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

summer 2009 / more feed with intelligence to refine your tours

istanbul highlighs – site descriptions and 2 days tour program

Private İstanbul Program for 2 or 3 days

( until I include  the photos to the article below , you may access the photo version of this text at http://www.scribd.com/doc/28502706/Istanbul-Highlighs-Site-Descriptions-and-2-Days-Tour-Program )

This program includes visits to special Istanbul sites some of which are not the focus of large tour groups due to requiring special interest or convenience which includes difficulties with parking tour busses : As an instance in an interesting list named “ 1000 places you should see before you die’ , the name of a mosque from Istanbul is given, Suleymaniye Mosque. This is more impressive than Blue Mosque; yet its location is not easily accessible for tour busses or parking is expensive for tour vans ; as a result less tours go to see this superior mosque of Istanbul.

Your tour guide will adjust the order of the visits, with daily small fine tunings according to what accommodates you the best.

On some of the days the cruiseship passengers crowd the major museums and on such days visiting especially Topkapi Palace around 4.30 – 5 p.m. may work better. Topkapi Palace stays open until 7 pm .

Detailed descriptions of the sites mentioned in the program are at the bottom of these pages.

Day 1.

You will begin your day by exploring the 4 century old narrow streets around the Spice Market before getting to the mainstream visitors’ interest, The Egyptian Bazaar named as Spice Market in English resources.

Then onto Sokullu M. Pasa mosque for a brief stop which is close to the Blue Mosque to have the experience of a visit to a mosque that is not the mainstream tourist attraction. This is one of the most impressive mosques of architect Sinan of the 16th century despite being smaller in size than the sultan mosques. The mosque has got pieces of the most sacred stone for the Muslims, the black stone – hacerüleswed.

Blue Mosque and Hippodrome will be the next stops. After lunch break explore Ayasofya , the Byzantine Cathedral, and Basilica Cistern.

Day 2.

Topkapi Palace and highlights of the Archaelogical Museum will cover the whole morning.

Notice : Harem of Topkapi palace is only available before 3 p.m., guides are not allowed to give information in the Harem, and there is no palace guide inside. Only hiring an electronic talking guide hand unit is available. Dolmabahce palace’s harem section is recommended more, since it has got almost all of the original furnitures as opposed to few in Topkapi .

After lunch a visit to a reputable warehouse, Sirca is possible, if you grow your interests in these Turkish arts : Ceramic and pottery. Sirca is the provider of state ceramic gifts to the dignitaries of the countries visited by their Turkish counterparts; Attending a pottery production performance is possible ( on most tours in the old town, walking from one site to another nearbye one may equal walking and standing all day long; such stops for brief demonstrations also help to rest a bit. ) Later you can also stop by the store of their major rival in Turkey , Iznik ceramic foundation if you have further interest.

Proceed to Suleymaniye Mosque and Grand Bazaar.

Late afternoon : Explore Istiklal Street with tunel area, Balik Pazari ( fish market ) Nevizade Street, Cicek Pasaji, Ara Guler’s café ( just walk by) , St. Antuanne Church.

Day 3.

Drive along Golden Horn Estuary to go to Chora. Chora the Byzantine church with its Christian mosaics and frescoes Is in any art book referring to the Byzantines.

(visit http://www.pbase.com/dosseman/istanbul_kariye )

At 3 o’clock is the Ottoman military band performance in Nisantasi district. Half an hour stay will introduce this band that influenced in Mozart, Beethoven and Chaikowsky. If the concert is indoors there will also be an impressive slide presentation for 10 minutes.

On a weekend day , lesser known by visitors but trendy for locals is Ortakoy district ( see the site desription section below ) , where unpressurised shopping with inexpensive souveniers from lady street vendors will be available, as well as a Bosphorus cruise.

We recommend a 3.30 p.m. visit to this area with a cruise by 4.20 or an hour later.

Time Planning :

The tours are 8 hours, they may begin at 8.30 9 or 9.30 according to your selection ( most museums open at 9 or 9.30 )

Istiklal Street can best be enjoyed at early evening from 8 to 9 p.m. So, the day you would enjoy a late visit to Topkapi palace, Istiklal Street can be combined .

Bosphorus Cruise and Ortakoy district is more fun at about 7 p.m. , this can be combined with your dinner, with the areas fine restaurants like Feriye. If you would like a late Ortakoy program after 5.30 p.m. though there will be surcharge for keeping your guide and your van longer, you will surely enjoy this better.

Your Tour Guide

We just use top guides for our tours. Your Tour Guide is Oguz Kosebalaban who also has a bachelor’s degree from Ankara University’s Faculty of Political Sciences. He is a short movie film maker and scenario writer. In April 2007 his short movie was found eligible to compete in the finals in a contest held by Nokia , Turkey in cooperation with İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

( http://www.iksv.org/film/english/film.asp?Cid=195 ) His movie is at the end of the list , since the list of movies is in Alphabetical order.

His travel articles are frequently being quoted in his colleague’s tours. His website address is www.welldoneturkey.com

Site Descriptions :

Ortakoy District

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 right before the first suspension bridge connecting Europe to 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 was the setting as the background with the mosque and the bridge connecting two continents for the speech of President Bush during Nato summit in 2004, the context of which was the peace between eastern and western world, the brotherhood of religions. The location was intelligently chosen by

The U.S.

( http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/06/20040629.html )

with especially the mosque being the background for president Bush at a time when American jets were bombing another muslim nation’s territory, Iraque. This contributed to the image of the U.S. to emphasise that the U.S. was friends with Islamic nations , the Iraque conflict does not have any religious connection. ( by then your guide Oguz Kosebalaban escorted CBS News, and analysed the choice for this setting for the tv commenter )

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 much beter than the tripled or quadrupled rates of Grand Bazaar. But stil there is minor negotiation possibilities from the low profit margins of these sweat lady vendors.

Daily after 4.20 there is a Bosphorus cruise departure from here.

Istiklal Street


(Below; on the left . Across Ayasofya on the right is Blue Mosque with 6 minarets)

532-537 emperor Justinian I erected the greatest Church in the ancient Christian world. The bold structure was a combination of Roman Basilica and domed Roman central building, the central element of which was a dome with a diameter of 101,7 ft (31 m) and a height of 160,7 ft. (49 m) after the example of Hadrian’s Pantheon in Rome. Neither in Byzantine nor Osmane days this dimension ever was surpassed. After several seismic shocks however the dome imploded in 558. The dome we see today was consecrated in 562. The dome we see today is 23 ft (7 m) higher and was consecrated in 562.

Daylight is flooding the church through 91 windows, illuminating the incredible beauty of the interior, which is adorned with marble tiles, elaborate, colourful mosaics and pictures, created from ceramics, precious and semiprecious stones, gold… The structure of the interior and the play of light convey the impression of weightlessness, which certainly contributed to the churches legendary fame.

Thanks to its grandeur and beauty the church served as a house of God, even under the reign of Osmane Sultans, all together for almost 1400 years! After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks under Mehmed II, the Hagia Sophia was used as mosque until the Turkish republic was founded in 1923. Today it is a museum.


This is the area in front of Blue Mosque. The  most precious ancient remnant of the Hippodrome and oldest monument of Constantinople is the Egyptian obelisk, which was erected by Pharaoh Thutmosis III in Karnak 1471 BC.

Tripod of Plataea : The three snakes of the Tripod of Plataea, seen on the left , was transferred to Constantinople by the
emperor Constantine, where it stands today
in the Hippodrome Square. The names of the cities, which took part in the battle, are written in the body.

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

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

Topkapı Palace

The imperial Palace of the Ottomans is the hub of the Ottoman universe (complete sightseeing tour: allow for ½ day) After conquering Constantinople, Mehmet II chose the smartest spot in town as his home. At the tip of the peninsula on which Constantinople was located, washed by the waves of the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, he built his Topkapi Palace subdivided into four courtyards. It wasn’t just his home, however. This is where the strings of world history were being pulled: the business of the empire was done , the Ottoman bureaucracy was educated, and the sultan’s elite troops, the janissaries, housed (first courtyard). By the way, from this first courtyard one path towards ( the direction of the street car street ) north takes you to the Archaelogical museum .

And being less than careful in the second courtyard could actually cost you your head. If you were only waiting to see the sultan about something (third courtyard), you’d better watch which queue you were in – the sultan’s executioners were also housed here, ready to fulfil their master’s wishes. And, if you thought you could catch a glimpse of what was going on in the harem (Buy a separate ticket , well worth the visit!), you’d be very wrong. The harem, well-guarded by the sultan’s mother, could be entered by only one man – the sultan himself (as you can well imagine, eunuchs could come and go as they pleased). From the early 16th century, when the brothers of the heir to the throne were no longer being sent straight back to meet their maker, they were also allowed to live in the harem. ( in a cosy cell ) And if now, like the sultan in former times, you feel like taking a break and a cup of coffee, go on to the fourth courtyard, a large garden with pavilions and an unforgettable view of the entrance to the Bosphorus.

Spice Market

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“), the stuff you see right at the center of the photo above;   from the  Spice Market. 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.

Grand Bazaar

Though this bazaar became rather touristy especially with cruiseships bringing couples of ten thousand  visitors on some of the days! ; still   this is an impressive site at least for window shopping ; if you are not pulled into a shop by a slightly more than enthusiastic! Vendor! :))

The mother of all covered market places had humble beginnings as a much smaller market in 1461, during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror. Now comprised of well over four thousand shops stretching over a maze of sixty-odd winding streets, it easily holds the title of largest covered market in the world. And inside:   everything from belly-dancing outfits to ‘cezve’ (pronounced ‘jesveh’ – the special copper pots for brewing Turkish coffee). The bazaar’s streets are named and labeled, but still confusing. Unfortunately, this bustling space of the new and old has had its fair share of tragedies. Earthquakes and fires have both affected the building more than once – the most recent being the major fire of 1954. After each event, the Grand Bazaar was repaired, but original records have been lost forever. And so, we’ve lost that bit of history too. But life marches on in and around the bazaar. Around, because the marketplace is not merely within the walls of the official covered section, but it also extends past the surrounding areas to create an open-air shopping arena that disappears each evening until its subsequent morning arrival.

Bosphorus Cruise

Bosphorus Straits divides Europe from Asia and connects Black Sea to Marmara Sea and never fails to impress visitors with upscaled waterfront wooden mansions, palaces, fortresses, parks and woods.

Bosphorus is mentioned twice in Mythology : Jason and the Argounats crossing the clashing rocks ( Bosphorus Straits must then be an earth quake fault line – hence ; “clashing rocks” ) , and its link with Io , the mistress of Zeus , giving it the name Bosphorus , meaning the passage of the heifer. Not to forget Persian King Darius crossing his army on a bridge made up of boats anchored next to one another. 2 impressive suspension bridges, palatial houses on both sides, Ottoman Palaces (Dolmabahce, Beylerbeyi, Ciragan ) , Castles ( Rumeli and Anadolu Castles ), mosques, forests and more.

Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmed I, who ascended the throne at the age of fourteen was an extremely religious-minded sultan, who displayed his religious fervor in his decision to construct a mosque to compete with Ayasofya. For the site, a suitable place was long sought before the decision was taken. At last the mosque decided to build on the site of the palace of Ayse Sultan. The owner of the palace was compensated and the site prepared by the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, who began the construction in 1609. This architect poet and inlayer completed this great work in 1617. An imperial lodge, school, service kiosk and single and double storied shops were included in the complex, which spread over the area around the mosque. The mosque itself is surrounded on three sides by a broad courtyard, and is entered on each side by a total of eight portals. The inner court is reached through three gates, and is paved in marble, and surrounded by revaks supported on columns of pink granite and marble, and two of porphyry, and surmounted by 30 cupolas. A fine fountain for ablution takes up the center of the courtyard, surrounded by six marble columns. The mosque is unique with its six minarets in Istanbul. Four of these have three balconies, two have two balconies each, a total of 16 in all. The most original feature of the mosque is the 260 windows through which it is so well lit. A total of 21043 tiles have been used in the interior. The mosque received its synonym as the Blue Mosque from the bluish haze given to the interior by these tiles. The faience consists of floral and rumi motifs of various colors on white ground. These are very fine examples of the art of tiling. The bronze and wooden decorations and artifacts of the mosque are also very fine. Calligraphy is the work of Kasim Gubari and the fine mother-of-pearl window shutters are the work of Sedefkar Mehmet Ada. Ahmed I died in 1617 and was buried near the mosque.

Süleymaniye Mosque

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 size, emphasized by the four minarets that rise from each comer 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 medreses, or theological schools, a school of medicine, a caravanserai, a Turkish bath, and a kitchen and hospice for the poor.

Turkish Bath

Another great experience in Istanbul is experiencing a Turkish Bath visit at one of the historical Istanbul Baths in the Old Town. Before the times everyone had a bathroom in their homes, a trip to the hammam was essential, in order to perform your ritual cleansing which was also a must according to Islam. While declining in popularity amongst the local folks since the widespread availability of hot and cold running water, the hammam continues to be a “try it once” type activity for enthusiastic visitors.  A funny action Turkish bath sequence of one of Jackie Chan’s Movie – Golden Fist was filmed in one of these Baths.

( as described by a visitor in past years : )

“ Wiley and I paid 10 million lira ( the ongoing rate for full service is about 70 Lira , today = 55$ ) each for our scrubbings.  Then we parted, as the hammam we were in wasn’t co-ed, but apparently many are today.  I didn’t really want a guy giving me a bath, so we specifically hunted this place down.  Once in the women’s changing area, I was given a thin cloth, a locker key, and told to “take everything off”. ( you may wear your bathing suit, but still they provide a bath material the size of a bath towel , which you wrap around your body )   I obeyed, somewhat tenuously, and silently wished that I had read more closely the section of the guidebook that describes exactly WHAT you’re supposed to do, once inside.

The changing room attendant pointed the way into a hallway, which I followed, until it came to a large, domed room, with a round marble slab in the center, and marble sinks all around the outside.  There was one woman in there already, laid out on the slab, so I followed her lead.  I took off my cloth, spread it out on the warm marble, and laid myself out.  I was somewhat uncomfortable at first, but more and more women came into the room, and it became obvious that none of us had a clue what was going on, so I relaxed.  It was very warm in the room and I was sweating profusely, but it was quiet and calm in there, and I just laid back and looked lazily at the warm sunlight filtering in through the small circular windows in the dome.

Eventually I was called over to another part of the slab by a large Turkish women, who was wearing nothing but navy blue panties and the evidence of a Caesarean section.  She spread out my cloth, and motioned for me to lay down.  She then proceeded to pour buckets of warm water all over me, then scrubbed me down with some type of exfoliating mitt.  Then she brought over a bucket of warm, sudsy water and began my “soap down”.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so clean.  The cleaning also included a light massage, which was nice.  Once she had soaped me up and washed me, she rinsed me with more warm water, then lead me into another room, where she washed my hair.  After a couple more rinses with warm water, she hit me with a final bucket of cold water, which felt really good.  After that, I dried off, dressed, and met Wiley back in the lobby.  We both agreed that it was a somewhat bizarre experience, but that it certainly must have been luxurious in the days before hot running water.”

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: