BEFORE THE SNOW - FEBRUARY 2005
Taking advantage of the Mardi Gras holiday in Portugal and the consequent «bridge» break, we took a flight on a Thursday to Frankfurt, changed planes and flew to Istanbul, where we stayed until next Wednesday. Most of the souvenirs were recorded in video, but there are still a few photos to show on this blog. The weather was not much promising, but what we were going to catch was somehow unexpected... Let's start with some music – Mozart’s Turkish March, as I couldn't find anything from «Die Entführung aus dem Serail» (The Abduction from the Seraglio) seems a good choice!
"SULTAN AHMED MOSQUE AT NIGHT - Thursday evening the sky was clear and the night was cold; but the Blue Mosque was magnificently lighted. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul was built between 1609 and 1616, and the architect was Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, one of Mimar Sinan's most prominent students. It is the only mosque in Turkey that has six minarets, which seems to have been reason for some criticism, allegedly for the Sultan's presumption. In fact, at the time, this was the same number of minarets as at the mosque of the Kaaba in Mecca. It's said that the Sultan overcame the problem by paying for a seventh minaret at the Mecca mosque... Each of the minarets has three balconies, and for many years the muezzin had to climb the spiral staircase five times a day to call to prayer. Today a recorded system is used, and the call can be heard across the old part of the city"
"HAGIA SOPHIA by night, before the storm. Hagia Sophia, from the Greek words meaning «Church of the Holy Wisdom of God», was constructed in five years, from 532 to 537, at the orders of Emperor Justinian I, and was the greatest Christian cathedral of the Middle Ages. It was converted into an imperial mosque in 1453, into a museum in 1935, and is now known as the Ayasofya Museum. It is considered one of the greatest and most beautiful buildings in the world. For some reason it is included in the List for the voting of the New 7 Wonders of the World"
"GORGEOUS DINNER at the Adonin Cafe and Restaurant. Located on a picturesque side street in the centre of the historical Sultanahmet, it was found by chance, but seems to be a regular choice for advised visitors"
"LATE NIGHT TEA at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel, a fantastic hotel created from a century-old neoclassic Turkish prison in the core of Sultanahmet, steps from the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace"
"CAFE PIERRE LOTI - Friday morning, it was cold and wet. We took a private tour, but it was not easy to stroll outside. The first stop was the Cafe Pierre Loti.
Pierre Loti was the pseudonym of Louis Marie Julien Viaud (January 14, 1850 - June 10, 1923), a French sailor, traveller and writer, who spent some time of his life in Constantinople. In 1876, colleagues persuaded him to turn into a novel passages in his diary dealing with experiences at Constantinople. The result was Aziyadé, a novel which is part romance, part autobiography. The Cafe Loti is situated at the top of a hill in Eyup with a wonderful view to the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, and it is assumed that this was the cafe that Pierre Loti visited during his stay in Constantinople"
"PIERRE LOTI by Henri Rousseau. I particularly like the paintings from Le Douanier Rousseau, so I couldn't resist to post this image..."
"BLUR PHOTO AT DOLMABAHÇE PALACE - This was the first European-style palace in Istanbul and was built by Sultan Abdülmecid between 1842 and 1853. I don’t have any photos neither from the tour around the western side of the Bosphorus, nor from the outside of the Palace, as it was pouring and we hardly could leave the car... Inside, fourteen tons of gold were used to adorn the ceiling and the world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier with 750 lamps and weighing 4.5 tons is at the central hall. Dolmabahçe also has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world and even the staircases are made of Baccarat crystal. You could see all this, should the photo be a decent one...
After the palace we had to endure a 90 minute carpet show, but at the end we resisted buying and returned safe to the hotel"
"TOPKAPI PALACE - Saturday morning it was freezing and threatening a snow fall.
We started by visiting the Topkapi Palace, literally the «Cannon Gate Palace», the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire from 1465 to 1853. Its construction was ordered by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1459 and it was completed in 1465. The palace is located on the Seraglio Point between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, having a splendid view of the Bosphorus. It's a fabulous place to be visited and its treasury is absolutely stunning. The Topkapi Dagger, the 86-carat Spoon maker's (or Pigot) Diamond, the Emeralds and many other pieces shown are outstanding in its beauty!"
"TOPKAPI: THE GOLDEN CAGE! The Golden Cage was the place where the brothers of the sultan were imprisoned to prevent them from seizing the throne.
One may spend a whole day at the Topkapi, strolling around and inside the pavillions of the four courtyards. There is even a very nice restaurant - The Konyali (1897) - serving a menu consisting of traditional Turkish meals and desserts, where we had lunch. And, further to the Harem, the Treasury, the Porcelain Collection, the Chambers of the Sacred Relics, the Konyali... we also visited the Archaeological Museum on our way out!"
"HAGIA SOFIA - After the Topkapi and the Archaeological Museum, we entered AyaSofia. The walls, from the ground up, are covered in identical manner: plaques of red, yellow and green marble blend with the mosaics, and these are further embellished by the capitals, imposts, architraves and friezes. A large number of mosaics were uncovered in the 1930s by a team from the American Byzantine Institute, but due to its long history as both a church and a mosque, a particular challenge arises in the restoration process"
"WALK - There is a nice walk from AyaSofia to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. A freezing sun was glowing, but some snow had already fallen"
"BLUE MOSQUE - DAYTIME. According to Wikipedia, «Blue Mosque may refer to six different mosques: the Rawze-e-Sharif Mosque in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan; the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque in Shah Alam, Malaysia; The Blue Mosque of Tabriz, Iran; The Blue Mosque of Cairo, Egypt; The Blue Mosque of Yerevan, Armenia and The Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey!»
The cube structure of the Mosque is topped by a system of domes, culminating in the central dome, which is 33 meters in diameter and 43 meters high. At its lower level the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 ceramic tiles, handmade at Iznik, while the upper levels are painted. There are more than 200 stained glass windows to let natural light in and the decorations include verses from the Qur'an. The floors are obviously covered with carpets"