Blogs from Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Marmara, Turkey, Middle East


Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet January 31st 2016

Having never set foot anywhere remotely middle-Eastern in my life, Istanbul has been by far and away the most exotic place I have ever visited. My first day here was a blur of mosques, muezzin prayer calls, spices, bazaars, fancy hanging Aladdin's lamps, and luminous tea. Even the teacups looked exotic. I'm only here for a few days on a stopover before the real trip begins - Southeast Asia. Istanbul is mind-bogglingly massive and diverse. Only Rome has a more hotchpotch history than this former capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empire. There's an old quarter with all the mosques and the Hagia Sofia. There's a fascinating underground cistern built by Constantine that is held up by about 300 columns and massive carp swimming in the gloomy water. There's a medieval Genoan tower that offers a ... read more
Basilica Cistern
Incredibly thick and rich Turkish coffee

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet December 22nd 2015

We arrived in the morning to Istanbul after a brief 1 1/2hr flight from Athens. We easily took the train from the airport into the main tourist area of Sultanahmet where we walked to Hotel Basileus ($45). The hotel was lovely and the staff incredibly helpful and friendly, and the surrounding neighborhood was a beautiful 17th century style seaport that looked more like New Bedford, Massachusetts than Turkey. We already wished we had more time to spend in this city that has the perfect blend of East meets West. We wandered the serpentine medieval streets of this former Ottoman and Byzantine capital and viewed the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque from the hippodrome sandwiched in between them, where there now is a large Egyptian obelisk and Greek column which we recognized as pilfered from Egypt ... read more
The Spice Market
Dennis after his Hammam

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet October 5th 2015

Where to start? Our days are so full and so exciting, we look back at what we did a week or two ago and it seems like that was months or years ago! Here I am, sitting on the terrace of our hotel in Istanbul, we are leaving Istanbul, and Turkey, this afternoon. What a wonderful place. It is hard to summarize all the things we did over the last few days. 3-4 days don't do justice to such a place, but at least we managed to see or experience some of the "essentials": -Aya Sofia -The blue Mosque -Topkapi palace -Turkish tea on the rooftop of a hotel overlooking the whole city -Eating too much baklava and Turkish delight -Shopping at the Old Bazar -Visiting the Spice market -Getting ripped off by a cab driver ... read more
Whirling dervishes
Enjoying Turkish coffee
Istanbul at night

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet August 27th 2015

Legend has it the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was in his garden one day. Unbeknownst to him, a deadly snake slithered into his presence. The serpent was poised to strike the prophet when it was pounced upon by a cat, thus saving the Prophet from a painful death. Muhammad stroked the cat’s head in gratitude, and it is said that the stripes that some cats have on their heads is the mark of the Prophet’s fingers. Now, I don’t know if this story is true, but I rather like it, even if I am more of a dog person. There are a number of hadith (collection of quotes purporting to be from Muhammad) that refer to cats, such as “A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good ... read more
bookstore cats
car cat
eating cat

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet July 28th 2015

I had visited the big three of Istanbul: the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofia, and Topkapi Palace, experiences and pictures that I am still processing. But today was to be a day of smaller, quieter experiences. I walk past the Basilica Cistern everyday on my way to the tram. This morning there was hardly any line, so I decided to visit. The Basilica Cistern does not accept the Istanbul Museum Pass, nor does it take credit cards. The entrance fee is TYL 20, and if there are big cruise ships in town the lines can get very long. I was rather let down. I’m not sure what, exactly, I was expecting, but the Basilica Cistern is basically just an underground storage tank. Yes, to my eyes it is a marvel of engineering, and yes, the Medusa ... read more
Medusa head 2
vaulted ceiling
Percemli Sokuk

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet July 26th 2015

Before I came to Istanbul I practiced saying no. “No, thank you.” “No, I’m just looking.” “No, I’m not interested.”“No, it’s too expensive.” “No, stop it.” “NO!” I learned to say no in Turkish as well as English. So how come I ended up in a rug shop drinking tea? I’m an early riser, and I like to get out and about. My first full day in Istanbul I just wanted to walk around and get my bearings before it got too hot and there were too many people around. I was in Sultanahmet Square headed to the Information Center. The bad part of that is that as a single woman who was obviously a visitor, I was a target for every carpet salesman in town. And since there aren’t a lot of tourists around yet, ... read more
carpets in Grand Bazaar
more carpets in Grand Bazaar

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet July 21st 2015

Taksim Square doesn’t have quite the name recognition that the other T Squares – Tahrir and Tiananmen – have, but it still holds an important place in Istanbul’s history, and I wanted to see it. I start by walking across the Galata Bridge. This runs across the Golden Horn from the Eminonu neighborhood to Karakoy. You can walk along the top side, which gives you a nice view of the city, or you can walk through the lower level, past the people fishing from the bridge, and the restaurants that will (presumably) serve their catch. Once on the Karakoy side I switch to the funicular. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of a funicular, I think of railways like the one seen in the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and I have ... read more
Wall  art
Galata Bridge
Public Transport - Funicular style

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet June 9th 2015

Lauantai 6.6. Istanbul Lento meni hyvin lukuunottamatta puolituntista, jonka aikana kaikki räjähti käsiin. Just kun ruokakärry oli kohdalla, A alkoi huutaa täysillä, L:n piti päästä vessaan, tarjottimet liukui syliin, ruokailuvälineet lattialle, vedet penkille, mikään ei toiminut tai sujunut. Ja kuin taikaiskusta kaikki oli taas hyvin kun tarjottimet kerättiin. Pitäis varmaan suosiolla luopua koneruokailuista, mikä ei olis hirveä menetys. Meitä oli vastassa kuski nimikyltin kanssa, helpottavaa. Auto kiemurteli pikkukatuja, kunnes kääntyi ihan mahdottomasta kulmasta parikerroksisen puutalon eteen. Vastaan tuli yltiöystävällinen hotellinpitäjä, joka hymyili korvasta korvaan ja hoki tervetuloa. Tultiin ekaan kerrokseen, josta paljastui olohuone pikkukeittiöllä ja makuuhuone. A:lle oli matkasänky ja sen päällä vaipanvaihtoteline, L:lle oli tehty sä... read more
Kenkiä, paljon kenkiä

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet April 30th 2015

After arriving in Istanbul last night, we awoke to the call of prayer. It's quite loud everywhere you are. You can definitely hear it and you instantly realize this is not the west. The blue mosque dazzled with it's tiny decorations adorning the interior walls. It would be an amazing place for prayer and reflection. Hagia Sophia just seemed huge and old. It's a museum now, so the spiritual part of the building isn't there the way it was in the blue mosque (which is still a place where people worship). It was an impressively enormous building, but I prefered seeing the Blue Mosque. In the evening we went to a performance of whirling dervishes (no photos were allowed), and then smoked a hooka together at a bar near our hotel (Hotel Alaturka).... read more

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet April 22nd 2015

The next day the weather changed with heavy rain and the temperature dropped to 6 degrees. Between the rain I visited the Topkapi palace including the Harem section it was an interesting place, it really was a real golden cage. Then on to the Archaeological museum next door to see it’s collection of Hittites and Babylonian artefacts. There were impressive tulip displays all over Istanbul, while the original Tulip plants were natives of Turkey, these were all Dutch hybrid tulips that are more impressive and easier to grow in mass. In the afternoon I visited the military museum it had a special display about Gallipoli campaign plus its normal display about the conquest of Constantinople, together with a collection of armour, swords, bows, shields and firearms . The next day I visited the mosaic museum which ... read more
Blue Mosque

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