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

summer 2009 / more feed with intelligence to refine your tours

Sister Monuments : Hagia Sophia and Washington Monument

Hagia Sophia and Washington Monument are sister monuments due to the fact that they have both got the art work of the same artist:   The huge roundels with works of calligraphy and the Ottoman plaque of Sultan Abdulmecid laid in Washington Monument are works of the same master , Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi.(*1)

In 1853 upon the invitation of the U.S. Sultan Abdülmecid sent a marble plaque (*2)  to be laid in the Washington monument honoring the people of the U.S. and the relationship of the two nations . The plaque was 2 by 1 endaze [130 cm by 65cm – 4 ft 4

in by 2ft 2in] with the
the imperial cipher – the tugra, and a chronogram
verse ( a Chronogram
verse is a verse in which the the numerical
values of all the letters equal the
date of the commemorated event).

A poem by poet Ziver Pasa containing a chronogram was written by the order of the Sultan :
“In support of eternal friendship,
Abdülmecid Han allowed his honorable
name to be written in the tall stone ( monument) in Washington. ”

The text In Ottoman Turkish :
Devam-ı hulleti te’yid içün Abdülmecid
Han’ın yazıldi nam-ı paki seng-i balaya

The artist, calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi :

Güzel yazılmış bir hattı okumak lalenin kokusunu almaya benzer.

Reading a well  written calligraphy is like smelling a tulip
Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi

( Kazasker may translate is minister of Justice literally kadı – asker , judge soldier )
He was a great Caligrapher, a graduate of Galatasaray Imperial School ( still existing, today as a high school, as the famous historical Galatasaray High School on Istiklal Street of the new town ) .
His incredible voice collected the attention of the previous Sultan and he was initially educated in the impreial palace as a ney ( ottoman reed flute ) performer – floutist . He was also the master teaching Ottoman princes the caligraphy art.

The roundels at Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) read the names of Allah, Muhammed and the first 4 caliphs (Ebubekir, Ömer, Osman, Ali) , each with a 7.6 meter diameter.

(*2) by M. Ugur Derman

“From some traces of gold leaf still remaining
in the upper right and left cornices, we can
see that before the plaque was sent to America,
the calligraphy and decoration cut in bas relief
were gilded with gold leaf. In spite of the broken
letter elif in the lam-elif of bala (high, lofty)
and the fact that the dot over the letter nun (n)
of Vas¸inkton has fallen off, and that some of the
finials are later restorations, the plaque has
fared quite well over its 147-year existence.”

April 23, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , | Leave a comment

Top Sites in Istanbul

Top Istanbul Sites

Top sites and museums u should see in Istanbul :

1. Topkapi palace
( , treasury ticket , hectic ticket booth locations info : )

Harem : (most tours don’t include it. It’s considered as a seperate museum in the palace.  (Tickets are 10$ approx). It has got around 400 rooms. Only about 15 – 20 of the chambers are open to visitors.

There is no guided tour,  and very few explanatory signs;  it seems like the museum is pushing a private company’s electronic guide service purchase . With the exception of 3 – 4 chambers   (  the large ceremonial hall, chief eunuch room with  his and an assistant’s maniquenne –  model  – , one of sultan’s mother’s coffee corner )  you do not really see    furniture.  Sutan Ahmet private chamber has got almost no furniture,  but the little decorative fountain, tile work, the fireplace can be enough by itself   to make your visit to the Harem worthwhile ; if 19th century style talks to you, the Harem of Dolmabahce has got all of the genuine furniture , paintings, chandiliers, that may talk to a number of visitors more, but architecture of Topkapi palace Harem part is simply impressive.

First you would buy a ticket to get in the palace. The Harem tickets are sold inside the palace, in front of the entrance of the Harem. The tours begin every half an hour. Towards the closing time the palace is more peaceful (cruiseship groups are gone ) , there is an excellent outdoor cafe – restaurant facing the Bosphorus straits – one of the best view in town, if you are not on a budget tour , its a la carte restaurant has got one of the top lamb schank you may ever it in all of Turkey ( also at Ali Baba and Hacı Abdullah restaurants , plus I cook it as good ) .

( the roof of Hamdi Restaurant – lunch or dinner , short walking to the Spice Bazaar (we call it Misir Carsisi – no dots above the i letters and a comma at the bottom of C, attached to it – the turkish letter for ‘ch’.

2. SAINT SOPHIA CHURCH – The Byzantine Cathedral , the Church of the Divine Wisdom, with its bright red brickwork and its four minarets. Emperor Justinian’s dream was chiselled out of stone in record time   5 years and 10 months! On 27 December in 537 AD,  the church opened up as  the  largest Christian church of its time.   Sultan  Mehmet II.   after conquering Constantinople, converted  the church into a Mosque. And this destiny is easily visible on a tour (9:30 am – 5:00 pm Tuesday to Sunday; admission is 20 lira = 10 euro = 13,5$).

3. THE BASILICA CISTERN -A Bond   movie locaiton :  – From Russia with Love , showing Mr. Bond escaping from one building to another by sailing on a little boat in the cistern.

4. A Bosphorus Cruise.

6. ST. SAVIOUR IN CHORA CHURCH – You will appreciate Byzantine art at its peak with the mosaics and fresqoes decorating all of the walls of the church, giving completer life cycles of Mary and Christ (Mary’s childhood details are breathtaking, unknown to westerners – bases on Apocriphal work of St. James )

7. BLUE MOSQUE & SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE- The top two Imperial mosques of ISTANBUL . The Blue Mosque is exceptional in more ways than one. Being the only mosque with six minarets and thus seen to rival the Great Mosque in Mecca, the latter had an extra one added after all, Mecca is Mecca! The cost of building the Blue Mosque was exceptional too: it turned into a black hole for the public purse.

In retrospect, the horrendous costs did pay off, though. So: dress appropriately, you are entering a mosque, after all ( if you’re not wearing something suitable,  scarf or a shawl is provided free of charge at the entrance. It is adviced to carry a schawl on this holy gounds of the mosque to use as a skirt if you are wearing a short not to offend the warshippers)   no entry at prayer times, also half an hour prior to to close the gate  tourists enter through the  gateon the west side shoes off,  socks, or matching socks 🙂 not a must. If you are wearing a bermuda pull it down to your knees and that is fine for a man , for ladies, they may still provide a schawl to wrap your self up.

Once inside, the visitor is astonished by  cascades of light  colour and designs:  tiles with dominant color blue, huge candelabras, and 260 windows, most of them stained glass   make for an unrivalled impression. And, with the mosque not only being a place of worship, but also a social institution, it was also provided with a soup kitchen, a hammam for the bath and shops.

8. ASIATIC non touristy ISTANBUL – Ignored by visitors , Asiatic Istanbul is also impressive . Would you like to be the only tourists in a local vegetable and fish marketplace and then have lunch at restaurant, where the grand grand father of the owner was THE COOK OF THE OTTOMAN PALACE!  Followed by a drive through the top residential areas and scenic Bosphorus driveway.

Sakirin Mosque with its reputaiton of being the first one designed by a woman ( Mrs. Fadillioglu ) is among places of interest, highliy worthwhile.

9. Shopping at the Grand or the Egyptian Bazaar.

10 . TURKISH AND ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM ( across Blue Mosque, behind Egyptian Obelisk  )

11. THE HOUSE OF MR. SABANCI – This is one of the two top wealthy Turkish families, their palatial house is just converted into a private museum; what a priviledge to see it . Mr . Sabanci is an art collector, and his Calligrapy collection went around the world. The family at one point was in Fortune 500 listing .

12. THE ARCHAELOGICAL MUSEUM – includes unique artefacts like Alexander the great Sarcophagus. One of the most important archaelogical museums of the world.

13. STREET CAR RIDE ON ISTIKLAL STREET – Fanciest walking street of Istanbul with late 19th century Italian architecture. Cafes, bars, window shopping, people watching. Famous Pera Palas Hotel can be included.

14. PRINCE ISLANDS & CART RIDE ON THE GRAND ISLAND – For Istanbul visitors staying 4 days or more.

Istanbul – the Byzantine Constantinople Istanbul was the capital city of three empires : Ottoman , Byzantine , and Roman Empires , and she was ruled over 120 kings, emperors and sultans. The impressive Bosphorus Straits of Istanbul with so many palaces and mansions built along is admired highly by the visitors on a fancy 2 hour cruise. This is also the site of the �Clashing Rocks� in the Mythology, through which �Jason & The Argounats� were trying to pass. Many visitors come back to Istanbul in winter for a weeks� stay to enjoy more in depth. Active churches, and Synagogues as well as the mosques attract visitors at religiously significant days, like feasts, or Christmas. Special Istanbul visits : Topkapi & Dolmabahce Palace, The Blue Mosque, The Grand Ottoman Military Band of the Ottomans, Saint Sophia Church & Basilica Cistern of the Byzantines , An unforgettable Bosphorus Straits Cruise , Shopping at the Grand or the Egyptian Bazaar.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Istanbul 2010 Summer Museum entrance fees

The information ( rates etc ) below is updated in April 2010 ( 1$ US = 1,485 )

Entrance fee to Topkapi and Hagia Sophia

( Ayasofya ) : 20 tl  Harem Section of Topkapi 15tl ?

Basilica Cistern 15 tl


check back soon for more.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 2010 – US $ to Turkish Lira exchange rate

1U.S. $  = 1.45 lira

1 Euro = 1.95 lira         ( the rates will  fluctuate just  slightly )

US $ will  move between 1.40 – 1.58lira.

Best place to change money in Turkey is anywhere outside the banks of airports.  They charge ridiculous unnecessary commissions at the airport.   In the city there are these free exchance offices , almost anywhere, where you get better value.   That is where you get the best deal.

Traveller’s cheque is a bit difficult to cash , only certain main branches of banks will cash it, vendor’s will prefer credit card ; they will avoid American Express because of high commission rates; a number of them will accept visa or master like cash. But one gets better value by cash in a number of cases in grand bazaar,  as this reduces the ( tax! )  costs of the vendor.

You can make majority of your payments  in US $ or Euros in Turkey , needing local money Lira  few times . You will need lira for museums, but a number of them do accept credit card ( ( including Hagia Sophia ( Ayasofya ) and Topkapi Palace  ( The ticket of the Harem is sold seperately inside the palace, at the entrance of Harem ) , Basilica Cistern.

If you get a pin number for your credit card you can withdraw money from atm’s which are plenty , all over in Istanbul.  In Turkey if you have a pin number you can also use it during a purchase.

In most cases in Turkey  as if you were in the U.S. you pay pay in US dollar ,  or , as  in a European Union you may pay in euro.  At some places they give you a worse rate for foreign currency payment and you may lose money, so it is better to carry lira in such case.


February 20, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orhan Veli – I am listening to Istanbul

Istanbul Poem by A notable Turkish poet,  Orhan Veli :

I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
At first there is a light wind;
The leaves on the trees
Are gently swaying.
And far, faraway
The endless jingling of the water-sellers’ bells,
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
High above the birds are flying,
Flocks after flocks shrieking loudly.
In fish traps the nets are drawn;
A woman’s foot touches the water.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
Delightfully cool Covered Bazaar,
Busy, lively Mahmut Pasha,
Courtyards teeming with pigeons,
Sounds of hammering coming from the docks.
Smell of sweat in the lovely spring breeze.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
Drunk with its old time memories,
A seaside mansion with gloomy boathouses,
Amid the humming of waning south winds,
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
A sexy girl is passing by on the sidewalk –
Curses songs ditties taunts…
Something in her hand falls to the ground
It must be a rose.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
Round the edges of your skirt a twittering bird;
I know if your brow is hot or cold,
I know if your lips are moist or dry.
I can sense that from the beatings of your heart.
A pale moon is rising behind the umbrella pines;
I am listening to Istanbul.
Orhan Veli

February 20, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , | Leave a comment

The first love letter of the world – Istanbul Archaeological Museum

The first love letter of the world
The first love letter of the world

love letter istanbul archaelogical museum

A Sumerian letter.

Scholars say, this  was a  ritual taking place in  Mesopotamian festivals for  fertility and power which also included the initiation  of a sacred Marriage. The  new year for the Sumerians is  around the spring equinox, and every new year the Sumerian king “married” the Sumerian goddess of love and war, namely  Inanna. Inanna  is the Babylonian version of Ishtar.  Inanna’s  powers  included   renewing  the land’s fertility.

Every summer at the  special festival      Inanna’s high priestess of Inanna  representing Inanna married  the King : The King would provide offerings ; and  the priestess would accept the king into her bed, preceded by   an invitational  love  poem  : In the one below Sumerian king is Shu-Sin,  and we are introduced to Enlil, the high priestess. This  is the oldest love poem known in the world :

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.
You have captivated me,
Let me stand tremblingly before you.
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me,
Let me stand tremblingly before you.
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.
Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey.
Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.
Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,
Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.
You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil’s heart,
Give my pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay your hand on it,
Bring your hand over like a gishban-garment,
Cup your hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment.

Dünyanın ilk aşk mektubu – İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi

1889 yılında, Bağdat’ın 150 kilometre uzağındaki Sümer kenti Nippur’da bulundu. Tablet 55 yıl önce ABD’li Sümerolog Samuel Noah Kramer tarafından okundu. Aynı dönemde tableti Türkçe’ye ise bugün 94 yaşında olan Türkiye’nin ilk Sümeroloğu Muazzez İlmiye Çığ çevirdi.

Şiirin hikayesi: Sümer inancına göre, toprağın bereketini ve toprağın verimli olmasını sağlamak amacıyla, Kral’ın yılda bir kez Bereket ve Aşk Tanrıçası Enlil yerine bir rahibe ile evlenmesi kutsal bir görevdi. Bu şiir büyük bir olasılıkla Kral Şusin için seçilmiş bir gelin tarafından yeni yıl bayramını kutlama töreninde söylenmek üzere kaleme alınmıştı ve ziyafetlerde şölenlerde müzik, şarkı ve dans eşliğinde söyleniyordu.

Şiir :

“Okşayışları baldan tatlı “rahibe Enlil “aslanı” Damat Şuşin’e mektubunda  şöyle yazıyor:
Güveyi, kalbimin sevgilisi,
Senin güzelliğin fazladır, bal gibi tatlı
Beni büyüledin,
Senin önünde titreyerek durayım,
Güveyi, seni okşayayım,
Benim kıymetli okşayışım baldan hoştur,
Bağışla bana okşayışlarını,
Benim beyim Tanrım,
Benim beyim baygınlığım,
Enlil’in kalbini memnun eden Su-Sin’im,
Bağışla bana okşayışlarını.

bir diğer detaylı tercümesi :

Damadım, kalbimin sevgilisi. Güzelliğin büyüktür baldan tatlı. Aslan, kalbimin kıymetlisi. Güzelliğin büyüktür baldan tatlı. Benim değerli okşayışlarım baldan tatlıdır. Yatak odasında bal doludur. Güzelliğinle zevklenelim. Aslan seni okşayayım. Benim değerli okşayışlarım baldan tatlıdır. Damadım benden zevk aldın. Annem söyle sana güzel şeyler verecektir. Babam, sana hediyeler verecektir. Sen beni sevdiğin için. Lütfet bana okşayışlarını. Benim Tanrım, benim koruyucum . Tanrı Ellil’in kalbini memnun eden Şusin’im. Lütfet bana okşayışlarını .

Philadelphia Üniversitesi profesörlerinden Hilprecht, 1889 1900 yılları arasında Mezopotamya’nın Niffer Vadisi’nde bir kazı yaptı. Bu arada topraktan çıkarılan önemli bir vesika, içeriğinin ne olduğu bilinmeyen çivi yazısı ile yazılmış diğer binlerce levha ile birlikte, kazı yapılan yerin sahibi olan Osmanlı Hükümeti’ne teslim edildi. 70 bin levhanın içine sıkışmış bulunan bu tarihi vesika; 58 yıl sonra, dünyaca ünlü Sümerolog Muazzez Çığ ve Hatice Kızılay tarafından ele alındı. Bu taş levha üzerindeki yazının ne anlam içerdiği çözülünce, uzmanlar hayretler içinde kaldılar. Çünkü bu taş levha, dünyanın ilk  aşk  mektubuydu. Hem de Sümer Medeniyeti’nin en büyük kral ve kraliçesinin aşkını anlatan bir mektup…
Milattan önce 2300 2500 yılları arasında Mezopotamya’da yaşayan ve şahane bir güzelliğe sahip olan Enlil adında Sümerli bir rahibe, Kral Su-Sin’e aşıktı. Sümerlilerin yeni sene bayramında, tesadüfen kralın gözüne çarparak onunla evlenmeğe muvaffak oldu. Evlendiği gün de  ateşi ile, sevgilisi krala bir şiir yazdı. Gerçek sevginin sembolü olan şiir sarayda o kadar beğenildi ki, daha sonra o devrin en ünlü musiki üstatları tarafından bestelendi ve kısa zamanda halk arasına kadar yayılarak ebedileşti…

*Oguz Kosebalaban is a travel writer, photographer , travel consultant and  official professional tour guide who have been leading tours through Turkey including prime sites like Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia for many years.  The pdf file belongs to a quarterly Turkish magazine where some of his photos have been  used , including the cover : www.kartonsan.com/pdf/paylasim/paylasim2009-1.pdf

Oguz Kosebalaban is spellt as Oğuz Kösebalaban in Turkish.



A wonderful Hittite Prayer   ( to be translated ) :

Tanrım, beni yavaşlat.
Aklımı sakinleştirerek kalbimi dinlendir…
Zamanın sonsuzluğunu göstererek bu telaşlı hızımı dengele…
Günün karmaşası içinde bana sonsuza kadar yaşayacak tepelerin sükunetini ver .
Sinirlerim ve kaslarımdaki gerginliği, belleğimde yaşayan akarsuların melodisiyle yıka, götür.
Uykunun o büyüleyici ve iyileştirici gücünü duymama yardımcı ol…
Anlık zevkleri yaşayabilme sanatını öğret; bir çiçeğe bakmak için yavaşlamayı, güzel bir köpek ya da kediyi okşamak için durmayı, güzel bir kitaptan birkaç satır okumayı, balık avlayabilmeyi, hülyalara dalabilmeyi öğret…
Her gün bana kaplumbağa ve tavşanın masalını hatırlat. Hatırlat ki yarışı her zaman hızlı koşanın bitirmediğini , yaşamda hızı arttırmaktan çok daha önemli şeyler olduğunu bileyim…
Heybetli meşe ağacının dallarından yukarıya doğru bakmamı sağla. Bakıp göreyim ki, onun böyle güçlü ve büyük olması yavaş ve iyi büyümesine bağlıdır… Beni yavaşlat Tanrım ve köklerimi yaşam toprağının kalıcı değerlerine doğru göndermeme yardım et. Yardım et ki, kaderimin yıldızlarına doğru daha olgun ve daha sağlıklı olarak yükseleyim.
Ve hepsinden önemlisi…Tanrım,Bana değiştirebileceğim şeyleri değiştirmek için CESARET, değiştiremeyeceğim şeyleri kabul etmek için SABIR, İkisi arasındaki farkı bilmek için AKIL ve Beni aşkın körlüğünden ve yalanlarından koruyacak DOSTLAR ver…

February 20, 2010 Posted by | 1 | Leave a comment

Gourmet dining Istanbul – Sentimental meatball for tears of happiness :))

Hi there ;

One of my duties mixed with pleasure as a  tour guide in Istanbul offering high end tours   is  keeping my visitors away from touristy restaurants offering mediocre food.  If you care for a gourmet bite as a treat; read on :))

Taking care of upmarket clients I always need special charming restaurants , that doesn’t need be pricy all the times,  but charming and special; and below are the ones.
(For the price concern,   In a number of them  of them one main dish will be in the range of 10$ – 14$ price range for those budget concious who would like to plan ahead. In the list below Buhara is the least expensive, a turkish pizza ( lahmacun ) is around 3,5$, most veggy meals 5$ or so, the beyti mentioned below for 12$ , but it is like 1,5 portion, you may order a half size. )

Here are my comments from my visits to the restaurants mentioned below enough times to give you the good advice. Of course there are tons of others which are also perfect.

To begin with; if you would like a decent bite of lamb kebab ( sish – şiş kebab ) , or lamb ; ask for the most tender, that is rare to get – kulbastı – külbastı; only a real top of the line kebab place will have it, doeas not need to be a decor place.

In central old town ( around blue mosque square ) , there are very good and also but mediocre and touristy places.

In that neighborhood a real treat vegetable dish restaurant like the named Ciya of Kadikoy district ( take a boat from almost across Spice Market to Kadikoy district ; details of this is also another link in my opera.com blog you will find below.

Just outside the Nuruosmaniye gate of the Grand Bazaar, the gate on your left and the mosque on your right walk “3” minutes , and on your right the corner of the first block is Tarihi Subaşı lokantası, that is the right place to dine when you are in its neighborhood.

On Istiklal street in new town, yes there are tons of places, but beginning from Taksim square, past Burger King, on the left , 2 min walking , corner of the first block is Haci Baba, if you like lamb schank, I go there for lamb schank and warm sarma , grape leaf roll with ground meat and rice and spice filling – Greeks (wrongly) call it dolma ; the rest of their specials are a bit like Ciya, and Canak ( in Acibadem district of Kadikoy ( take a minibus or taxi – 7 lira , 5$ ride from Kadikoy ) and I DO PREFER THESE TWO to Hacibaba. For a superior vegetable ( usually mixed with chunks of beef and lamb ) also a turn on Istiklal street is a historical one called Haci Abdullah; this will be superior to HAcibaba for vegetable dishes, same leage with Ciya and Canak for some selections , but this one is full of character of an old business with a tradition, 1950’s or so.
Above the main entrance of Spice MArket there is this sort of historical restaurant, though a bit too pricy.

In the old town a number of very good and not necessarily pricy places can be pinpointed :
My favourite kebab and home made vegetable dish place nearby Blue mosque is Buhara; location is easy 5 – 7 min walking to Blue Mosque , inexpensive, my American clients just liked it so much , and some of them were gourmets. Their Beyti kebab ( ground beef and lamb made into a roll with thin flat bread just warm out of oven , with pistachio crunches , mushroom and pepper on side in it ) is a real treat, the order may begin with a much smaller lahmacun ( turkish pizza ) called bardakaltı ( saucer sized ) lahmacun .

Sentimental meatball for tears of happiness :))

Sentimental meatball is a slightly wrong translation; it is originally called icli kofte ( içli köfte )  içli means there is something on the inside – in other words stuffed or filled in ; literal translation is more like with inside . But in Turkey if you have feelings inside yourself, you have something on the inside .  The word is considered too be a gentle touchy word when referring to feelings ; in 2009 a plastic pipe company in its commercials used the metaphoric  meaning of the word as in ; so many things go through on the inside, yet nothing is heard on the outside; the reference is to someone with deeper and possibly unrevealed feelings. ( well this was supposed to be an article on dining , I throw in a bit of the culture around it  :))

Almost next to Spice market Hamdi Restaurant is also a treat ; but you should go for certain selections only – I do not advice the vegetable starters there, since they are not known for it. But again this is one more a kebab place, and but their baklava is ‘one of the best’ in Istanbul; you may read my recent article  on it at my blog,  somewhere below also at my :

Bon appétit ! 🙂
Oguz Kosebalaban


Sightseeing advise: for a Bosphorus cruise google ” bitter or better bosphorus cruise” or scroll down my blog to find about this “better cruise ” option , that is shorter but better than the one offered by the city lines.

February 18, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkish Herbal Remedies – Brand new Spice Market article , Feb. 2010! :)

This is not the regular turkish delight, henna, safran , coffee article , that is over-saturatedly and boringly repeated almost in any source.Yes info on these items is also juicy, but it is a shame there is lack of information on other interesting items as well as these .

My first introduction is a delicious herbal tea mixture : Green Tea, cinnamon sticks and cloves. This may well replace antibiotics (just  google and see some scientific research result on  how powerfull cloves against microps, germs, fungi, etc )  .  This mixture is especially great for those who suffer allergy with postnasal flow ( which may also cause   sinusitis) ,  those who are addicted to antihistamine pills. At least for me,  and for  the 80 or 90 other repeated Spice market shoppers ( who were advised by one of the Spice Market vendors , encouraged by me )  it worked .

Here is how to prepare it :

( Well you better also buy  an inexpensive  turkish tea set , which is a kettle with a smaller pot   sitting on the kettle; small pot allowing to brew tea better while being warmed up as  the water in  kettle boils, the small sets  run for about  20 -30 lira = 14 – 20$ US   As you walk straight through the market , at the end that is straight ahead  step outside and take a right turn. That is the market place for glasses , tea sets, coffee pots etc )

Boil the cinnamon stick in the kettle, ( after the water boils lower the temperature until the water turns red from cinnamon . You should be able to smell the cinnamon in the kitchen, in the hallway.  8 cloves in the upper pot with just enough water to cover them will also heat up meanwhile. By now you need to be able to smell cloves as well.  Well , approx by then you need to put two tablespoonful green tea to the upper pot and 3 min or so later fill this pot up with the cinnamon water from the kettle.

Allergy and this herbal tea :

Give this a  try  especaially if you are  suffering from allergy symptoms, you may get rid of the antihistamine pills. Also if you will take a flight , be exposed to places where clean air  lacks , contagious diseases are more likely to spread around. So, in those cases this is also your drink.My name is Oguz Kosebalaban and I put my name to this drink.  It works.  This is my dedicated effort to contribute to your health. This drink saved my  life from being partly and continuously dependent  on  antihistamine pills, and so  I am indebted. Now is the time to pay back.

More spice market specials will be here, at my store, check back 🙂

( Of course you can make this tea anywhere in the world , but it will taste better while in Istanbul, with the sinergy of your new experiences :))

Regular Tea : May the British forgive, but I feel sorry for them ( and the rest of the world ) as they do not know ( read the rest with a British accent please 🙂 how to brew the tea properly :

The tea set I descirbed above is a must. Tea leaves should be used ( never tea bags ) , tea leaves should simmer in the upper pot.

Initially before brewing the tea leaves you should wash the tea leaves ( or moisturise ) , so that while the water in the kettle warms th pot up, the tea leaves won’t overdry.  I have heard so many of my visitors telling that was the best tea they ever drank.

nearby hamdi restaurant :

Also one of the best pistachio-lamb kebab and baklava + shobiyet ( şöbiyet ) is at the nearby Hamdi Restaurant, should be combined with your Spice MArket visit.

Hey backpacker, you too : this time pay a little bit more than a Burger King and treat yourself with this Kebab ( 14$ Us + two slices of sobiyet 7$ Us approx cost )  ; Visual Istanbul is a great Istanbul , but why not take back home a bit of Istanbul in your stomach or belly   , you can walk and burn it do not worry :))

Also at the same restaurant is Icli kofte ( mistakenly metaphoric word by word translation in some menus elsewhere reads sentimantal meatball, as opposed to stuffed ground meat  paddy. Also Gavurdagi Salatasi ( Gavurdağı salatası ) – Infidel’s mountain Salad : Includes Crushed walnut, pomegranade vinegar , finely chopped cucumber, tomato, onion – preferably red, pepper, fresh mint ( replaced by parsley in most places as well as Hamdi. But if you ask for it you can get mint in it as well. This meal better be accompanied by good Turkish Red wine, a decent one with which you will never  go wrong is Yakut,  and Antik ( this  one’s white is also available, also very good ) For white Çankaya is decent.  These are brand names by the way. The large bottles will sell for about 45$ US , between two a small bottle for a day time to tour afterwards is sufficient.

A wine called Kalecik karası is available by many wineries, a bit more pricy. In a bit more

The balcony of Hamdi is a good place for a photographer overlooking Galata Bridge, Golden Horn , New Mosque,  and partial Bosphorus view, across from Galata Tower. I am not their partner, but a good client : Since they keep my visitors so happy; I end up there a number of times a year.

What to do after spice market:

After a slow lunch if it is 2.20 you are on time to catch a taxi to Military Museum to watch the live performance of the military band – mehteran with a superb 5 minute film on their origin and how thet influenced classical composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Chaikowsky and as a result how the music called Ala Turca was born.

Coming soon  :

Pepper Paste – The best well kept secret of Turkish kitchen for the amazing meals ( hot and not hot pepper paste

Mastic ( may come in Turkish delight )

Mad Honey

Also for a visual guide of Istanbul you may visit my photo pages :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23822697@N02/sets/  some photos there are also from Spica market experiences, that will give you some insight.

February 13, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment