A Travellerspoint blog

Istanbul. Along the Bosphorus.

City on Water.

One of Istanbul's Ferries Topkapi Palace.

I am trying to put together some pages about places I have spent a long time in, even if it was quite long ago. I lived in Istanbul for three years from 1988 to 1991, then for another one year from 1995 to 1996. Of course, lots of things will have changed since I lived there, so this page will not have a lot of practical getting around type information, but I can use it to describe some of the places we really enjoyed visiting and experiencing. Another problem I am facing with this page is my photos of Istanbul are scattered around several places or lost, plus in those days I did not take photos at the insane rate I do now, so maybe not all tips will have photos or tips will have few photos, but I'll try my best to see what I can find.

I met my husband in Finland. I was an au pair. He was a teacher. We moved back to the UK after a year in Finland, so that I could complete my degree. My husband was unemployed for that year and did not want two consecutive years of unemployment, so while I finished my studies, he spent 1987 to 1988 in Istanbul and I came to visit him three times during that period. When I finished my degree, I joined him in Istanbul. I must admit at first I went through a period of culture shock. Istanbul was different from anywhere I had ever been the crowds, the heat, the noise, the sights, the smells they were all a little overwhelming. I was also incredibly homesick, so whenever we had a longish holiday I dragged my husband back to the UK. Nowadays he has to drag me there as I seldom want to go.

As a result of my homesickness, we did not travel as much in Turkey as we should have, though we did still travel a fair bit. We visited nearby towns, villages and cities such as Yalova, Termal, Iznik, Bursa. Further afield we visited Troy, Beramkale, Izmir, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, Ephesus and Selcuk. We spent half a year living and working in Isparta. From there we visited Antalya, Side, Sagalossos, Egirdir, Burdur, Phaselis, Kemer and Konya. We also made it to the magical landscapes of Cappadocia and spent a weekend in Adana.

Istanbul is a wonderful city with one of the best natural settings of any city in the world. Part of it is in Asia and part of it is in Europe. The two continents are divided by the Bosphorus Straits. Istanbul's harbour is called the Golden Horn. Parts of Istanbul are bordered by the Sea of Marmara and parts by the Black Sea. Istanbul is built on hills and there are plenty of places with spectacular views. Istanbul has had a very long and rich history. It was Byzantium, then it became Constantinople, then Istanbul. Many different peoples, cultures and religions have settled there and each has left fascinating traces of their passing.

Things I grew to love about Turkey were:

1/ The call to prayer. I could never hear it without feeling I was somewhere very different and exotic. At first it used to wake me up in the night, later I could sleep through the night time calls without even hearing them. During Ramazan a drummer would wander around the streets and wake everyone up in the morning so they could eat before sunrise. I also adapted sufficiently to sleep through him. I never managed to sleep through a coal delivery though. Slabs of coal like slices of a mountain were poured off the back of a lorry into the coal cellar of our building. Our whole building used to shake. Later the kapici or doormen used to hack it into manageable lumps.

2/ The food Turkish food is wonderful with its wide selection of mezes or starters, its lamb, chicken, steak or fish main courses normally served with rice, chips, salad and wonderful fresh bread. I loved both the normal year round loaves and the flat crispy Ramazan pide. I was not quite as fond of the desserts, though most people love them. One of our favourite things was to buy palamut( it tastes like (mackerel) straight off the fishing boats in Kadıköy or a delicious palamut sandwich again straight from the boats. I also loved midye tavi, mussels cooked on a skewer as a snack food. There was lots of other great snack food. The simit man would wander around crying out for buyers for his delicious seseme seed covered rings. The lamachun man would roll you a delicious lamachun wrap.

3/ The people - most people there are kind and friendly and hospitable. I remember sheltering from a sudden unexpected downpour in Anadolu Kavaği on the Bosphorus. We took cover on the porch of someone's house. The house
owner opened the door of his home and we thought he was going to tell us off for trespassing, instead he invited us into his house and served us tea until the storm passed. I also remember travelling back from the Princes Islands and being entertained by groups of happy day trippers who would suddenly spontaneously start dancing. Turks are such joyful, extrovert people.

4/ Culture - As teachers, we could attend cultural performances such as ballets, operas, classical concerts of top quality for as little as around 50p. As members of the general public, we would also have paid very little. Not only did we see some fantastic performances in the Atatürk Cultural Centre, but also the audience participation had to be seen to be believed - clapping, stamping, cheering, encore after encore. Performers from overseas were amazed by the reception they got. One Flamenco dancer from Spain had to be physically carried off stage by his backing musicians as he tried again and again to satisfy the audience's demand for encores to the point of collapse. The only country I have ever visited with a similar
intense love of the performing arts was Russia.

5/ History - We spent four years in Istanbul and never ran out of things to do or see or visit. There are palaces, mosques, churches, fortresses, markets, museums, towers, bridges to name but a few.

6/ The vitality - The streets of Istanbul were always vibrant and filled with life. People selling their wares, families on outings, people coming and going from work, a madness of congested traffic, the most colourful and freshest markets I have ever seen. When you think everything is finally settled down for the evening, round comes the boza man calling out, "Bozaaaa, bozaaaa", as he sells his bedtime drink.

7/ Nature - Set on the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, The Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul is a water city. It is also said to be perched on seven hills. There are wonderful islands, beautiful beaches, pleasant parks. A truly magical natural setting. For our first three years in Istanbul we lived on the Asian side of Istanbul in Kozyatağı; near Bostanci. For our fourth year we lived on the European side in Nişantaşı;. Istanbul made a deep and lasting impression on us. It is a truly special place.

Topkapi Palace.

Any visitor to Istanbul with even the slightest interest in history is bound to find themselves in the Sultanahmet area which has a wealth of historical sights. One of these is Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace was home to the Ottoman Sultans for around four hundred years from 1465 to 1856. Topkapi Palace is located on Seraglio Point and looks out over the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the Ancient Greek City of Byzantium was located here. When Mehmet the Conqueror seized control of the city in 1453, he needed a suitable place to build his palace and selected this site. Construction of the palace began in 1459. During the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent from 1520 to 1560, Topkapi Palace was expanded. The main person involved in this expansion was Alaüddin a Persian
architect. In 1574 after a terrible fire destroyed the palace's kitchens, Sultan Selim II employed the famous architect Mimar Sinan to rebuild the burnt down parts and expand the Harem, the baths, the Privy Chamber and several shoreline pavilions. Topkapi Palace was at one time surrounded by thick, high defensive walls. Topkapi Palace does not look like a palace in the European sense. It is a large complex of rooms built around courtyards. Topkapi Palace consists of four main courtyards and a harem. At one time it was home to as many as 4,000 people. The Palace's original name was Yeni Saray or New Palace. The name Topkapı; means Cannon Gate. This was one of many gateways into the palace. The First Courtyard was the largest courtyard of the palace. This courtyard was also known as the Court of the Janissaries the Sultan's armed bodyguards. Palace buildings that survive in this courtyard nowadays are the former Imperial Mint which dates from 1727 and the church of Hagia Irene. Hagia Irene, the Church of the Divine Peace, was built by the Byzantines. The Ottomans used it as an armoury.

When we lived in Istanbul, Haghia Irene was seldom open to the public, but when I found out it was being used to stage a concert, I insisted on going to it. I wanted to see inside a church that had the same name as me. We heard Mozart's Requiem here. It was an excellent performance, but a pigeon got into this former church in the middle of it and its calls and the flapping of its wings could be heard whenever there was a lull in the music. The Second Courtyard, Divan Meydanı, was entered through the Gate of Salutation. This courtyard was at one time full of peacocks and gazelles. It was completed around 1465 and was surrounded by the palace hospital, the bakery, the Janissary quarters, the stables, the imperial harem and the Divan, which was the Imperial Council. These are all to the north of the courtyard and the palace kitchens are to the south. Underneath the Second Courtyard there is a cistern dating from Byzantine times. The Second Courtyard was mainly used by the sultan for holding audiences and for dispensing justice.

The Gate of Felicity is the entrance to the Third Courtyard. This courtyard was the Inner Palace. It is surrounded by the Hall of the Privy Chamber, the treasury, the Harem and some pavilions. The library of Ahmed III stands in its centre. The Imperial Treasury is worth seeing. Some of the gem stones on display here were so huge, it was hard to believe they were real. I remember massive emeralds and diamonds. There is also a famous be-jewelled dagger which featured in a film called Topkapi. This film dates from 1964 and involves an attempt to steal the Topkapi dagger. The third courtyard also has a display of some beautiful miniature paintings. I have framed posters based on some of these in my home. The Harem was the living area for the Sultan's wives, concubines and female relatives. It contained more than 400 rooms. I remember there was a part of the harem where the women could secretly look down on important visitors arriving for an audience with the sultan. The harem was guarded by the sultan's eunuchs.

The fourth courtyard was the innermost private sanctuary of the sultan and his family. It was made up of several pavilions, kiosks, gardens and terraces. In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move his court to Dolmabahçe Palace. This had just been built on the Bosphorus. It was the first Europeanstyle palace in Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace.

Topkapi Palace.

Hagia Sophia.

I remember my first visit to this building. I was visiting my boyfriend, later husband, and he was at work, so I went sightseeing on my own. The area around Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya as the Turks call it, is very hassley, because it is filled with carpet salesmen who keep trying to drag you off to their shops. One of these salesmen attached himself to me and I could not get rid of him. Part of the reason for going inside Hagia Sophia was simply to get away from him and even then he kept calling to me: "I'll wait for you just outside. Don't worry, I'll wait for you. " I spent much of my visit working out how to get out of the building without encountering him again.

Hagia Sophia means Church of the Divine Wisdom. It is located in the Sultan Ahmet area of Istanbul between Topkapi Palace and Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Hagia Sophia was built in the year 537. From that date until 1453, it was mainly used as the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral and as the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The only exception to this was between 1204 and 1261 during the fourth crusade when the cathedral was ransacked and converted into a Catholic Church by Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice. Many of the cathedral's relics were stolen and dispersed to churches in other parts of Europe at this time. After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and remained a mosque until 1931. In 1935 it was secularized and opened as a museum. Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. Hagia Sophia was originally built as a church between 532 and 537 during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It was located on the site of two earlier Christian churches. It was designed by two Greek scientists. One of these was Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and the other was Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. The building is an impressive piece of engineering with its massive dome. This dome has, however, collapsed several times during major earthquakes and has frequently had to be rebuilt. The original church contained a collection of important holy relics and a 15 metre high silver iconostasis. In 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror seized the city, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. The cathedral's bells, altar, iconostasis, sacrificial vessels and other relics were taken away. The mosaics depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Christian saints and angels were removed or plastered over. Islamic features, for example, the mihrab which shows the direction of Mecca, minbar pulpit, and four minarets, were added. Until 1616 when the construction of the nearby Sultan Ahmed Mosque was complete Hagia Sophia was the most important mosque in Istanbul.

Due to the plastering over of the inside of the church when it was converted into a mosque, the inside of Hagia Sophia is plainer than you might expect. There are, however, still some frescoes on display. There are also several gigantic circular disks on display. These are inscribed with the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed: Hassan and Hussain. They were created by the calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa İzzed Effendi who lived from 1801 to 1877.

Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque is hardly surprisingly located in the Sultanahmed area of Istanbul. This mosque is also known as the blue mosque because its walls are covered with more than 20,000 beautiful blue iznik tiles. This mosque was built between 1609 and 1616, during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I. It was built on the site of the former palace of the Byzantine emperors next to the hippodrome and facing Hagia Sophia. Sultan Ahmed Mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. It was designed by the architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, who was a pupil of Mimar Sinan. Sultan Ahmet was criticized for adding six minarets to his mosque. At that time only the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca had six
minarets. The sultan went ahead with his plans but paid for a seventh minaret to be added to the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. As I said above the walls of the mosque are covered with beautiful blue tiles, the floors are covered with beautiful Turkish carpets. Several ornate chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Female visitors to the mosque must cover their heads. Scarves can be borrowed for this purpose. All visitors must remove their shoes. The mosque is closed to non-Muslims during prayer times.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque.

Yerebatan Saray - The Underground Cistern.

This sight is also in the Sultan Ahmet area. For some reason many tourists don't visit the Yerebatan Saray. Perhaps they have not heard of it, don't notice it or think it won't be all that interesting. Personally I rather liked it. It's certainly something different. Yerebatan Saray means underground palace. It is a huge underground cistern. It was built in the sixth century by around 7000 slaves during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. This was the largest underground water cistern in Byzantium and provided water for the Great Palace, which stood on the site of the present day Sultan Ahmet Mosque. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the cistern provided water to Topkapi Palace. The cistern continued to be used up to even quite modern times. This underground cistern is approximately 453 feet by 212 feet, making it about 105,000 square feet in area. It is capable of holding 2,800,000 cubic feet of water. The ceiling of the cistern is supported by 336 marble columns, arranged in twelve rows of twenty-eight columns. Some of these columns are carved with tears. This is said to be in memory of the slaves who died building the cistern. Two of the most famous columns in the cistern are carved with the head of the Medusa. One is placed sideways, one upside down, perhaps in the hope she does not turn any visitors brave enough to look at her into stone. The water that used to fill the cistern came from the Belgrade Forest. This is about twelve miles north of Istanbul. The water travelled to the cistern through the Valens Aqueduct, and the Mağ;lova Aqueduct, which were built by the Emperor Justinian. Parts of these aqueducts can still be seen today. This cistern was used to film a scene from the 1963 James Bond film 'From Russia with Love'.

Careful you don't turn to stone in Yerebatan Sarayi.

The Archaeology Museum.

The Archaeology Museum in Istanbul is also in the Sultanahmet area. It is an amazing place to visit as Turkey is so rich in archaeological remains from Ancient Greek times. In fact the museum holds so many remains, many things that would be given prime location in any other museum are, or were, outside in the museum grounds as there is simply no room for them inside. The Archaeology Museum is really three museums located on what used to be part of Topkapı; Palace's outer gardens. Construction of the museum's main building began in 1881 and the museum first opened ten years later in 1891. The architect for this project was Alexander Vallaury who also designed the Pera Palas Hotel. The first curator and founder of the museum was Osman Hamdi Bey. He also commissioned the museum's second building The Museum of the Ancient Orient in 1883. The museum's third building is actually its oldest. It was originally built as The Tiled Kiosk by Mehmed the Conqueror in 1472 and was once part of Topkapi Palace. In 1953 it became The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, and later became part of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. In 1991, on its one hundredth birthday, The Archaeology Museum received the European Council Museum Award. Exhibits in the museum include: The Alexander Sarcophagus this dates from the fourth century BC and was found in Sidon, Lebanon in 1887. The Sarcophagus of the Crying Women which was also found in Sidon. This is a beautiful museum with many fantastic exhibits and is well worth visiting.

The Archaeology Museum.

The Archaeology Museum.

The Archaeology Museum.

The Archaeology Museum.

The Archaeology Museum.

The Grand Bazaar - Kapali Çarsi.

I remember going here with my husband. It is the sort of place he loves and I hate. We were trying to look around when a belt seller attached himself to us. He quoted a price for his belt. We said no. He then offered us five belts for the price he had said. We said no. He then offered us 10 belts for the price he had said and so on. In the end when he was offering us a ridiculous twenty-five belts for his starting price, Peter said, "They are probably plastic anyway." At which point the belt seller lost his temper, produced a cigarette lighter from his pocket and placed its flame against each of the belts to show they would not melt. We still did not buy them; we really did not want any belts. My husband finds high pressure sales tactics funny and gets into conversation with the salesmen. I just find them annoying and operate on the principle, hassle me and I won't buy from you even if I want what you are selling. I would have liked just to have a peaceful look around the Grand Bazaar, but that never seemed to happen.
One thing I did quite like about the salesmen was they pride themselves on their linguistic ability and try to sell their wares to you in the language they think you speak, so they will approach people in Turkish, English, French, German, Arabic etc.

