel .

The highlights of the Archeological Museum ( sarcophagi and Istanbul & Environs sections only )

Basilica cistern from 6th century is our next stop before lunch. This structure is also famous for a sequence of a James Bond movie –

From Russia with Love, filmed here.

After lunch we are heading to the 19th century Dolmabahce Palace’sHarem Section where we will explore the interesting details of the Harem life with incredible decorations from ceiling to the floor.

Then we will visit Ortakoy district; a lovely waterfront area which turns into a nice street market on weekends. Here you may take your own postcard quality photo of the famous mosque Grand Mecidiye and the suspension bridge connecting the two continents as well as the Bosphorus straits.

Note :

  1. There is an Ottoman military Band performance at 3 o’clock in the Military museum for half hour, including an incredible slide presentation. Addition of this expands the program for 1 hour.

  2. Below you will also find the details of a stroll on Istiklal Street , as well as lesser known interesting off Spice Market areas.

Modifying the program by adding or subtracting some of these sites is available.

Site Descriptions :

Spice Market and neighboring streets

Kuru yemis (KOO-roo yeh-meesh) means “dried fruits.” Turkey grows a lot of wonderful fruit. To preserve and store it in the days before tin cans and refrigeration, much of it was dried. Dried fruit is convenient! No cans or packages to open or dispose of, no need for refrigeration. Just add mouth! Plums, figs, dates, apricots, apples…even blackberries and other berries which are pressed and dried into sheets (“fruit leather“). Don’t forget the nuts: high protein, high flavor, low maintenance: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios and of course hazelnuts (filberts), of which Turkey’s Black Sea Coast furnishes half the world supply.

Off-Spice Market shopping streets are at least as impressive as Spice Market ( Egyptian Bazaar) itself : The four century old streets with four century old spice shops around Rustem Pasa Mosque is where we begin our exploration of these streets, lesser known to tourists.

The stroll will introduce secrets of Turkish cuisine: Hanging dried eggplant and pepper skins, black sesame, varities of olive and chilly pepper, henna for your red hair, sumac, cheese market, and pet market will reveal insights from life in Istanbul with an half hour stroll, which may be combined with your Spice Market visit to buy Turkish delight with mastic or classical version with pistachios in it according to your choice. The pomegranate vinegar also available which is the taste enhancing factor of “mountain of the infidels salad” – “Gavurdağı Salatası” , which is found only in very few fine restaurants including the nearby Hamdi, which also happens to have one of the best Baklava and şöbiyet ( special baklava with touch of cream in the center ) of all of Turkey.

Ortaköy District + 1 hour Bosphorus Cruise

This area is missed by most visitors to İstanbul due to guide books not emphasizing its charms at the right dose. It offers incredible Bosphorus view , fine street markets and the best plus the most efficient Bosphorus cruise for 1 hour . ( afternoons only, after 3 or 4 pm at 20’ pasts )

These reasons make this one of the top waterfront strolling areas for İstanbul citizens.

Best time : afternoons and early evenings, preferably weekends , if you would like to enjoy the street market at its zenith.

This is a waterfront area that resembles to Seaport of New York City, the major difference being the mosque instead of the mall at Seaport.

This is very close to the first suspension bridge connecting Europe and Asia over the Bosphorus Straits ; as referred to in Homer’s book Odyssey, the site of the clashing rocks.

19th century Grand Mecidiye Mosque is situated on the shore as if it were floating.

This area converts into an up scaled flea market – the look is the look of a flea market but the items offered on the stands are brand new and nice, and prices are better than the tripled or quadrupled rates of Grand Bazaar. But still there is minor negotiation possibilities from the low profit margins of these softly spoken female vendors.

Highlights of Archaeological Museum – 40 minutes

Lots of visitors think Arch. Museums are boring : If you spend a half day in Istanbul in an Arch. Museum instead of covering more territories of this vibrant city , you are probably right; though special interest visitors are thrilled here.

The compromise is a 40 minute tour offering highlights of this museum : The sarcophagi collection never fails to impress visitors including the one that is called Alexander the Great.

Dolmabahce Palace – the Harem Wing

Harem section makes up the two thirds of Dolmabahce Palace. Passage from Mabeyn and Muayede Hall to Harem is through corridors with iron gates and heavy timber doors, a remark of the traditional segregation. The spacious halls lightened by the reflections of Bosporus, the bedrooms of Sultans, his wives, concubines, sons and daughters, and study and lounge rooms are all in this section. The apartment of Valide Sultan (Mother Sultan), Blue and Pink Halls, the rooms of Sultans Abdülmedjid, Abdülaziz and Resad, concubines section, matrons rooms, Great Atatürk’s study and bedroom and many valuable artifacts such as furnitures, rugs and kilims, inscriptions, vases, chandeliers, oil paintings are the most interesting and impressive features of Harem.

Istiklal Street

The modern quarter of Beyoglu, especially Taksim Square and Istiklal Street, symbolizes the cosmopolitan setting and the cultural openness of the city. Also described as a Mecca for the young and beautiful in İstanbul, the street is offered as a big Istanbul attraction in the numerous travel guides.

It is lined with impressive 19th century buildings along the whole street for two kilometers as well as funky cafes, bluesy bars, restaurants, and cinemas.

The highlights tour here begins with a stroll from Tunel district ( the whirling dervishes center, Galata Mevlevihanesi is also here ) through nice narrow streets with fine street cafes. You will also get a chance to learn where famous Turkish bar – meze restaurant Refik is situated ( towards Pera Palas hotel ) Then walk by St. Antuanne Church, stop by Galatasaray High School, Ara Guler’s photo exhibition on the street where his cozy café Ara is situated, Flower Arcade ( cicek pasaji ) , fish – vegetable market , Nevizade Street.

You will also be familiar with the location of great Istanbul view bars, restaurants including 360, Hacı Baba, and Hacı Abdullah on this strolling tour.

Ottoman Military Band & its Beethoven Connection

At 15:00 o’clock ( not available on Mon & Tue ) is the Ottoman military band performance at Nisantasi district. Half an hour lasting first half of the concert will introduce this band that influenced in Mozart, Beethoven and Chaikowsky, as a result of which the style called “Ala Turca” was born. When the concert takes place indoors there will also be an impressive slide presentation for 10 minutes. You may listen to their favourite tune at:


Basilica Cistern

The cistern, built by emperor Justinian around 542, is also called the “Sunken Palace”, which aptly reflects the magical atmosphere of this subterranean building. The reservoir had a capacity of 80.000 cubic feet of water and provided the quarter around the Hagia Sophia as well as the emperor’s palace and later the Topkapi palace. On an area of 453 x 213 ft. (138 x 65 m) or 2,2 acres (8970 m²) a dim wood of 336 marble columns, which support the up to 8 m high vault, is reflected in the
water. This is where a sequence of the Bond movie, “ From Russia with love” was filmed.

Walkways and atmospheric lighting make the Cistern a great tourist attraction, which takes you back into ancient times.


Chora Church (Kariye Camii in Turkish) is the most interesting Byzantine church after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The importance of the church does not come from the building itself , the frescoes and the mosaics are superb and reflect the magnificient heritage of Byzantine Art. The Chora Church Museum is open every day from 9 a.m to 4:30 p.m except Wed.

The word “Chora” means “in the country” 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 Emperor Andronicus 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 1948, it was restored by Byzantine Institute of America and opened as a museum in 1958.

March 17, 2010 - Posted by | 1 | , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: