A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

A Tale of Two Bridges on the Bosphorus

The Bosphorus Strait is like no natural body of water that I have been on. It is like a very wide (between 1km and 3.5 km) and very long (32km) natural canal that both separates eastern europe and western asia, and forms part of a connection between the Mediterranean and Black seas. A boat ride, with a couple of hundred other tourists, from the Golden Horn estuary to the "second bridge" was a comfortable and cheap ($6) way to experience a good chunk of what lies along the banks of this impressive waterway. The boat had a cafe on board and a waiter bearing a tray containing cold drinks as well as my favourite hot tea served the Turkish way in an elegant glass on a saucer did the rounds every 20 minutes or so. They also had a commentary over speakers which pointed out and explained a few facts about various sights as we passed them. The most impressive sights for me were the two suspension bridges that crossed the straits. They were major examples of engineering having over a kilometer of 4 lane highway suspended between the uprights on either side, and also being so high above the water to allow for ocean-going ships to pass beneath. My shuttle bus to the airport crossed over by the first bridge and it was an amazing slightly scary experience when you realized that the road you were on was being held up in the air by a few steel cables. The second most impressive sight was the Rumelihisari castle built by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed in 1451, before he conquered Constantinople and changed the name to Istanbul. It was built to gain control of the Bosphorus and stop reinforcements coming via the Black Sea when his plans to attack Constantinople took place. Today it is a museum and easily accessed from Istanbul by road. It lies just south of the second bridge. The sultan also built a smaller fortress called the Anatolian castle on the Asian side of the straits, and this can also be seen from the water. Apart from many impressive palaces and homes of the very wealthy, that line the banks on both sides, there are the ubiquitous mosques of all sizes and a surprising amount of green hilly woodlands to be seen on the asian side which doesn't seem to be as built up with waterside suburbs as the european side. The other really impressive sight was the Dolmabahce Palace. This palace built by Sultan Abdulmecid in the 1840's, cost so much money to build ( 1.5 billion) that it was the reason the Ottoman empire collapsed and slid into a state of bankruptcy, subject to control by the European powers that loaned the Sultan the money. (Nothing new under the sun....Greece?) It is a palace I will go and visit if I return to Istanbul ( no photos put me off). The palace has 265 rooms, 46 halls, 6 bathhouses, and 68 toilets. However these aren't normal rooms, they are furnished and decorated to the height of luxury, extensively with gold and crystal and fine porcelain. The ceilings alone used 14 tonnes of gold in the form of gold leaf. One of the halls holds the worlds largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, which weighs 4.5 tonnes and was a gift to the sultan from Queen Victoria. There is even a huge crystal staircase made of crystal, brass and mahogany. French style furniture and oriental carpets fill every room. Even the outside areas are elegant and over the top special so it is on my list of places to see next time......

waiting to leave

waiting to leave


saying bye to Golden horn & sultanahmet

saying bye to Golden horn & sultanahmet


heading up Bosphorus past Sea Princess in dock

heading up Bosphorus past Sea Princess in dock


Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace


same

same


closer look

closer look


guarded even from the water

guarded even from the water


Ortakoy Mosque under first bridge

Ortakoy Mosque under first bridge


under we go

under we go


1973 first bridge with a kilometer long span

1973 first bridge with a kilometer long span


coming up to 2nd bridge and Rumeli fortress

coming up to 2nd bridge and Rumeli fortress


on european side

on european side


more

more


close up

close up


nice relaxing way to travel

nice relaxing way to travel


Anadolu Isari fort on Asian side

Anadolu Isari fort on Asian side


interesting palace

interesting palace


another palace

another palace


passing wealthy hilly suburbs

passing wealthy hilly suburbs


and more

and more


second bridge where we turn around

second bridge where we turn around


same

same


1988 second bridge 1100 mtr span

1988 second bridge 1100 mtr span


big shipping lane

big shipping lane


on its way to the black sea

on its way to the black sea


sitting on the back of boat

sitting on the back of boat


close up of first bridge on return journey

close up of first bridge on return journey


another palace

another palace


I bet the Bosphorus can get rough at times

I bet the Bosphorus can get rough at times


passing lots of wealthy Istanbul suburbs

passing lots of wealthy Istanbul suburbs


cute little palace

cute little palace


asian side is very wooded along Bosphorus

asian side is very wooded along Bosphorus


another palace

another palace


was a palace now a boarding school

was a palace now a boarding school


maiden's tower with shipping in the distance

maiden's tower with shipping in the distance


close up ...now used as lighthouse

close up ...now used as lighthouse


under the Galata bridge

under the Galata bridge


ride over

ride over

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul - from the Galata tower to Ominonu..