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It is made up of 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops. Construction of the Grand Bazaar started in 1455, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror. Originally what is now the Grand Bazaar was several unconnected markets, but by the beginning of the 17th century these had joined together to form the Grand Bazaar. At several points throughout its history the Grand Bazaar has had to be restored or rebuilt following fires and earthquakes.

The Grand Bazaar - Kapali Çarsi.

The Spice Bazaar.

The Spice Bazaar is also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. It is located in Eminönü behind the Yeni Camii which means the New Mosque. In fact its buildings are part of the New Mosque complex and the stallholders' rents help pay for the upkeep of the mosque. Personally I found this bazaar much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar. It was also much less hassley. One of the things I would go here to buy was ilhamur Çay which means linden tree tea. This tea consisted of dried leaves and twigs which would be stored in huge hessian sacks and weighed out when anyone came to buy it. It was delicious and I still miss it even now. This bazaar, as its name suggests, was famous for its spices. Stalls with huge mounds of colourful, powdered spice would render the air of the bazaar rich with the scent of a hundred different spices. It was amazing. I often bought spices here, too. For tourists, they would sell pre-weighed and bottled collections of different spices. These made a lovely gift. The spice bazaar also sold dried fruits, nuts, lokum -Turkish delight, other sweets, coffees, teas, dried herbs and even cheese. Another thing you could see here was an assortment of different types of natural sea sponges. It was always an interesting place for a stroll. The building of the Spice Bazaar was commissioned by Sultana Turhan Hatice, the Queen Mother of Sultan Mehmed IV in 1660.

The Spice Bazaar.

The Galata Bridge.

The old Galata Bridge stretched across the Golden Horn, linking Eminonu with Karakoy. It was destroyed by a fire in 1992 and was replaced with a new bridge in 1994. You had a choice about how you wanted to cross the old bridge. You could cross at the top level where the traffic also went across. There were pavements on each side. Or you could cross at a lower level where the bridge was lined with restaurants. In the middle you still had to come up to the top level of the bridge. When we were new to Istanbul, it would take us forever to cross this bridge, as we would be dragged into restaurant after restaurant each trying to out-vie each other with their special offers. As you get more used to life in Istanbul, you walk with a greater sense of purpose and you are subjected to a lot less hassle. I remember the first time we crossed this bridge without being stopped and hassled by anyone. We finally felt that we had been accepted into Istanbul; we were no longer tourists, but locals. Once I took one of our visitors across this bridge. I told him I would teach him how to get across like a local with no hassle. I advised him, " Walk straight ahead; don't look at anyone; go fast as if you have an appointment. If anyone speaks to you, keep going as if you have not heard". I then walked across the bridge with no problem and turned around to say to my friend; "See that's how its done." Only to find he had been dragged into the first restaurant and was being fought over by a variety of restaurant owners. I went back and rescued him and he told me they had started with an offer of cheap food, then
free drink, then a totally free meal. Somehow I kind of doubt that would have actually happened. People used to fish on the top level of the bridge. We often went for a beer in one of the bars on the lower level of the bridge where the owner recognized us and knew we lived there.

The Galata Bridge.

The Golden Horn.

The Golden Horn is Istanbul's Harbour. I used to love taking the little boat trip that went around it. On route you would pass some stunning buildings such as churches and mosques. One area the boat called at was Fener which once had the most important lighthouse on the Golden Horn. This area is an important centre for the Greek Orthodox Church as the Patriarchate is located here. Another area the boat calls at is Balat which was once home for Istanbul's Jewish community. There are still synagogues here. We normally got off the boat at Eyüp at the far end of the Golden Horn. There is a mosque here which is an extremely important sacred site for Muslims worldwide. The Eyüp Sultan Mosque, built in 1458, was the first mosque built by the Ottoman Turks following the Conquest of Constantinople. It is located next to the place where Eyüp Sultan, the standard bearer of the prophet Muhammad, was buried during the First Arab Siege of Constantinople in the 670s. This mosque was also the traditional site of the coronation ceremonies of the Ottoman Sultans. You could also climb the hill behind Eyüp as it wended its way past lots of cemeteries with Ottoman style tombs. By this I mean many of the tall thin cylindrical gravestones had different styles of stone turbans on the top to show the rank of the person buried there. At the top of the hill you could visit the Pierre Loti Cafe and admire the wonderful views over the Golden Horn. Pierre Loti was the pseudonym of Julien Viaud, a French novelist and naval officer, who was born in 1850 and died in 1923. Loti spent a lot of time in Istanbul and was very fond of it. He lived in Eyüp for some time and often visited a cafe on the site of the present day Pierre Loti Cafe. You can sit on the cafe's terrace and drink Çay or smoke a narghile water pipe. Apparently there is now a cable car from Eyüp to the top of Pierre Loti Hill. You had to walk when we lived there. I remember buying a little souvenir porcelain lamp which was really a whistle with Eyüp written on it. The waters of the Golden Horn were very polluted and smelly back then. Hopefully, they have now improved. When we lived here Bedrettin Dalan became mayor of Istanbul and one of his election promises was he would make the Golden Horn as blue as his eyes.

The Galata Tower.

The Galata Tower is the cylindrical tower with the pointed roof that juts out of the Galata skyline on the Karaköy side of the Golden Horn. Historically the Galata area was populated by the Venetians and then by the Genoese. Therefore, it was a Catholic area surrounded by an Eastern Orthodox city, and later a Catholic area surrounded by a Muslim City. The Genoese built strong defensive walls around the Galata area. They also built the Galata Tower as an observation tower in 1348. The tower's original name was Christea Turris or the Tower of Christ. At 66.9 metres high it was at one time the highest building in the city. The Galata Tower replaced an earlier tower located closer to the waterfront. This was known as the Great Tower. The Great Tower controlled one end of a chain that could be pulled across the Golden Horn to stop enemy ships from entering the harbour The Great Tower was destroyed in 1203 during the fourth crusade. After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the Galata Tower was used first as a prison and later as a fire watch tower. As many of Istanbul's buildings were made of wood, fire was always a grave danger. There is a legend associated with the Galata Tower. In 1348 Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi created a pair of artificial wings. Wearing these, he leapt off the Galata Tower and flew all the way to Üsküdar on the Asian Side of the Bosphorus, more than three kilometres away. This flight terrified the ruling sultan, Sultan Murad IV, who thought Çelebi was using some form of black magic so he had him exiled to Algeria. Nowadays the Galata Tower is a great place to enjoy scenic views over the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Istanbul rooftops which can be teeming with life. You will see women gossiping, preparing food together, washing and drying clothes. You can also enjoy the Istanbul skyline with the domes and minarets of many famous buildings displayed against the horizon. The Galata Tower is nine floors high. If you want to see the view, take the lift to the seventh floor, then walk up two flights of stairs. Be careful when you step out onto the observation deck there is a sort of ditch around the outside of the tower down which you can easily turn your ankle. I know, I did once.

The Galata Tower.

The Galata Tower.

The Galata Tower.

The Galata Tower.

The Bosphorus European Side.

Rumeli Hisari.

The Bosphorus is one of the most beautiful parts of Istanbul. You can visit it on a cruise, or you can take a bus up the European side, for example the Besiktas to Sariyer bus. Or you can take a bus up the Asian side, maybe starting in Uskudar and going to Anadolu Hisari, Beykoz, or Anadolu Kavağı. On the European side of the Bosphorus one of the sights that is well worth visiting is the magnificent fortress of Rumeli Hisari with its thick walls and tall towers. From this fortress you can enjoy spectacular views over the Bosphorus, too. Rumeli Hisari was constructed by Mehmet the Conqueror between 1451 and 1452, just before he conquered Constantinople. At that time the area he built the fortress on was outside the city. Mehmet the Conqueror wanted a fortress on the narrowest part of the Bosphorus in order to control all ships travelling on the Bosphorus. He was getting ready to lay siege to the city of Constantinople. By controlling the Bosphorus, he could cut off any food supply or weapons supply being brought to Constantinople from the north. Opposite the site of Rumeli Hisari, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, stood the fortress of Anadoluhisarı; which was built between 1393 and 1394 by Sultan Bayezid I, The Thunderbolt. Mehmet the Conqueror also had control of this fortress, so he controlled both sides of the Bosphorus. Mehmet the Conqueror made each of his three generals complete a tower of the fortress and spurred them on to see who could finish first. As a result the huge fortress was completed in only four months. The fortress's three main towers were named after the generals who built them: Sadrazam Çandarlı Halil Pasha built the big tower next to the main gate, Zağanos Pasha built the south tower, and Sarıca Pasha built the north tower. Mehmet's armies conquered Constantinople several months after the fortress's completion. After the fall of Constantinople, Rumeli Hisari became a customs checkpoint. However, when fortresses were built at Rumeli Kavağı; and Anadoglu Kavağı; further up the Bosphorus and closer to the Black Sea, Rumeli Hisari lost that role. In the seventeenth century, it was used as a prison for foreign prisoners of war. Since 1960 Rumeli Hisari has been a museum. Rumeli Hisari has three main towers, thirteen small watch towers and three main gates next to the bigger towers. Inside the fortress there used to be wooden houses for Mehmet's soldiers and a small mosque. Only the minaret of the mosque remains. The fortress's water supply came from a large cistern underneath the mosque. Visitors to the fortress can climb up onto the fortresses walls. Be careful however, unless things have improved a great deal since I was there, safety standards in old Turkish buildings are minimal with no protective rails in sight.

Rumeli Hisari.

Rumeli Hisari.

Emirgan Park.

Istanbul has several parks: Gülhane, Yildiz and Emirgan are the better known ones. Gülhane means Hall of Roses. It used to be part of the grounds of Topkapi Palace. It used to have a very depressing zoo in which the animals were kept in very cramped conditions. Fortunately, this no longer exists. Yildiz Park is located in Beşiktaş;. Its name means Star Park. It was originally the grounds of Yildiz Palace. Yıldız Palace was built in 1880. It was occupied by Sultan Abdülhamid II in the late nineteenth century. Before that he had lived in Dolmabahçe Palace, but he became terrified of a seaside attack on the palace and so wanted to move further inland. Yildiz Palace is now a museum. A bridge connects Yıldız Palace with Çırağan Palace on the Bosporus. Çırağan Palace was a burnt out shell when we lived in Istanbul, but nowadays it is a luxury hotel owned by the Kempinski Group.

Emirgan Park is in Emirgan on the European side of the Bosphorus. In my opinion it is the prettiest of these three parks. It is famous for its tulips in spring time. Emirgan Park is located on a hillside. It covers an area of 117 acres and is surrounded by high walls. Emirgan Park has two ponds, jogging tracks, a grotto, fountains and picnic tables. It also has three historic pavilions: the Yellow Pavilion, the Pink Pavilion and the White Pavilion. These three pavillions were all built by Khedive Ismail Pasha between 1871 and 1878. The Yellow Pavilion, Sarı; Köşk, was once a hunting lodge and guest house. Part of it is now a cafe. The Pink Pavilion, Pembe Köşk, is a typical Ottoman style two storey house. Nowadays it is also a cafe and can be hired for weddings. The White Pavilion, Beyaz Köşk, is a two storey wooden building. Emirgan Park is famous for tulips. These flowers were once symbols of the Ottoman Empire. Since 2005, an international tulip festival is held in Emirgan Park every year.

Emirgan Park.

Emirgan Park.

Emirgan Park.

Emirgan Park.

Emirgan Park.


Tarabya is a district on the European side of the Bosphorus. It has a marina, riverside walkway and a big posh hotel called The Grand Tarabya. This hotel used to be very popular with Arab tourists and you would normally see lots of Arabs strolling around the Tarabya waterfront. It's quite a nice area for a stroll beside the Bosphorus. Tarabya has always been a popular place for the wealthy citizens of Istanbul to escape the heat of summer and the crowded city streets. Foreign diplomats and rich Turks built luxurious villas here. Tarabya has many expensive waterfront restaurants.



In our last year in Istanbul I was sent out to various parts of Istanbul to teach different individuals or in different companies. Once a week I had to teach in Bebek. Bebek is a pretty village on the European side of the Bosphorus. I had to teach a little girl who lived in a restored old wooden house here. Bebek has a lovely walkway along the waterfront. It is perfect for a stroll or for a seat on a park bench enjoying watching the boats sailing to and fro on the Bosphorus. In the 19th century, just like in nearby Tarabya, Ottoman aristocrats built their summer houses here because it was cooler, and less crowded than the centre of Istanbul. Bebek has shops, restaurants and cafes and is a pleasant place to visit.



The Bosphorus Asian Side.

There are lots of sights on the Asian side of the Bosphorus such as Beylerbeyi Palace, Küçüksu Palace, Anadolu Hisari, Anadolu Kavağı. I visited all of these but no longer have any photos of all of them. Beylerbeyi Palace is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus near the Bosphorus Bridge. Beylerbeyi Palace was an Ottoman summer residence built in the 1860s. It was commissioned by Sultan Abdülaziz. He used it as his summer residence and for entertaining important visitors. Empress Eugénie of France visited Beylerbeyi on route to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Legend states that when Empress Eugénie entered the palace she had linked arms with Sultan Abdülaziz, and his mother Pertevniyal Sultan, was so outraged by her over-familiarity that she slapped her right across the face. Other important visitors included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The deposed Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II lived in captivity in Beylerbeyi Palace from 1912 until his death in 1918. He was deposed after the 1908 Young Turk Revolution.This revolution was brought about due to unhappiness at Sultan Abdulhamid II's dissolution of the Ottoman parliament and constitution. His actions had given him absolute control for 30 years.

Küçüksu means small stream. Küçüksu Palace is a summer palace in Küçüksu on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. This little European style palace was used by Ottoman sultans as a hunting lodge. It was commissioned by Sultan Abdul Mejid I and designed by architect Garabet Amira Balyan. The palace was completed in 1857. The palace appeared in the James Bond film "The World Is Not Enough".

Anadolu Hisari is a fortress on the Asian side of the Bosporus. It was built between 1393 and 1394 by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I. He was nicknamed The Thunderbolt. He wanted this fortress as a base from which to organize the Second Ottoman Siege of Constantinople. Another fortress, Rumelihisarı, was built between 1451 and 1452 by Mehmet the Conqueror opposite Anadoluhisarı; on the European side of the Bosphorus in order to obtain absolute control over ships sailing on the Bosphorus Strait. One place I do have photos of is Anadolu Kavağı. This is the last stop on the Bosphorus cruise, but you can also get here by bus. It is a small fishing village with fish restaurants and a ruined castle. The castle is called Yoros Castle. There was also a castle on the opposite side of the Bosphorus in Rumeli Kavağı;. A massive chain could be stretched across the Bosphorus between these two castles to prevent enemy warships from entering the Bosphorus. Yoros Castle was in a very strategic location and the Byzantines, Genoese, and Ottomans fought over it for many years. In 1305 it was conquered by Ottoman forces, then recaptured by the Byzantines. Sultan Bayezid I, the thunderbolt, seized control of the castle in 1391 while he was preparing for his siege of Constantinople. In 1399 the Byzantines tried and failed to recapture Yoros Castle. The Ottomans retained control of the fortress from 1391 until 1414 when they lost it to the Genoese. The Genoese retained control of the castle for the next forty years. When Mehmed the Conqueror took control of Constantinople in 1453, he drove the Genoese out. There are also lovely beaches on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Friends took us to one by car, but I have forgotten the beach's name.

Anadolu Kavagi.

Anadolu Kavagi.

Beach on Asian Side of Bosphorus.

Posted by irenevt 04:26 Archived in Turkey

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


I can't believe you sitting on the wall at Rumeli Hisari. That looks scary. Good thing it wasn't a windy day . . .

by Beausoleil

Hi Sally, Turkey doesn't or at least didn't have much in the way of safety guidelines and I was young and stupid then.

by irenevt

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint