Monday, April 16, 2012

Istanbul--Day 2


Our first stop on Day 2 in Istanbul was at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. During the Byzantine Empire (395-1204) the Hippodrome was a place for horse and chariot racing, gladiator contests against man and beast, and even day long circumcision ceremonies (you'd certainly want a front row seat for that). The first hippodrome was built on this site in 203 AD but when Constantine moved the Roman Empire capital here in 324 AD it was greatly expanded so that it could hold 100,000 spectators. Today this area is a large plaza with three ancient structures still in their original positions. Here, the closest object in this picture, is the Walled Obelisk which was built in the 10th century. Originally it was covered with bronze plates but they were pilfered during the Fourth Crusade and now only the stone core remains.

Maybe a 100 meters beyond the Walled Obelisk is the Serpent Column and about the same distance again to the Obelisk of Thutmose III. The Serpent Column was originally in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece. Constantine had it moved to the Hippodrome. All that remains now is the spiral column but originally, at its top, was golden bowl placed on the heads of three serpents. 

The Obelisk of Thutmose III was brought to the Hippodrome in 390 AD from Luxor, Egypt where it had existed since 1490 BC. Emperor Theodosius had the original olelisk cut into three pieces.  What can be seen today is only the top section that was placed here in 390.  Although this obelisk has existed for 3500 years it is in amazing condition.

On the day we were at the Hippodrome there was a Istanbul Tulip Festival. The tulip is an important symbol of the city. Images of tulips are all over the city, from the designs of ancient porcelain tiles to the place we were staying, the Hotel Tulip Pera. Although Holland is world renowned for its tulips, the very first tulip bulbs brought there came from Turkey.   You can see the two tulip designs either side of the musicians.  This design is very common all over Istanbul. So, here’s a little video celebrating the Tulip Festival.

Just across the street from the Hippodrome is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque because of the predominant blue tiles inside. The Blue Mosque was built over seven years from 1609 to 1616.

Muslims must wash their face, hands, and feet before entering a mosque to pray. This is the washing area at the Blue Mosque.

Closer image of the washing area at the Blue Mosque.

Folks washing up before prayer.

Woman are not allowed to wash in the open area where the men wash. They wash in a private area out of the view of others.

Two of the minarets of the Blue Mosque. You can see that one has two balconies and the other three. Before electronic speaker systems these balconies are where the call to prayer would be performed. The Blue Mosque actually has six minarets. The more minarets a mosque has to the more prestige it holds. During the Blue Mosqu construction only one mosque in the world had six mosques and that was in Mecca. When it was discovered that the Blue Mosque would also have six, the mosque in Mecca built a seventh minaret and now is the only mosque in the world with that number. In Istanbul, by counting the total number of balconies on the minarets of an imperial mosque you can tell the dynasty of that Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The Blue Mosque has 16 minaret balconies so Sultan Ahmed I was the 16th ruler of the Ottoman Empire.

Prayer area of the Blue Mosque.

Close up of the carpet that covers the floor in the prayer area. The darker red lines are the position where the men stand prior to leaning down to pray. Shoes are not worn within a mosque. We removed our shoes and carried them in a provided plastic bag in all the mosques we visited in Istanbul.

Images of the Blue Mosque.

Video inside the Blue Mosque.

The gate to the Dolmabahçe Palace.

In 1843 the sixteen year old Sultan, Abdülmecid I, ordered the construction of a new residence for himself and future Sultans. Dolmabahçe became the first palace in Turkey to be built with a European design. Upon its completion in 1856 it became the home of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire until 1923. The interior is beautifully magnificent. 14 tons of gold leaf covers the ceiling of the palace. No photographs are allowed during the tour so I got the following images off the web just so you could see some of the things we saw.

This is the Crystal Staircase. In addition to the huge chandelier you can see the crystal balusters used to support the stairs bannister.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, father and president of the Turkish Republic, used Dolmabahçe Palace for administrative and formal functions when in Istanbul. At the age of 57, after an extended illness, he died in this bed in 1938. The attending physician pricked Atatürk’s finger after his death to put a few drops of blood onto the bed sheets. Those sheets remain on the bed tody.

This chandelier in Ceremonial Hall, a gift from Queen Victoria, weighs 4.5 tons and has 750 electric lights.

Dolmabahçe Palace sits on the western shore of the Bosphorus Strait. Anyone arriving at the palace by boat would have passed through this gate.

Across the Bosphorus from Dolmabahçe Palace you can see the Asian side of Istanbul.

Süleymaniye Mosque was built under the order of Sultan Süleyman between 1550 and 1558. Süleyman the Magnificent was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire at the peak of its size and power, actually laying siege to Vienna, Austria twice before being turned back. Mimar Sinan, the famous Turkish architect, who designed many of the major mosques in Istanbul, designed the Süleymaniye Mosque.  By the way, since this is an imperial mosque and you can count 10 balconies on the four minarets, this indicates that Süleyman the Magnificent was the 10th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Inside the Süleymaniye Mosque you can see the red areas to stand or kneel in the prayer area.

Images of the Süleymaniye Mosque. The mosque was recently renovated so the colors of the building are very bright and the walls in excellent condition.

