Monday, April 14, 2014

Istanbul Part 1

Sat 1/2/14
Happy Federal Territory day!

Journey today:
Bolu - Lake Sapanca : 134km (1 hr 50 mins)
Lake Sapanca - Istanbul: 137km (1 hr 37 mins)
Total journey: 284 km (3 hrs 27 mins)

View Larger Map

Bolu - Lake Sapanca - Istanbul

We departed early to Istanbul at 7am. Farewell Bolu, perhaps we'll meet again and I'd have the opportunity to take more pictures of you. On the bus, Burak announced that we'd be stopping by at a rest area by the Sapanca Golu or lake on the way to Istanbul where we could buy a locally made chocolate which is only sold there. However, we couldn't really go by the lake area as it was separated by a railway track.

Scenic mountainous Bolu view

Sapanca Lake otw to Istanbul. Can't cross over, there's a railway track
We also passed by the city of Izmit which was struck by earthquake in 1999 at 3am when its residents were deeply asleep. The city was badly destroyed, but it has risen up from the ashes to the lovely city we saw today. Burak mentioned that he volunteered as an interpreter for rescue missions at that time. The Sea of Marmara accompanied us along the journey from here to Istanbul.

city of Izmit

We arrived Istanbul at around 9.40am, so it was still early. The traffic condition was good, no congestion. Let's look a bit at the wonderfully rich history of Istanbul. Excerpted and summarized from Wikipedia:
History of Istanbul  begins around 660 BC when Greek settlers from Megara established Byzantium on the European side of the Bosphorus. Byzantium officially became a part of the Roman Empire in 73 AD. When Constantine the Great became the emperor of the Roman Empire in September 324, he re-named Byzantium to Nea Roma or Constantinople as a Christian city. On 11 May 330, Constantinople became the capital of the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire.

Constantinople's ruins are still preserved in good condition in modern Istanbul

Constantinople's Aquaduct

In the mid-14th century, the Ottoman Turks begantaking smaller towns and cities over time, cutting off Constantinople's supply routes. Finally, on 29 May 1453, after an eight-week siege (during which the last Roman emperor, Constantine XI, was killed), Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" captured Constantinople and declared it the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Hours later, the sultan rode to the Hagia Sophia and summoned an imam to proclaim the Islamic creed, converting the grand cathedral into an imperial mosque due to the city's refusal to surrender peacefully. By then, the city was known as Istanbul. Mehmed II urged the return of those who had fled the city during the siege, and resettled Muslims, Jews, and Christians from other parts of Anatolia.

 In the early 20th century, the Young Turk Revolution deposed Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The final Ottoman sultan, Mehmed VI, was exiled in November 1922; the following year, the occupation of Istanbul ended with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne and the recognition of the Republic of Turkey, declared by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.


The first destination today is Spice Bazaar . In Turkish, it's known as Misir Casisi, which means Egyptian Bazaar. It was established in 1660. We bought Turkish delights and souvenirs here.

Spice bazaar Bab Al Hayat

Turkish delight
saffron and spices

The Rustem Pasa Camii is located near to the Spice Bazaar which we have in our itinerary to be visited, but we didn't go to. We took pictures from outside. It was built by the famous Turkish architect – Mimar Sinan and completed in 1563. It is famous for its large quantities of exquisite Iznik tiles set in a very wide variety of beautiful floral and geometric designs, which cover not only the façade of the porch but also the mihrab, mimbar, walls, columns and on the façade of the porch outside. And we didn't pay a visit here. Oh dear.

Rustem Pasa Camii. Spice bazaar is on the right

Next after Spice Bazaar, we went to the historic area complex of Istanbul which houses the Blue Mosque, St Sophia (known in Turkish as Aya Sofya) museum and the Hippodrome. We took pictures at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, or Sultanahmet Meydanı in Turkish, which used to be a circus that was used for horse and chariot racing. From wikipedia: The race-track at the Hippodrome was U-shaped. There are 2 Obelisks here. Theodosius the Great brought an obelisk 390 from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor , Egypt during the reign of Tuthmosis III in about 1490 BC. The other obelisk is the Walled Obelisk, built by the 10th century Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. The Hippodrome of Constantine is a Unesco World Heritage Site under #356 Historic Areas of Istanbul. From here, we went for lunch at Grup Saray restaurant – rice with grilled chicken and kebab.

Walled Obelisk

Tuthmosis obelisk

rice w grilled chicken and kebab

After lunch, we went for solat at the magnificent Blue Mosque or known in Turkiye as Sultanahmet Camii. Turkish people wouldn't know where the Blue Mosque is. It was freezing cold, so taking the ablution was a freezing experience. Perhaps the mosque authority could install hot water next time. There were many tourists visiting at that time, we had to queue with the visitors to get in and perform our solat, so we had to be careful a bit as we had our wudhu' on already. There's a separate prayer hall to perform our solat so the visitors wouldn't be bumping into us. The Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya museum is just opposite the Blue Mosque. Unfortunately, we were given too short a time to spend at the mosque as Burak was eager to bring us to the leather shop (I don't know, but I suspected he was aiming to reach this leather shop in time ever since the episode in Bolu yesterday). 

the magnificent Blue Mosque

Some info on the Blue Mosque from Wikipedia: the mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles with tulips, flowers, fruit and cypresses designs. Stained glass windows with intricate designs admit natural light, today assisted by chandeliers. On the chandeliers, ostrich eggs are found that were meant to avoid cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders.The decorations include verses from the Quran. It is one of Unesco's World Heritage sites under Historic Areas of Istanbul.

From the Blue Mosque, we were brought to the Kuzu leather shop where we were entertained with a fashion show. I didn't buy anything here though. Unfortunately, we spent quite long here for 1hr 45mins, compared to only 40 minutes at the Blue Mosque, heck even longer than Pamukkale. Oh dear.

Our last destination today was the Grand Bazaar which we arrived at about 5pm. The Grand Bazaar closes at 7pm. We were warned by Burak to be back at the bus 15 minutes before closing time as the gates closes sharp at 7pm. We'd have to find our own way from outside the Bazaar if we didn't go out in time to find back Entrance Door 1. At the Grand Bazaar we bumped into a Malaysian group from Andalusia Travels. I didn't know Andalusia also organized group tours to Turkey, so I quickly checked their package here and found out they were cheaper by about RM500, with extra additional stop to Izmir and via Malaysia Airlines direct flight to Istanbul. I have to admit though, I didn't do thorough research prior to booking my trip.

The Spice and Grand Bazaar's design reminds me a lot of the Grand Bazaar in Esfahan and Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz, Iran. (The Grand Bazaar of Tehran was closed when I was there, unfortunately). The roofs and shops arrangement looked quite similar. 

Grand bazaar of Istanbul

From the Grand Bazaar we went for dinner at Ege Kumkapi restaurant – having grilled fish and rice. While we were eating, there was a power outage so we were in the dark for a few minutes. Kumkapi is in Fatih district in Istanbul by the Marmara sea and is famous for its fish restaurants. However, our meals was just so-so. After dinner, we checked in at our hotel Gonen, a five minute walk to Taksim Square where the 2013 protests of building the Gezi Park took place. We walked a bit around Istiklal avenue, a popular shopping area, ala Bukit Bintang in KL. Hard Rock Cafe Istanbul is also located here, although a bit small. We then went back to our hotel and called it a day.

Ege Kumkapi grilled fish
Hotel Gonen
Taksim Square

shopping at Istiklal avenue

Hard Rock Cafe Istanbul



Post a Comment

<< Home