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Published: July 12th 2011
... over the Golden Horn.
What a city. I guess Istanbul never sleeps…
I arrived there on a Saturday, actually for a conference, the European Congress of Psychology
. But of course I had planned on doing some sightseeing as well.
I stayed in a hotel in Taksim, where there are lots of shops, restaurants, and cafés. My first walk took me from the Taksim Square down the pedestrian area that was incredibly crowded. Those of you who know me know that I usually don’t like strolling around, so at first, I tried to overtake other people on the left and on the right. But then I realised that this just did not make sense, and so I let myself carry with the wave of people. Stages were just being set up all around the area, with bands getting ready for their performances.
I had a fantastic dinner in a restaurant at the bottom of the Galata Tower. The Turkish cuisine offers quite a few nice dishes for vegetarians. For sunset, I went up the Galata Tower and realised why the Golden Horn (one of the arms of the sea that runs through the city) is called Golden Horn. It has the shape of a horn, and
... built 1,500 years ago.
at sunset, it is all golden. I had a beautiful view from the tower that was originally built 1,500 years ago!
The next morning, I met up with my friend Mizzi. Believe it or not, she was in Istanbul the very same weekend. She, her mum and her sister Romy do a trip to a city together every year. Her mother had booked the trip to Istanbul for exactly the same weekend I would be there, not knowing about my travel plans.
She had booked a guide for us for Sunday morning, and he took us to the places that are less known to tourists. We walked from the Blue Mosque past the bazaar to the Süleymaniye, a mosque from the 17th century. From there we went on to the former Greek and Jewish quarters, where today mostly Kurdish people live, usually big families in little apartments. We also walked through a very conservative quarter where we had to cover our chests and upper arms with scarves. Usually, you don’t see more women wearing headscarves than for example in a German city. But here, it was different. Not many women on the streets, and those who were there
... crossing the Bosporus and thus connecting Europe and Asia.
were usually veiled.
Our walk took us past the Valens Viaduct that is 2,000 years old and is partly still in use. Our trip also included having tea and Turkish sweets in a traditional café.
After lunch, we caught a boat down the Bosporus. And “Bosporus” is not just a name. It means “cow’s ford”. The story that goes with this is the following: The Greek god Zeus was in love with a young girl. Jeez, he gave his wife Hera a hard time, always hunting women. She was jealous and transformed the girl into a cow. But still, Zeus would go and see her. So Hera made a fly sit down on the girl she had transformed into a cow, and as the girl could not get rid of the fly that was annoying her, she had no other choice but to swim through the ford. That’s why this arm of sea is called “cow’s ford”, or Bosporus. So there we were, between Europe and Asia, passing the two bridges that cross the Bosporus, seeing all the houses, some castles, and enjoying the view. Only then it became clear to me that it is really not far
Hagia Sophia I
View from the Galata Tower on the other side of the Golden Horn.
from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea. Probably an hour by boat, not more.
The day ended with a visit in the Blue Mosque that has its name because of the blue tiles inside. In Turkish, however, it is called Sultan Ahmed Camii.
The next morning, we went to Topkapi Palace, which is situated thus that you have a wonderful view of the Golden Horn, Bosporus, and Marmara Sea. What especially impressed me about the palace is that, apart from its sheer size, it has all these beautiful tiles that have different patterns on them. Its treasury contains, amongst other relics, some of the Prophet Mohammed’s whiskers and one of his footprints. Interestingly, there used to be a pair of his sandals as well, but they were removed once visitors started wondering why they were smaller than the footprint. Apart from that, there is also Moses’ rod he used for dividing the sea when the Israelites were escaping from the Egyptians, and some coats and swords that used to belong to different prophets.
Our next walk took us to the Yerebatan Sarayi, the Basilica Cistern. It is a cistern that was used for storing water, but
Hagia Sophia II
View towards the chancel.
it looks like a basilica, and two of its columns stay on two Medusa’s heads.
After lunch, the girls had to leave, so I caught a sightseeing bus that took me through the quarters on both sides of the Golden Horn and then across one of the bridges across the Bosporus. When I got back, I just had enough time to register at the congress and upload my presentation for the next morning, and then, my colleague Maike arrived.
We had dinner in a nice side street of the pedestrian area and then watched one more beautiful sunset from the top of the Galata Tower.
During the next three days, we combined attending the congress with some sightseeing and also some work that both of us needed to do. My personal highlight on the congress was watching Professor Philip Zimbardo
, one of the dinosaurs of psychology. He gave a very entertaining and extremely interesting talk on time perspective, how it relates to personality traits, and what effects it has. He has already researched in many areas of psychology. One of his most famous study is probably the Stanford Prison Experiment
. More of his research can be found on his homepage
Hagia Sophia III
Mosaic depicting two emperors offering the city and the church to Jesus.
Maike and I visited the Hagia Sophia, which was originally built in the 6th century. It is an amazingly huge building with beautiful mosaics and calligraphies, and there are lots of little legends. For example, there is a column that is always wet, and the legend is that there is an angel inside. There is a hole in the column, and if you put your thumb in and turn it, whatever you wish will be fulfilled.
We also did some shopping in the huge covered bazaar where it is easy to get lost because there are so many alleys that run in different directions.
While Maike had a look at the Basilica Cistern, I went down to Gülhane Park and actually wanted to go to the Archaeological Museum, but on my way there, I accidentally came past the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam. It sounded interesting, so I went in. The exhibition was on all the science that was done in the Islamic countries from the end of the West Roman Empire until the 16th century. They preserved so much of the knowledge from the old Greek philosophers and researchers, but they also
Hagia Sophia IV
View towards the Blue Mosque.
developed many things in the areas of astronomy, navigation, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and medicine. For example, the number zero is an invention of Islamic scholars. And did you know that their doctors already did eye surgeries successfully? Or that astronomer Tycho Brahe used instruments that had most likely already been invented by Arabian scientists?
Maike left on Thursday afternoon and flew back home. I had another half day on which I did some work, but also took some time to go to the Archaeological Museum. There are different exhibitions, one focusing on the Nile people, like the Egyptians and the Sumerians, one on Istanbul, formerly Byzantium and then Constantinople, and one on other peoples that used to live in the region. And there is a wonderful building with beautiful tiles in which you can look at delicate pottery from different periods.
And suddenly, it was Friday afternoon, and I had to fly back home – full of wonderful impressions!
The weekend was busy again with running training with my trainer on Saturday and a 75 km bike tour on Sunday as well as seeing my friends. Now, I’ve got three more days in the office, and on
Topkapi Palace I
View from the Galata Tower on the other side of the Golden Horn.
Friday morning, I will head off for the Hanggliding World Championships in Sigillo, Italy. And of course, you can travel with me!
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