Video in the Süleymaniye Mosque.

Outside the Süleymaniye Mosque is this area where worshippers can wash prior to entering the mosque to pray.

This structure is a row of shops and cafes owned by the Süleymaniye Mosque. These establishments pay to operate here earning the mosque funds for various activities and charities. This is where we stopped for lunch and because it’s a mosque owned building we figured no beer for lunch.

Oh contraire! Here’s part of our meal, an excellent fava bean soup with rice and these goofy glasses are our beers. The waiter sort of clandestinely told us we could get wine or beer. I assume by using these glasses that it didn’t make it too obvious that we were drinking beer at the very gate of the mosque.

After we had lunch we were taken to a jewelry store although no one in our group was really interested. We spent the time there on their roof taking in the sun, watching the traffic on the Bosphorus Strait and drinking some çay tea. So here I am with my çay. You’ve got to put in at least one cube of sugar because it’s pretty strong. In the background one of the 3000 mosques in Istanbul.

From the top of our jewelry store perch here's a view to the north across an inlet of the Bosphorus Strait known as the Golden Horn. That section of Istanbul, across the inlet, is also known as the Golden Horn. To the left is the Galata Bridge.

Now we're at the Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egypt Bazaar. The bazaar buildings are part of the Yeni Camii Mosque, also known as the New Mosque, which you can see here. Vendors rent goes to the Mosque for upkeep and other monetary needs. The Spice Bazaar is across this plaza and is the long red brick building in the foreground.

On the same plaza, looking back to the west, high above you can see the Süleymaniye Mosqueand on the high terrain and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque on the right.

The Spice Bazaar is the second largest bazaar in Istanbul after the Grand Bazaar. It's also called the Egypt Bazaar because funds from Egypt were used to build it.  This plaque shows the dates of construction of the Yeni Camii Mosque, 67 years.  Interesting since imperial mosques took a much shorter time to build, Süleymaniye Mosque 8 years and the Blue Mosque 7 years.

Images of the Spice Bazaar.

Our group rented a boat for a Bosphorus tour. We're just about to get started. Here's Jeff and I with the Yeni Mosque and the Spice Bazaar in the background.

From our boat on the Bosphorus is the Topkapi Palace.

Dolmabahçe Palace. From this view you can really see the European influence in the design.

Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits in two contintents, Europe on the western side of the Bosphorus Strait and Asia on the eastern side. The Bosphorus Bridge completed in 1973 was the first highway connection of the two sides of Istanbul.

Rumelihisarı is a fortress that was built on the European side of the Bosphorus by Mehmed II, the Ottoman Sultan. The fortress was built from 1451-1452. He built this as a point to further his conquests because in 1453 he moved south from here to conquer Constantinople which began the Ottoman Empire.

This was the Sultan's hunting lodge on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Sultan's never stayed here other than to arrive, change into their hunting clothes, change back into their Sultan finery and then sail back down the Bosphorus.

Kuleli Military High School is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. It was started by the Ottoman Sultan in 1845 and is still a military high school today.

Our boat docked on the Asian side of the Bosphorus so that we could say we were in Asian. So, here I am in Asia.

That's our boat behind me. Our group of 15 had it all to our selves. We're about to leave the Asian side of Istanbul.

We're about to pass under the Bosphorus Bridge again. This is looking west toward the European side of Istanbul. Our boat tour is almost over and so is Day 2 of our tour of Istanbul.

We really lucked out on the weather. Both days of our tour were in the mid-60's and partly sunny. After we had our evening meal on our last night in Isatnbul and we were back to our hotel the skies opened up with lightening, thunder and hail. Next morning on our way to the airport it was foggy, drizzly and low 40's.

Our trip to Isanbul was wonderful, educational and quite memoriable.


Bye for now.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the blog for your second day in Istanbul. I can't believe that Walled Obelisk is from the 10th century. It's interesting to see Egyptian art there. It reminds me of the Egyptian column along the Thames in London.

    I couldn't get the tulip parade video to show for some reason.

    WOW, the Blue Mosque is MASSIVE and so beautiful! I liked your caption, "Folks washing up before prayer."

    Very interesting history of the minarets. I imagine that so many people just think it is all decoration and do not put much thought to it. Incredible about how Mecca built another minaret to be more prestigious and how the number of balconies signifies the dynasty. That's great that you got to go inside as long as you took your shoes off. I enjoyed the video and even Mom at the end! Can't believe there are 3000 mosques in Istanbul...amazing!

    The Dolmabahce Palace is incredible and funny that a 16 year old Sultan can just order for a new residence to be built. Interesting about Mustafa Kemal Ataurk and how his blood is still on those sheets...I wouldn't want to sleep in that bed haha. WOW, beautiful view of the Bosphorous Strait. You can really see the European influence, it looks like so many palaces in London.

    Lunch looks yummy. That is funny that they put the beer in girly glasses to cover them up.

    I had no idea that Istanbul was both in Europe and Asia. That is great that you got to actually stand in Asia too haha.

    What a great blog filled with so much history. Thank you and glad you had an amazing trip.