ISTANBUL : The World CITY of Old Civilizations and Wonderful Natural Sights
The Geography and Orientation
Istanbul is situated at the meeting point between 29.th longitude and 41.st parallel, between European and Asian Continents, embracing one another, on each side of Bosphorus Strait, surrounded by the Black Sea on the North, the Marmara Sea on the South, the Tekirdag Province on the West, the Kocaeli Province on the East, divided by the Golden Horn into two old city districts on the european side and has an area of 5300 sq. kms (of which 1930 sq. kms is urbanized city) and about 15 million inhabitants originating from different regions of Turkey. Istanbul is a major destination for people and the home of 30 universities.
Here is the map of the destinations (places to see) described in this page.
The climate of Istanbul is quite changeable from time to time and from one place to another. As a region, Istanbul is located on the intersection of Black Sea and Mediterranean climates. The Summer is between June and October, sunny, warm or hot in the midday (average temp. 82° F (28° C) ) The Spring starts in April, ends in June, sunny and sometimes rainy. Autumn is between October and December, sunny and rainy. The winter passes between December and April, sometimes sunny, rainy and snowy for about one week time only, temperatures fall seldom below O° C.
Places to See in Istanbul
Museum of St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia): The former church of St. Sophia is the undisputed sovereign of Istanbul's First Hill. Constantin the Great is reputed to have built a basilica here in
325 on the site of a pagan temple. Destroyed twice by fire, it was rebuilt, from 532 to 537 by the Emperor Justinian, who dedicated it to the Holy Wisdom of God (in Greek, Hagia Sophia.The former church of St. Sophia dominates on Istanbul's first hill city (Acropolis) where the Roman emperor Constantin the Great has built the first basilica of Hagia Sophia, "Holly Wisdom" in 325 on the site of a pagan temple (Sun Got Helios Temple). After having been destroyed during a revolt in the year 402, the second Hagia Sophia was built by Theodosius the Second in 415. This church has also been crushed by some revolters during the Nicea Revolt in 532. The Roman emperor Justinianus has rebuilt the third "Hagia Sophia" as the greatest church of the World, between 532 and 537 after having been designed and planned by the architect Isidoros from Western Anatolian City, Miletos and Antemias from Tralles, by the work of some 10.000 skilled building workers and 1000 masters.Â Â It is one of the most remarkable buildings ever erected anywhere in the World. The finest materials known from Rhodes, Rome, Ephesus, Thessaly and even Africa have been brought for its construction. When the building was finished, the emperor Justinianus should have entered first from the Emperor's Gate and shouted " O Solomon I have built it bigger then You did !"
It is one of the most remarkable buildings ever erected anywhere. The finest materials known from Rhodes, Rome, Ephesus, Thessaly and even Africa went into its construction. The minarets were added after the Turkish Conquest of 1453, when St. Sophia was converted into a mosque. Mehmet The Conqueror's first act on taking Constantinople was to visit St. Sophia, and the first ritual prayers of the new ruler were performed here. The famous architect Sinan strenghtened the buttresses in the 16th century, and the most recent restoration carried out in the last century. In 1935 Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic proclaimed St. Sophia a museum.
The dimensions; The area of Hagia Sophia is 100 x 70 m : 7000 m2. The number of columns : 107, of which 40 at the ground floor 67 at the upper floor, which was for lady prayers and Roman emperess. The height of the main dom is 56.m, the diameter of the main dom is 31-32 m. Between 40 ribs around the dom, there are 40 windows.
The minarets were added after the Turkish conquest in 1453, when St. Sophia was converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet II. the Conqueror, whose first act on taking Constantinople was to visit St. Sophia. The first islamic ritual prayers of the new rulers were performed here. The famous architect Sinan strengthened the buttresses in the 16.th century, and the most recent restoration carried out in the 19.th century by the architect Fosatti. In 1935 Ataturk, the founder and the first president of the modern Turkish Republic proclaimed St. Sophia as a museum.
Topkapi Palace (Up: as seen from the Golden Horn):
Ancient residence of the Ottoman sultans, Topkapi Palace was built by Mehmet II..,the Conqueror between 1459 - 1465, and named as "New Palace": "Saray-i Cedide", the first palace was built by the same sultan at the place where the Beyazit Tower and the University of Istanbul are located now.
The first Court is entered through the Imperial Gate (Bab-i Humayun), built in 1478. Then come gardens, lawns and sweeping trees, providing the right dreamlike atmosphere for penetrating further into the mysterious universe of the Sultans.
To the right of the gate lie the enormous kitchens built by Mehmet the Conqueror and Beyazit II. in the 15th century. Today the kitchens house a precious collection of Chinese Porcelain as well as European crystal and porcelain. There are 10,512 pieces of Chinese porcelain alone at Topkapi, of which the majority has to be kept in storage.
If nothing else, you must visit the harem. In origin of the word means "sacred" or "set apart". The sultan, his mother, wives (of whom he was allowed four) and innumberable concubines all lived in this dim network of staircases, corridors, bedrooms and bathrooms, in a stifling world of ambitious intrigue. The main preoccupation of the womenfolk was to produce a male child, and then to assure his accession to the throne. It was also a claustrophobic, unnatural world of jealousy and unhappiness; you may sense the troubled atmosphere lingering in the dusty sunlight and complicated decor.
Every succeeding sultan added something to this palace, which gradually became a small royal city, comprising Sultan's harem, Ottoman governmental building "Divan", mosques, bath-houses, money mint, schools, libraries, residences, kitchens, gardens and fountains, built around four main courtyards.
The great gate to the first open air hall, which was open to all people and free to enter, had been originally named "Bab i Ali : High Gate" which became then the well known title of the Ottoman Government". The High Gate has been renamed later as "Topkapi", because of the canons laying just after the gate on the ground. The name "Topkapi" means "canon gate", which has identified the palace as "Topkapi Palace: Canon Gate Palace".
After having entered through the "High Gate" or "Canon Gate", you can come to the first open air hall, where you would see the Hagia Irene Church Building (The Holy Peace) first, which was originally built by Constantin the Great in 330 and rebuilt by Justinianus in the year 536. This church had been converted into a store and arsenal building, later into a museum by the ottoman sultans. The Hagia Irene is now a museum and a concert hall for music and art festivals in Istanbul.
You can enter into the second Court hall through the Imperial Gate (Bab-i Humayun), built in 1478. To the right of the gate lie the enormous kitchens built by the great architect Sinan in the name of Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror and Beyazit II. in the 15th century. Today in the kitchens house a precious collection of mainly Chinese and few Japanese Porcelain is being exhibited. There are 10,512 pieces of Chinese porcelain alone at Topkapi, of which the majority has to be kept in storage.
Next to the "Porcelain Section" you can see "the Pavillon for Silver Wares", for example the silver model of "the Fountain of Sultan Ahmet the 3.rd", some silver gifts from other countries etc. Passing to the second open air hall you can enjoy some very old maple trees (astimeted about 550 years old) next to the Gate of Felicity : Bab i saade, where the sultan was standing with the holy flag of Mohammed for some religious or official ceromonies, in which some domestic and foreign guests were taking part.
On the other side is the ottoman governmental "Divan" building, where the ottoman government under the leadership of Grand Vesir was meeting at least twice a week, to decide about political and juridical matters, which Sultan was directing in a secured and safe place behind a metal curtain and window, in his "Tower of Justice: Adalet Kulesi" at the Harem building side . Behind the "Divan" was the Sultan's Harem, forbidden zone for all the others besides the black and white eunuchs servants, the wives and children of Sultan,Â Â The word "Harem" means "sacred" or "set apart" (strictly private). The sultan, his mother, wives (of whom he was allowed four) and innumberable concubines all lived in this dim network of staircases, corridors, bedrooms and bathrooms, in a stifling world of ambitious intrigue. The main preoccupation of the womenfolk was to produce a male child, and then to assure his accession to the throne. It was also a claustrophobic, unnatural world of jealousy and unhappiness; you may sense the troubled atmosphere lingering in the dusty sunlight and complicated decor.
After having passed through "the gate of felicity: Bab-i Saade", you can enter to "the Audience Hall" or "Acceptance Hall", where sultan was sitting in his throne and accepting his guests with their precious gifts. At the third open air hall, there is the library of Sultan Ahmet III. from the year 1730. On the right from the entrance gate, the sultans' costumes can be seen in the first room. In the next rooms, which were originally built as accountancy and administration offices of the ottoman sultans, You can see some examples of the sultans treasures with extremely precious jewelry such as the "Kasikci Elmas", one of 22 most precious diamonds of the World.
On the other side, next to palace's sun dial, made of marble, the holy relicts of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith can be seen, such as the holy stab of Moses, through which the Profet Moses has opened a passage in the Red Sea, the sword of the Profet David, the arm and the skull of St. John the Baptist, the beard, the foot print, the sword and costume of Muslim Profet Mohammed, of the califs, Ebu Bekr, Omar, Osman, Ali, the golden cover of the holy black meteorite "Hacer ul Eswed", the door and keys of Caaba etc.
When You pass the gates to the summer kiosks of the sultans, you can see the small mosque and the Mecidiye Kiosk, which is now the Konyali Restaurant, near of which is the Physicians' Pavilion, where the sultan's physicians, most of them Jewish Ottomans, were preparing their medicaments. Further on a terrace there is the sultan's loge, where sultan was greeting the people in the Gulhane Park especially for Ramadan Days and rituals. In "the Circumcision Kiosk" next door were the sultans sons circumcised. On the other side there is the Bagdad Summer Kioks, which was built by Sultan Murad the IV.th.. The Revan Kioks, where the turbans of sultans and books had been kept, was a resting room for Sultan and his guests. The palace's orchard and vegetable field was the area on the rear side of these kiosks, where "the GÃ¼lhane Green Park" is now.
Museums in Istanbul: Three exceptional museums
are placed conveniently next to one another in a nearby courtyard. Even if you're not a history lover, don't miss the Archeological Museum (Arkeoloji Muzesi). It's one of the most famous in the world, especially reputed for its collection of sarcophagi. Among them is the sarcophag of Alexander the Great. The sculptures collection of this museum is immense. The seramic museum nextdoor is also very interesting.
The Museum of the Ancient Orient (Eski Sark Eserleri Muzesi) displays a rich collection of objects from ancient Near and Middle Eastern civilizations. Among them are Babylonian panels from the time of King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), statuettes from Mesopotamia and clay tablets bearing Hammurabi's law code and ancient inscriptions all within the Archeological Museum of Istanbul.
Grand Bazaar (Covered Market, Kapali Charshi): Call it what you will, the Grand Bazaar is like the labyrinth of Minos, looks like Ali Baba's cave and its treasures and sounds like the trading post for the Tower of Babel with hunderds of different languages. This is the biggest oriental market in the world. It's like a complete city, with many domed roofs. There are quiet alleys, lively crossroads and main streets. Sultan Mehmet II. the Conqueror had built a covered market on the site in 1461. I t has been reconstructed several times after destruction by fire and earthquakes. Nowadays it contains over 4000 shops, as well as banks, cafes, restaurants and mosques. The most ancient part is the Old Bedesten at the centre, kept for more valuable merchandise since it can be securely locked at night. The Turkish Letherwares and carpets are world famous for their finesse.
Even if you have no intention to buy anything, visit the "Grand Basaar: Kapali Charshi" for a distillation of Istanbul and Turkey. It's a kaleidoscope of constantly-changing brilliance. Voices call out in a dozen languages. Water-sellers come jangling by; incredibly strong men, hamal, lumber past, harnessed into a kind of leather saddle and transporting anything up to a sofa and chairs on their backs. There is a wide range of merchandise in the Grand Bazaar all of oriental origin; including clothing, dishes, carpets, spice, leather and souvenirs made of different materials such as gold, silver, copper, wood etc.
Archeologists found some traces from stone age nearby Istanbul and also from bronze age, which are remainings of old settlements on the Asian Part of the City. Recently a neolitic settlement and a family grave have been discovered within the old city harbour, which might be as old as 8000 years. On the Asian side, the archeologists have found a Phrygian Settlement, which might be 3100 years old.
According to a local legend and a soothsaying (oracle) from the Apollo Temple of Delphi Island, Byzas, who was the leader of a migrant group from Magera, Greece, should have come to this area in the year 660 BC and let build a city "on the other side of the city of blind people", as it was prophesied in the oracle. As they were on the european side, they should have seen a settlement on the asian side of Bosphorus. Byzas must have told to his tribe, that the people of the other side settlement must be "blind", because they could not see the european side of the Bosphorus Strait, which was much more wonderful and suitable to settle. So he lets build there a city with his name, as Byzas-City, "Byzantion". The city becomes Roman territory after having been taken by Romans in the 2nd Century BC and later in the 4th Century AD has been renamed as "Nova Roma : New Rom" by the Roman Emperor Constantin the Great, whose name was given to the city as "Constantinopolis : City of Constantin " and from his name "Constantinople", "Stanpoli", finaly "Istanbul".
During the reigns of Roman Emperors from 2.nd, until 6.th Century A.D. many buildings such as the Hippodrome, the Emperors' Palaces, the Underground Cisterns, the famous churches of Saint Irene (Holy Peace), Saint Sophia (Holy Wisdom), Chora (Church on the Outer Side of the City) etc. were built. Istanbul had been plundered by a gothic invasion in the 3th century A.D and by the crusaders in the years between 1205 and 1250.
After having been organized by the efforts of the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Theologian, Saint Luke, Saint Paul and other saints, in Antiochia and then mainly in Ephesus of Western Turkey, the Christianity had been accepted as one of the legal religions of the Roman state in the year 330 by Constantin the Great. The Emperor Theodosius the 2.nd had announced Christianity the sole and legal religion of the Eastern Roman State in the year 395.
The Ottomans have conquered Old Istanbul City in the year 1453 and made the city, their third capital until 1920, where they have built many mosques such as Fatih Mosque, Beyazid Mosque, Sultan Suleyman Mosque, Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque, etc. and also bridges, streets, carawanserails, hospitals, libraries, medresa (Koran Schools), sultans' and pashas' palaces (Such as Fatih Palace, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Yildiz Palace etc. on each side of the Bosphorus Strait.