Last day in Istanbul, unfortunately. For two hours early morning after Fajr prayer, I walked through Istanbul, traced back previous route for another photo shots, and visited landmarks have not been previously visited. After breakfast, we spent the day by visiting Miniaturk and then last minute shopping.
My plan in this early morning was to trace back some routes to obtain another photo shots. But opportunity seems not repeatable. That morning the sky was very cloudy, very contrast to one during my first day.
From Ebusuud Cad (Hotel Erboy), I walked to Blue Mosque, Arasta Bazaar then to Kucuk Ayasofia Camii. This camii (mosque) was formerlythe Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus later converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. This Byzantine building with a central dome plan was erected in the 6th century and was a model for the Hagia Sophia, the main church of the Byzantine Empire.
From this camii, I headed to Beyazit Camii and Istanbul University via Hippodrome and Divan Yolu Street.
The Beyazidye Camii was commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II, and was the second large imperial mosque complex to be erected in Istanbul after the Conquest. Stones for construction were brought from the famous Church of the Life-giving Spring destroyed by the Turks.
The camii is located next to Istanbul University gate, and west of Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar).
Istanbul University was founded as an institution of higher education named the Darülfünûn (‘House of Multiple Sciences’) on 23 July 1846; but the Medrese (‘School of theological and environmental sciences’), which was founded immediately after Mehmed II conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, is regarded as the precursor to the Darülfünûn which evolved into Istanbul University
From the front gate of the University, I walked along University westside perimeter streets that takes me to Sulaymaniye Camii. It was about 600m walk. Sulaymaniye Camii is the second largest mosque in the city, and one of the best-known sights of Istanbul. The Mosque was built on the order of Sultan Süleyman (Süleyman the Magnificent); and designed by the architectural genius of Sinan Pasha (1489-1588). The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1558.
When I visited that morning, the mosque has been undergone major renovation to bring it back to its glory.
From here, I decided to go back to hotel for breakfast and preparation to go to Miniaturk.
Miniatürk is a miniature park situated at the north-eastern shore of Golden Horn in Istanbul. Covers a total area of 60,000 m2 (650,000 sq ft), it is the world’s largest miniature park with its 15,000 m2 model area. The park contains 105 models done in 1/25th scale from Istanbul, Anatolia and Ottoman territories.
Miniaturk is best visited by taxi. It costs between 15-20 TL from Sultanahmet.
In addition to miniatures, Miniaturk has a large space area of playground and go-kart area.
Finished with Miniaturk, I escorted my wife to Sirkeci Station for taking a suburban train to Olivium Outlet Center. Meanwhile I spent the rest of the day to – again – Spice Bazaar and Sirkeci Train Museum. This free museum (located at the left side of the station near international counters) features nostalgic displays of Sirkeci of being terminus of Orient Express. The Orient Express is the name of a long-distance passenger train. The two city names most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Istanbul, the original endpoints of the timetabled service. In 1977, the Orient Express stopped serving Istanbul, and on 14 December 2009, the Orient Express ceased to operate and the route disappeared from European railway timetables, reportedly a “victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines.
To end the day, we tasted Turkish delights and mouthwatering grills and food of Istanbul.
Day 6. 7 April 2010. Amidst morning rain we spent the time by visiting Archaelogy Museums then benchmarking at Kanyon Mall and ending the day with Dinner Cruise over Bosphorus Strait.
Istanbul Archaelogical Museums. This superb museum complex is a gem for travellers to Istanbul. It may not pull out the crowd but itis really worth visited. The complex is easily accessed by walking down the slope from Topkapi or by trudging up the hill fromthe main gate of Gulhane Park.
The complex is divided into three buildings: the Archaelogy Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Tiled Kiosk.
Finished with museums, we trudging up the slope to Hagia Sofia via Topkapi and passing Hagia Irene and Imperial Gate. Now we are at the souteast side of Hagia Sofia, next to fountain of Sultan Ahmet III. Rain was still dripping as we warm our body with hot drink and hot kestane (chest nut).
We headed back to Gulhane (station) via cobbled street just behind walls of Topkapi complex. Here you can see model of Ottoman housing. The 6th president of Turkey was born here, indicated by a placard posted on one of the houses.
We travelled to Kanyon Mall using our favorite mode of transpot: metro. We hopped on tram line Zeytinburnu-Kabatas heading to Kabatas from Gulhane station. We got offt at Kabatas station then transfered to Funicular Kabatas-Taksim. We exited here to transfer to Metro. We hopped on metro line Taksim – 4.Levent (by following direction or footprint sign on the floor) and got off at Levent for Kanyon shopping mall.
Day 5. 6 April 2010. We went to Bursa and Uludag on a full day excursion away from Istanbul.
Bursa is the fourth largest city in Turkey, situated around 1o0km northwest of Istanbul. One of the most industrialized centers in Turkey, Bursa is the center of the Turkish automotive, textile and food industry. The city is synonymous with Mount Uludağ which towers behind its core and which is also a famous ski resort. The mausoleums of early Ottoman sultans are located in Bursa and the numerous edifices built throughout the Ottoman period constitute the city’s main landmarks. The surrounding fertile plain, its thermal baths, several interesting museums, notably a rich museum of archaeology, and a rather orderly urban growth are further principal elements that complete Bursa’s overall picture.
Uludag (literally means “Great Mountain”) is a wintersports center and a national park, the highest mountain in Marmara region (2,543m).
To go to Bursa from Istanbul one can take ferry to Yalova and then drive to Bursa. From Bursa Uludag can be reached through a cable car (teleferik) or a car. Alternatively, from Istanbul one can drive all the way to Bursa, via a short ferry trip for otherwise long driving along Gulf of Izmid.
We’re picked up at our hotel around 8:30am by a feeder van for rearrangement in the Senkron tour agent office at Arasta Bazaar, at the back of Blue Mosque. The cost for this Bursa and Uludag tour is 90 Euro per person.
I owed you complete Istanbul travelogues but I just couldn’t complete them. So I let the pictures speak. Complete pictures are in my Facebook.
Day 4 in Istanbul was spent to Asian Part, Camlica Hill and watched Sufi Dance. The trip started at Kadikoy Iskelesi (ferry dock). We took public ferry from Eminonu heading to Kadikoy. Charge? Only 1.5 Turkey Lira!
From the deck of ferry, as the ferry departed from iskelesi, we saw magnificent view of Yeni Camii (New Mosque) that built in 1597.
The ferry then accelerated, cruising Bosphorus strait, and we were given this stunning view of the strait and Galata Bridge that crosses it.
As we approached Kadikoy, Haydarpasa is a landmark can’t be missed. Haydarpasha was built in Germany design. In the early 20th century, when Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was trying to charm the sultan into economic and military cooperation, he presented the station as a small token of his respect.
And when we swept our view back to Istanbul, Topkapi Palace stood gracefully with the strait as a foreground.
Kadıköy (ancient and Byzantine Chalcedon) is a large, populous, and cosmopolitan district of İstanbul, Turkey on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmara, facing the historic city centre on the European side of the Bosporus. Kadıköy it is also the name of the most prominent neighbourhood of the district, a residential and commercial area that, with its numerous bars, cinemas and bookshops, is the cultural centre of the Anatolian side. Kadıköy became a district in 1928 when it seceded from Üsküdar district (source: wikipedia).
We continued our trip from Kadikoy to Uskudar using Dolmus (a minibus). With 30 TL for 8 of us, Dolmus took us right in the Uskudar center.
We alighted at the main road of Uskudar. Üsküdar (ancient GreekChrysopolis medieval Scutari) was a city in Bithynia founded in the 7th century BC, in a valley leading down to the Bosphorus shore, by the inhabitants of the Greek colony of Khalkedon and was first known as Chrysopolis (city of gold) (Source: Wikipedia).
We visited Yeni Valide Camii (New Queen’s Mother Mosque) in Uskudar. The Yeni Valide Mosque is an Ottoman mosque built between the 1708 and 1710 on the iskele (dock) road by Emetullah Râbi’a Gülnûş Sultan, mother of Sultan Ahmed III. The main part of the building is square in shape and covered with a flattened main dome and four half domes. The mosque has two minarets with two balconies each (Source: Wikipedia)
Courtyard inside Yeni Valide Camii in Uskudar
From Uskudar, we headed to Camlica Hill. The hill is one of the highest hills of Istanbul (268 metres high) and almost all major broadcasting antennas are located on this hill, since the hill dominates a great part of the city. On the top of the hill, a public park with cafes remind the visitors of an Ottoman atmosphere. Thıs public park is sponsored by the government so expect lower prices on food and drink than usual.
Down from Camlica Hill taking a taxi which its driver complained about his being marginalized for his lack of English proficiency, we arrived at Uskudar Iskelesi passing Iskele Camii. The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is one of Üsküdar’s best-known landmarks and takes its nicknames from the ferry landing near which it stands. It is the first of two mosques built by Mihrimah Sultana, daughter of SultanSuleiman the Magnificent and wife of Grand VizierRüstem Pasha. It was designed by Mimar Sinan and built between 1546 and 1548
On the way back to Istanbul (Sultanahmet) by ferry, we passed Maiden Tower. Maiden’s Tower, also called Leander’s Tower, is built on a small islet surrounded by waters of Bosphorus off the Üsküdar coast . The Tower is accessible by boats both from Salacak (very frequent intervals four seasons) or from Kabataş in European Side, on the Bosphorus waterfront at the end of the funicular line from Taksim Square (about once every two hours, summers only). Story has it that a powerful emperor built the tower in the middle of the sea to protect his beloved daughter from death after hearing a prophecy told by a fortuneteller, but a snake had found its way to the tower (inside a basket of fruits) and, as you have already guessed, had bitten and killed the princess, although in reality it is far more likely that the place was built as a lighthouse to warn the ships entering the Bosphorus about the rocky islet the tower was built on. There is also a viewing area on the coast directly opposite the Tower where you can buy tea and sit down to enjoy the beauty of Bosphorus while listening to traditional Turkish music—much cheaper than the Tower itself. It is recommended to visit right at sunset, when the sun is reflecting off the water and the Tower’s lights are turning on. Also at the viewing area, there are 2-person gondola rides (as written by Wikitravel)
In the evening we enjoyed watching Sufi dance or whirling dervish ceremony. Fee was 40TL/25TL for adult/child under 15 respectively. We watched the dance at Hocapasha Center at Sirkeci area, just 5 minutes walk from our hotel. Hocapasha is used to be a hammam (Turkish bath) but now converted into a stage for sufi dance.
Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning), is a physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes (also called semazens) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one’s nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun (Source: Wikipedia).
Okay, let’s go back to Istanbul travelogues. This is the first among few travelogues planned.
Finally the day has come. We were on Airbus of Jazeera Airways that took us to Sabiha Gökçen Airport , Istanbul. Although it is no-frills airline (i.e. you need to buy meals onboard, 0.5L water is 0.5KD), this budget airline was excellent: new plane, punctual, big baggage allowance (20kg), and economic. But these come with cost: depart 9 PM from Doha, transit in Kuwait City and arrive early morning, 2.45 AM in Istanbul. Transit in Kuwait City was unpleasant one; arrived at Arrival Terminal we were quiet puzzled as to where to go because there were no signs whatsoever that could direct us to transit terminal until somebody recognized us and directed us upstairs. Oh thanks Kuwait.
Arrived at Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I saw a long queue of people seeking for visa-on-arrival. Fortunately we had a pre-obtained visa from Turkish Embassy in Qatar so that an immigration check was very quick. The immigration officer was polite and helpful despite his limitation in English.
Sabiha Gökçen Airport (http://www.sgairport.com/havaalani/eng/start.asp) is named after the first female combat pilot in the world and the first Turkish aviatrix . The airport is located 35 km southeast of central Istanbul, on the Asian side of bi-continental city.
The trip from airport to Sultanahmet was merely 45 minutes, owing to early morning traffic. We had an airport transfer from Erboy Hotel (http://www.erboyhotel.com) for we stay 7 nights. Taxi will normally cost you about 80 TL (1-4 people) or 120 TL (5-80 people).
Early Morning Advantages
We could not have early check-in whereas all other rooms were also fully booked. So, stranded at the lobby we decided to take a walk to Sultanahmet for Subuh prayer. That early morning, amidst freezing temperature, we walked up tramvay from Gulhane to Sultanahmet. The decision seemed paid off. Streets were free of traffic, very quiet, and serenity was just excellent. Old city buildings, clean streets, warm lights, blue sky that provided constrasted background to yellow-lighted Blue Mosque made an attractive picture. We can’t stop clicking our camera shutter release to capture this wonderful view.
What is blue in Blue Mosque?
Blue Mosque that morning was hushed; no tourist crowd, while prayers might already finish their ritual. Only 8 of us inside the mosque, performed subuh prayer with prior cold-to-bone ablution. Finished praying we stay for a while enjoying the magnificent view of Blue Mosque interior. You must be wonder why this camii is called Blue Mosque.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. With this mosque, Sultan Ahmet I, set out to build a monument that would rival and even surpass the nearby Aya Sofya in grandeur and beauty. (Wikipedia and Lonely Planet)
Rather than walking straight from Sultanahmet Park through the crowds, I’ll suggest that you approach the mosque via the middle of the Hippodrome. This way you will be able to fully appreciate the mosque’s design.Once you’re iInside the courtyard you’ll be able to appreciate the perfect proportions of the building.
Huddled around Blue Mosque is a tomb of the founder (Sultan Ahmet I) on the north side facing Sultanahmet Park, an imaret (soup kitchen) to serve the poor, a hamam, a medrese (theological college) and shops (the Arasta Bazaar) to upkeep the mosque from the rent fee collected.
Try to see this mosque twice: during the day and night. See how you feel the differences.
Istanbul in 1.5 hours
If you have only limited time in Istanbul or need to have a quick orientation over main city attractions, look no further, buy a 20 Euro ticket from a red tour-booth in Sultanahmet Square and hop-on the open-top double-decker sightseeing tour bus. Bear in mind that the bus can be fully occupied. That happened to us. Bought tickets for 10 AM departure, the bus has already fully occupied, primarily on its open –top seats.
The bus is scheduled to depart hourly from bus stop at Sultanahmet Park with last departure at 5 PM.
We finally got the seats for the last departure. The bus crawled on tramvay to Gulhane Park then to Sirkeci Station. From here, bus was crossing Galata Bridge to Kadikoy, Tophane, and Dolmabahce. Taksim is the next destination. Flowing down the road to Beyoglu, the bus again crossing Golden Horn to Western areas of Istanbul, passing cable car station to Pierre Lotti. The bus then made a U-turn to stoll along the perimeter road of City Walls up to intersection to yenikapi, then back to Sultanahmet.
It was so enthralling to be able to see the pulses of life of Istanbul from above: narrow streets, street vendors, traffic, people, almost-all historical sights and touristic objects, amidst cold wind. Do remember that during winter, temperature can be freezing and you won’t be able to enjoy the trip freely as the top window will be shut.
To help you appreciate the trip, the bus operator provides you a headphone for listening to pre-recorded guides with as many as 11 language options. Plus music background that Ialways remember their lyrics and beats: ….”Istanbul….istanbul….ramazan…ramazan….”…. (hahaha….I’m not sure the actual song is!)
Escape the crowd at Sultanahmet, sank into this cistern
The street that you are stepping on in Sultanahmet Area may be located above this cistern. Covering an area of 65m wide and 143m long underground, this extraordinary subterranean structure is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul. The cistern, located 500 feet (150 m) west of the Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.
The cistern’s roof is supported by 336 columns arranged in 12 rows. Designed to store 80,000 cubic meters of water, this cistern is built to supply water for Topkapi Palace. The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 metres (13 ft) and coated with a waterproofing mortar. The cistern’s water was provided from the Belgrade Woods—which lie 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city—via aqueducts built by the Emperor Justinian.
Access to the cistern is through a building on Yerebatan Caddesi near a small park behind Million Stone. Ticket is TL10, children are free. After passing an entrance gate, you will need to walk down the stairs to walking platform. With perfect music and lighting background you’ll be able to appreciate the mystics of this cistern. Dripping water, fishes patrolling in dark water, massive column, brickwalls.
Try to allocate 30 minutes here. Please bear in mind that entrance and exit are separate. You will be exiting onto Alemdar St (ascending tramvay from Gulhane to Sultanahmet Station). There is a photo booth where you can dress like Turkish Sultan and be photographed at the entrance for 5 Euro and a café and souvenir shop at the exit.
Sleep-deprived due to inconvenient departure time, we made it up by taking a short snap following check-in at 1 PM. I should have understood the price of using a low cost airline. No worry though given the cost saving from it.
To end the day we spent dinner at hotel’s resturanct, free complimentary dinner, again benefiting from long stay. Come at about 9 PM we need to wait quite long until meals were ready. So long enough that we skipped our dessert. (Our free dinner includes one starter, one main course, and one dessert. Drinks are at your own cost)
That’s all for the first day. Good enough and we were still on schedule.