My next to last day in Istanbul and it is time to do the tourist thing, so I head to one of the must do things, which is the Galata Tower. It is a medieval stone building, built in 1348, and is a good place to look down on Istanbul and take photos, if you have a stomach for heights. It is quite pricey for Istanbul, at about $12.50 for a few minutes at the top, but it is worth it for the small thrill of standing on a narrow ledge hundreds of feet in the air ( and at least you don't have to bunjy jump from it ) A ten minute queue and then a lift ride followed by a narrow stair climb and you step out onto an exposed narrow ledge ( of course it has a chest high handrail to stop you falling off ). If you were there alone, it would only take a minute to walk around the tower back to the entry/exit door, but one of the problems is selfies, and another is people not being able to read signs. The flow around the top comes to a standstill when people stop to take selfies because they block up the narrow ledge while they take the time to find the best view and the best pose. This happened a lot. Also when you stepped out on the balcony there was a sign in 3 languages and an arrow indicating a clockwise direction to go around the tower. Half the people followed the sign and half the people went in an anticlockwise direction around the tower. Squeezing past groups of people on a narrow section of the ledge caused some issues, especially if you were lined up to take a photo and got pushed out of your place at the rail while a huge sumo wrestler/weightlifter type tried to squeeze past. I think he didn't speak English or at least didn't understand the term ' arsehole', otherwise I might not be here to tell the story. The next part of my day was going to be a two hour ferry trip up the Bosphorus Straits and back, but to get to the ferry I had to negotiate my way down some steep narrow hilly lanes and cross the Golden Horn estuary by the Galata Bridge. Istanbul is like many cities in that it is built on a series of hills and ridges and valleys. Walking up or down steep hills is not in my opinion one of life's little pleasures ( I think it was my cousin in law Steve who said to me " I don't do hills", and I totally agree with those words) So why is it that I always seem to find myself climbing up or climbing down bloody steep hills (rhetorical question) Life can be challenging. Anyway I got to the bottom and started across the bridge enjoying the sight of dozens of men (no women?) holding a fishing pole over the rails. I'm not sure what the point of it is because I didn't see anything being caught, only a plastic pail or two carrying what I assumed were bait fish ( only 3 or 4 inches long). At the end of the bridge was the Ominonu square ( a meeting place and transport terminus for buses and trains coming into the city from other towns ) It is also the favourite place to buy and taste the famous grilled fish sandwich (balik ekmek) known all over Turkey, and now sold only from three boats at Ominonu. The whole square had a very strong fishy smell about it, and people were queueing up to buy one. I would have but I read some reviews on different sites complaining about how smelly and boney the fish was. They use small fish like mackerel and cut the head and tail off but the spine and other bones are left in. To drink with your fish in a bun they have a couple of Turkish specialities which I have tried and not developed a taste for. One is a thinned out runny salty yoghurt which was good for countering very strong hot pickled peppers I ate at one meal, but didn't enjoy that much. The other is a reddish liquid made from turnips. It was like drinking cider vinegar and after one sip I couldn't continue drinking it. But at least I tried them. Soon it was time for my 2 hour cruise, which was a steal at $6....that will be my next blog

Galata tower..a what symbol??

Galata tower..a what symbol??


standing in the queue at the bottom

standing in the queue at the bottom


it is a very big tower

it is a very big tower


on side of tower

on side of tower


my first view out of the door

my first view out of the door


a long way down

a long way down


part of Istanbul city

part of Istanbul city


more looking east towards black sea

more looking east towards black sea


more

more


more

more


more

more


not much room on narrow ledge

not much room on narrow ledge


looking down to golden horn estuary

looking down to golden horn estuary


galata bridge on golden horn

galata bridge on golden horn


it's a tight squeeze

it's a tight squeeze


on a scary narrow ledge

on a scary narrow ledge


where the golden horn meets the Bosphorus strait

where the golden horn meets the Bosphorus strait


old town Istanbul on other side of golden horn

old town Istanbul on other side of golden horn


bosphorus straits dividing europe and asia

bosphorus straits dividing europe and asia


last view from the tower

last view from the tower


way down from the tower to the bridge

way down from the tower to the bridge


half a dozen alleyways all going steeply downhill

half a dozen alleyways all going steeply downhill


looking back up towards tower

looking back up towards tower


tower rises above skyline

tower rises above skyline


dozens of optimists on Galata bridge

dozens of optimists on Galata bridge


entrepreneur hiring out the tackle

entrepreneur hiring out the tackle


Things you do for a break from the girlfriend

Things you do for a break from the girlfriend


poor little baby fish

poor little baby fish


eminonu square

eminonu square


Not the blue mosque but the new mosque

Not the blue mosque but the new mosque


tied to the wharf

tied to the wharf


one of three decorated boats

one of three decorated boats


selling balik ekmek

selling balik ekmek


fish sandwich boats Eminonu

fish sandwich boats Eminonu


looking back from where I've come

looking back from where I've come

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

One of the things I didn't do in Istanbul....

Istanbul is a shopper's paradise, and because I was all Mosqued out I thought I might check out some major shopping destinations in Istanbul. I had already walked down Istiklal Avenue from Taksim square. This is an elegant pedestrian street ( the Champs Elysee of Istanbul ) ,one and a half kilometers long, lined with upmarket shops, and with many sidestreets full of downmarket shops. On the weekends they estimate that 3 million people a day visit there. I confess that I did shop there. I bought batteries and a new SD card for my camera, and did lunch too. So the first stop on my Friday unshopping spree was only one station away on the metro from where I am staying and is one of a dozen real honest to goodness shopping malls in Istanbul. It surprised me to read that the Cevahir Centre was, from when it was built in 2005 until 2011, Europe's largest shopping mall. Ok it has 350 shops, and 50 restaurants on 6 levels. It also has 12 cinemas, a bowling alley and several other entertainment stages and theatres. Oh and it conveniently has it's own metro station. Funny thing was it just didn't feel that big, that is until you ventured away from the main concourse and into the side streets. Then it got big enough to get lost in. It was interesting to note that before anyone could enter the building you and your bag had to be scanned at a security checkpoint, and on every level of the mall were many security guards walking around. It is the middle-east, after all. I started at the top and worked my way down, checking out areas of interest. I went into a few menswear stores looking for cheap t shirts, but couldn't find any that looked any different from the one's you can buy in NZ. They all had California, or Route 66, or Las Vegas, or New York plastered on the front. They do know who their target market is though. There were two levels dedicated to women's clothing and accessories. One level of about 80 shops was exclusively made up of shops selling handbags and shoes, and most of them had between 30 and 70 percent discounted prices. Another level had about 50 shops selling only children's clothing and accessories. There were only a few people wandering around when I arrived just after 10 am, but it was starting to get a bit busier as I was leaving around midday. Oh, and I didn't even spend a single Turkish Lira there on my unshopping spree. Walking around is hard work so I stopped off to grab some lunch at my favourite locantasi (worker's cafeteria). That done I jumped back on the metro to go to the nearest station to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. You would think that a place made up of over 3000 shops on 60 covered in streets would be hard to lose, but of course I walked out of the metro and turned right instead of left. So an hour later I turned up at one of the 21 entrances to the bazaar, after being given three different sets of directions. They were In Turkish though, so I might have lost something in translating their waving arms into English. I took a single photo and was accosted by a dozen young men all wanting to be my best friend, or sell me a selfie-stick, or show me the best shops to buy anything in the bazaar, or take me for a cup of tea and a friendly talk to their uncle's rug shop. "Hells bells" I thought, I haven't even got into the place and it has already started. So I said "No, NO, NNOO" to them and walked on past the stores on the edges of the bazaar. Of course, that didn't stop them at all. One or two of them kept up with me saying things like "Where are you from, are you an Aussi or a Kiwi?" "I lived in Auckland with my uncle in 2009. and Kiwis are the friendliest people in the world" "How are you liking being in Istanbul", "We have a tradition of inviting people to come and sit with us and drink tea, so that we can meet new friends from around the world, We would be honoured if you would join us" "Go away", "Leave me alone" " ***** off", nothing worked to deter them, they wouldn't be ignored and as I walked on they were joined by others. I thought to myself this is going to be a nightmare, I have already passed ten stalls filled with cheap tee shirts, and if I had stopped and looked at any one of them the stall owner would have pounced on me and not let me go until I bought one. If I continue with my plans to venture any further into the bazaar, this is going to happen a dozen times in the first street, not to mention the very real possibility of getting lost amongst 3000 shops on 60 streets with 21 different exits The only sensible thing to do, in the circumstances, was to walk back to the metro and call it a day. My legs were aching anyway, so saying goodbye to all my new friends that is what I did. I didn't even get a chance to open my coin purse. That was one of my more successful days in Istanbul. My day spent unshopping.....

The Cevahir Shopping Complex

The Cevahir Shopping Complex


6 floors- 350 shops & 50 restaurants

6 floors- 350 shops & 50 restaurants


In business since 2005

In business since 2005


One entry to the grand bazaar-here since 1461

One entry to the grand bazaar-here since 1461

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul....Next bite

The Hagia Sophia ( Full translation means Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God) is still standing, and that is something of a miracle. The first version was built in 336 AD in the reign of the Emperor Constantine and served as a cathedral. During riots in the city in 404 AD the church was burnt down to the ground. The next version was built in 415, and served as a Cathedral until it too was burnt down in riots that badly damaged the city in 532 AD. Third time lucky you would think, and you would be kinda right. The present building was built by Emperor Justinion. It only took 5 years to build although he pillaged all of the known world for the materials. and used 10,000 men (possibly slaves) to build it. Until the Cathedral of Seville was built 1000 years later the Hagia Sophia was the largest Cathedral in the world, and it served as an inspiration for a whole new style of building using domes. However it had it's problems. It's first dome was too heavy to be supported by the walls, which started to buckle under the load, and during an earthquake in 558 the whole dome crashed down into the church. so it was back to the drawing boards and a new lighter dome was constructed by 562 AD. Fires, and earthquakes continued to take their toll right up to the present day, and the Hagia Sophia has collapsed and been rebuilt every couple of hundred years. As well the city has been captured, and the church treasures looted and pillaged several times. In 1453 Constantinople was taken by the Ottomans and it's name changed to Istanbul. Sultan Mehmet, saw the Cathedral and ordered that it be changed into a Mosque. and until 1935 a Mosque it remained. When the First Turkish Republic was formed by Ataturk in 1936 the Mosque was closed and then reopened as a Museum. A museum which needs significant repairs and restorations just to keep it from further deterioration. For 1500 years the building has been used and abused and it shows. When it was built the interior was lined with the most beautiful mosaics depicting Christian motifs. during it's life as a Mosque the mosaic pieces were picked off the walls and sold as souvenirs to visitors or covered in plaster and paint. The few that remain are of a singular beauty and throw a light on the heights of subtle artistic creation that the 11th and 12th century artists were capable of. While walking around the upper gallery there were large sections of marble flooring that were cracked and sagging and I hate to think of the consequences of another major earthquake. It was a privilege for me to be able to see what I saw of the Hagia Sophia who is a grand old lady who doesn't deserve to become just another crumbling ruin on the landscape of Europe Other buildings on the site like the 500 year old Sultan's tombs are in pristine condition and are delightful to look at, once you forget about the bodies in the little green coffins...

Walk from Blue Mosque to Hagia Sophia

Walk from Blue Mosque to Hagia Sophia


follow the crowds into the church

follow the crowds into the church


walk under Imperial gate mosaic

walk under Imperial gate mosaic


enormous space inside

enormous space inside


intricate detailing

intricate detailing


vestiges of splendour remain everywhere

vestiges of splendour remain everywhere


view of the 1850 additions to the apse

view of the 1850 additions to the apse


the Sultan's pavilion

the Sultan's pavilion


The Minbar or Pulpit

The Minbar or Pulpit


1850 caligraphy panels

1850 caligraphy panels


the dome-so high above

the dome-so high above


only twelve more ramps to climb

only twelve more ramps to climb


almost there

almost there


empress's gallery

empress's gallery


approaching the balcony in the gallery

approaching the balcony in the gallery


view from the gallery to the apse

view from the gallery to the apse


Emperor Comnenus with mary and son Alexis mosaic

Emperor Comnenus with mary and son Alexis mosaic


1122 mosaic

1122 mosaic


in more detail

in more detail


11th cent Empress Zoe mosaic

11th cent Empress Zoe mosaic


View of a mosaic in the Empress's upper gallery

View of a mosaic in the Empress's upper gallery


1261 entreaty mosaic

1261 entreaty mosaic


Mary close up

Mary close up


Christ close up

Christ close up


John the baptist close up

John the baptist close up


In the grounds of the Hagia Sophia

In the grounds of the Hagia Sophia


largest tomb

largest tomb


inside largest tomb

inside largest tomb


another view

another view


and more

and more


beautifully decorated

beautifully decorated


dome decoration

dome decoration


door to one tomb

door to one tomb


and another

and another


and another

and another


door to another tomb containing

door to another tomb containing


4 princes and a sultana

4 princes and a sultana


another 16th cent sultan's tomb

another 16th cent sultan's tomb


16th century tiling

16th century tiling


sultan and his relatives

sultan and his relatives


turbans indicate princes

turbans indicate princes


dome mosaic

dome mosaic


and another

and another


and another

and another


another dome mosaic

another dome mosaic


and another

and another


dome mosaic

dome mosaic


showing complementary patterning

showing complementary patterning


and again

and again


1740 fountain for ritual ablutions

1740 fountain for ritual ablutions


detail

detail


closer view

closer view


more detail

more detail

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Like eating an elephant, where do you start?

Istanbul..Bite 1 I don't count my first day's outing, which was just to Taksim square on the Metro, and a walk down Istiklal Street ( one of the main shopping streets off Taksim) Taksim was just a big empty square with a park/gardens in the middle, and nothing really special, and shops are just shops. No, my first bite of the elephant that is Istanbul was a 3 section trip to the Sultanahmet area, where the palaces and great ancient churches and mosques that Istanbul is famous for are located. When I say 3 section trip I mean that I had to buy a ticket for the metro to Taksim, then a ticket for the funicular railway to Karabas, then a ticket for a longish ride on a modern tram to Sultanahmet. There and back cost me the princely sum of NZ$5. I had spent the morning doing laundry so I didn't leave till midday, and as I was passing one of a dozen eateries on the road to the metro I spotted a small crowd lining up outside one place. That looks promising I thought, so I joined the line, grabbed a tray, and pointed at what I thought looked good. At the till it came to $9. The warm broccoli soup was yummy, and the chicken and chips was tasty too. What I thought was a curry (because it was lumpy and green) turned out to be a vegetable dish. I don't know what it was, the green things were soft and melted in the mouth ( possibly cooked green tomatoes). Greens are good for you so I polished them off and the waitress brought me a complementary glass of tea ( I hope that it wasn't a reward for her winning a bet with the manager that I would eat the strange food). At Sultanahmet there in front of you are two of the wonders of Istanbul: The Blue Mosque, and the Hagia Sophia Museum/Mosque/ Cathedral..I decided to try the Blue Mosque first, We visitors had a twenty minute wait, until the 1pm prayer meeting had finished and so a couple of hundred of us looked around the courtyard and then joined a queue to be processed for entry to the mosque. Every female was supplied with two colourful pieces of cloth. One to wear over the head and shoulders, and a longer one to wear around the shoulders or waist to cover the body and legs. The men could not wear shorts and had to use a cloth around the waist. Then everyone's bag was scanned and finally you had to grab a plastic bag from a roll ( to put your shoes in and carry). Finally we walked through the door into a cool and peaceful space with luxurious thick carpeting lining the whole area. The visitor area was cordoned off from where the muslims gathered to prostrate themselves before Allah and say prayers, and even though the prayer time had finished one or two were still to be seen over on the far side. Then you remembered to look up, and omg it was a stunningly beautiful sight. Every where you looked were tiled patterns of all colours ( though mainly blue) It was a wonderful experience that went on and on, but after a while you had to stop looking up because your neck ached. Then after another while it all became too much (pattern overload) and it was either sink down to the carpet and close your eyes, or walk out into the real world of trees and grass and sky to get grounded and centred again. I am unfamiliar with the beliefs and practices of worshipping Allah, so the building didn't resonate with me other than with it's 500 year old beauty. But just that alone was enough to make it one of the most incredible buildings I have seen in my travels...

I choose 3 plates of food- cost $9.00

I choose 3 plates of food- cost $9.00


Free glass of Turkish tea

Free glass of Turkish tea


First sighting of Blue Mosque

First sighting of Blue Mosque


Beautiful old tree at the gateway

Beautiful old tree at the gateway


Entering the grounds of the Blue Mosque

Entering the grounds of the Blue Mosque


well tended gardens everywhere around mosque

well tended gardens everywhere around mosque


Inside courtyard waiting for prayers to end

Inside courtyard waiting for prayers to end


taking in the amazing sights

taking in the amazing sights


walking around portico to see every angle

walking around portico to see every angle


It is a 30 degree day

It is a 30 degree day


after processing waiting to enter visitor area

after processing waiting to enter visitor area


carpet everywhere grabs your eye first

carpet everywhere grabs your eye first


and then you look up

and then you look up


and up

and up


and up

and up


and spin around

and spin around


and around

and around


and around

and around


until your neck aches

until your neck aches


but you can't stop looking

but you can't stop looking


and gawping

and gawping


at the glory of it all

at the glory of it all


then you need to leave and return to real world

then you need to leave and return to real world


where they do siesta

where they do siesta


Or bathe in a 500 year old Hamam (bathhouse)

Or bathe in a 500 year old Hamam (bathhouse)


or munch on $1 roasted corn or chestnuts

or munch on $1 roasted corn or chestnuts


goodbye blue mosque

goodbye blue mosque

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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