A Travellerspoint blog

Istanbul, of fish and islands and ruins.

My Former Home.

large_303412377190144-Enjoying_a_s..t_Istanbul.jpg
Enjoying a meal at the monastery on Buyukada.

The Best Ferry Journey in the World.

We now live in Hong Kong and while I'm sure it's not a good idea to denigrate one place at the expense of another, in Hong Kong the tourist board bills the Star Ferry as the best ferry journey ever. We both laughed at this idea as in our minds, the best ferry journey ever is taking the public ferry from Beşiktaş to Kadıköy. First you pass Ortaköy Mosque and the fantastic Dolmabahçe Palace, then you pass Leander's Tower. At certain times of the day you can hear the call to prayer drifting across the water. If you are fortunate enough to be travelling at sunset, you will see Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque silhouetted against the night sky.This has to be one of the world's most stunning views. Add to all this the vitality of the ferry. First the tea man wanders round calling out, "Çay, Çay, Taze Çay." Then some random beggars start to sing a song and ask for a donation, or some random salesman starts to demonstrate his wares in a highly exaggerated and entertaining fashion. Then comes the sahlep man selling his thick milk coloured drink made from the roots of orchids. No matter where you are going, you are in no hurry to arrive. You are simply enjoying the best ferry trip in the world with its stunning scenery and constant entertainment.

Beşiktaş and Dolmabahçe Palace.

Beşiktaş; is pronounced Beshiktash. It is an area on the European shores of the Bosphorus. Its name literally means Beşik = cradle, taş = stone, so
Beşiktaş = cradle stone. This name comes from a legend that the stone on which the baby Jesus was placed in the stable at Bethlehem was brought here. A church was supposedly built to house the stone. Then later this stone was moved to Haghia Sophia, from where it was stolen during the fourth crusade. On my third year of living on the Asian side of Istanbul I passed through Beşiktaş on my commute to work every day. It was a place I quite liked. It is a transport hub with an important bus station and a ferry terminal. My football mad husband wanted to support a local team in Istanbul and became a firm Beşiktaş supporter. He chose them rather than either of the other two teams (Fenerbahçe or Galatasaray) because they had an English manager Gordon Milne and some English players such as Les Ferdinand. They even had one player, Alan Walsh, who used to play for Walsall my husband's team. Beşiktaş's colours are black and white. Their symbol is an eagle and their players chant En Büyük Beşiktaş which means Beşiktas are the biggest or greatest or best. I have no photos of the Beşiktaş area but the flat we lived in in our last year in Istanbul overlooked their training ground, so I will add this as the photo for this tip. Historically Beşiktaş was an isolated village on the shores of the Bosphorus outside the walls of Constantinople, as such it was vulnerable to attacks. During Ottoman Times, the Sultans established control over the Bosphorus and life became safer and more stable in Bosphorus villages. Beşiktaş became an established Bosphorus crossing area for trading caravans travelling to Anatolia or along the Silk Road. Beşiktaş has a monument to Barbarossa or Red Beard who supposedly once had a palace there. Zübeyde Hanım, the mother of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, once lived in Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş is also the home of Dolmabahçe Palace and the Naval Museum. I visited Dolmabahçe Palace a couple of times, but either did not take photos or do not know where they are. Actually, I don't think cameras were allowed
inside in those days. Dolmabahçe means filled in garden, as the palace and garden are built on reclaimed land. Dolmabahçe Palace was built between 1843 and 1856, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I. Before that the Sultans had always lived in Topkapı; Palace, but that was getting uncomfortable and had not been modernized, so at great expense, Abdülmecid decided to build a new modern palace in Beşiktas. Hacı Said Ağa was responsible for the construction of the palace. Garabet Balyan, his son Nigoğ;ayos Balyan and Evanis Kalfa were the palace architects. The last royal to live in Dolmabahçe Palace was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi. In 1924 ownership of the palace was transferred to the new Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the new Turkish Republic, used the palace as his residence during the summers. He carried out some of his most important works here. He died here on November 10th, 1938. All the clocks in the palace were stopped at 9.05, the time of his death. Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey. It occupies an area of 11.2 acres. It has 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths and 68 toilets. The interior is decorated with gold leaf and crystal. In the Ceremonial Hall of the palace you can see the world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier which was a gift to the sultans from Queen Victoria. The palace has also got several fine paintings, a collection of bearskin rugs presented to the sultans by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and some splendid Turkish carpets. The palace has a harem where the sultan's mother, wives, concubines and children would have lived.

large_7190363-View_towards_Be351ikta351_Istanbul.jpg
Besiktas.

Kizkulesi or Maiden's Tower.

Kizkulesi means Maiden's Tower. It is a tower in the Bosphorus off the coast of Üsküdar. This tower dates back to the fifth century BC. It was built by the Athenian general Alcibiades as a watchtower. A chain could be pulled from the land to the tower to halt ships trying to pass by. Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenos built a stronger tower here in the twelfth century. During Ottoman times the tower was used as a lighthouse. In 1998 the tower was opened as a restaurant. You can get here by ferry from Kabataş; on the European side of the Bosphorus or from Salacak on the Asian side. I have never been in the tower as it was not a restaurant when I lived in Istanbul. The name of this tower comes from a legend.

The Byzantine emperor was told that his beloved daughter would die on her eighteenth birthday from a snakebite, so he decided to put her in a tower on a rock in the middle of the Bosphorus to keep her safe. However, you cannot cheat the fates, and on his daughter's eighteenth birthday as she was enjoying some fruit that her father had brought her, a snake hidden in a bunch of grapes suddenly bit her finger. Her heartbroken father cradled her in his arms as she died. This legend is also told about a castle in the sea off Turkey's south coast.

This tower is also known as Leander's Tower based on an Ancient Greek myth. Hero was a beautiful priestess of Aphrodite living in this tower. One day she left the tower to attend a ceremony. She met Leander and it was love at first sight. After that, every night Leander would swim out to the tower to be with his love. Hero would light his way by holding a flaming torch so he could find the tower. One stormy night the wind blew out the torch that Hero was holding. Leander could not find his way to the tower and was drowned. Hero was so distraught when she heard about the death of her lover that she leapt from the top of the tower into the water and drowned herself. This legend is also told about the Dardanelles. The tower was featured in the 1999 James Bond movie "The world is not enough".

large_7189853-Kizkulesi_Istanbul.jpg
Kizkulesi .

Fresh Fish Straight off the Boat.

You could be forgiven for thinking Istanbul's attractions all centre around historical sights, but for me a lot of them centred around fish. We frequently went to Kadıköy which means Judges Village. This is an area on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and it has some excellent restaurants. We would walk along the front where rows of fishing boats would sell their wares to passers by. My favourite fish was palamut. This translates into English as bonito when I look it up. In my opinion it looks and tastes very much like mackerel. Once we had selected our fish the fishermen would top and tail it, gut it and cut it into fillets or pieces for us. I would bake my palamut in my little mini-oven with a little butter and black pepper. It was delicious.

large_7186271-Fishing_Boats_Kad305koey_Istanbul.jpg
Fishing Boats.

large_7186273-Fishing_Boats_Istanbul.jpg
Fishing Boats.

large_7186274-Fishing_Boats_Istanbul.jpg
Fishing Boats.

Palamut Sandvic.

Another fishy favourite of mine was to buy a palamut sandwich straight from the boat. On our last year in Istanbul these palamut sandwich boats had been turned into a bit of a tourist attraction and the salesmen dressed up in traditional Turkish clothes and fezes. In our earlier years they wore much more sensible blue overalls. We normally bought our palamut sandwiches in Eminönü. The boats were near the ferry pier. The fishermen would deep fry the fish in boiling hot oil. Whenever a ferry left the pier, the boat would bob frantically up and down and the fishermen had to take care not to get scalded by the boiling oil. We would ask for bir tane yarim ekmek which means half a loaf sliced down the middle with the fried fish inside. Really, really tasty.

large_7186279-Fish_Sandwich_Boat_Eminoenue_Istanbul.jpg
Palamut Sandvic.

large_7186278-Fish_Sandwich_Boat_Eminoenue_Istanbul.jpg
Palamut Sandvic.

Fish Restaurants, Sariyer.

If you were feeling a bit more flush than having a fish sandwich, you might head up the European side of the Bosphorus to Sariyer which is famous for its fish restaurants. Be warned these restaurants are not cheap. We have eaten here, but we were fortunate enough to be taken as guests and therefore were not responsible for the bill. Even if you don't eat in the restaurants here, they are worth seeing for their wonderful fishy displays.

large_7186280-Fish_Restaurant_Sariyer_Istanbul.jpg
Fish Restaurants, Sariyer.

Fishermen.

And where does all this fish come from? Well, Istanbul is surrounded by water the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara, the Black Sea. Here are some fishermen in Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş, which means cradle stone, is located on the European side of the Bosphorus. Dolmabahçe Palace is
located here. In the background you can see the Bosphorus Bridge which joins Asia and Europe together.

large_7186282-Fishermen_at_Sunset_Istanbul.jpg
Fishermen.

Midye Tava Fried Mussels.

Turkey is full of delicious street food. One of my favourites was midye tava fried mussels cooked on a skewer. This was normally served with tartar sauce and was very delicious. The photo with this is taken in Rumeli Kavaği. Rumeli Kavaği is the final stop on the European side on the Bosphorus cruise. When the ferry leaves here, it crosses to its final stop Anadoglu Kavaği on the Asian side.

large_973430437188226-Cooking_midy..5_Istanbul.jpg
Midye Tava Fried Mussels.

Sunsets.

I don't have the photographic evidence to back up this claim, but if you have ever witnessed Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque rendered as silhouettes against the sunset , you have witnessed one of the wonders of the world. Personally, I was too busy enjoying it to photograph it. However, I do have some sunset photos of Istanbul that I like: such as Leander's Tower and some background mosques, I would guess located in Üsküdar, silhouetted against the sunset, sunset over the wonderful Princes Islands and sunset over The Sea of Marmara.

large_534998167184431-Sunset_over_..s_Istanbul.jpg
Sunsets.

large_7186343-Sunset_over_the_Golden_Horn_Istanbul.jpg
Sunsets.

large_860076327188797-Sunset_over_..s_Istanbul.jpg
Sunsets.

large_528477267188795-Sunset_over_..r_Istanbul.jpg
Sunsets.

large_7189371-Sunset_Istanbul_Istanbul.jpg
Sunsets.

The Whirling Dervishes.

The Galata Mevlevihanesi, is off the beaten track despite the fact it is right in the heart of Istanbul. It is located in Beyoğlu not far from the Tunel. Actually, come to think of it, the Tunel itself is well worth visiting. The Tunel is one of the shortest underground rides in the world. It only has two stations: one in Karaköy at the bottom of Galata Hill, and one in Beyoğ;lu at the top of the hill near the Galata Tower. The Tunel line is 573 metres long and was opened on January the 17th, 1875. It is the second oldest underground line in the world. Only the London Underground, which dates from 1863, is older. The Tunel was created by French engineer, EugèneHenri Gavand, during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz. A ride on this line lasts about one and a half minutes! Anyway near the top station of the Tunel there is an old building with a small sign revealing that it is the Galata
Mevlevihanesi, a Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall and museum. We loved this museum because it was amazingly peaceful inside. Outside you are not far from the end of traffic congested Istiklal Caddesi with its blaring horns and exhaust fumes. Through the entrance of the museum, you are in a peaceful garden with beautiful ornate tombstones and roses. The museum has information about the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes and a hall where they still conduct their whirling ceremony. If you want to see them whirl, check their schedule and buy a ticket for the ceremony in the museum shop. I personally only saw a Whirling Dervish Ceremony once and that was in the Atatürk Cultural Centre. The Whirling Dervishes were founded by Mevlani. Legend states that he was walking through his local marketplace one day, when he heard the rhythmic hammering of the goldbeaters. Their hammering sounded to him like the words: "There is no God but Allah". Mevlani was so filled with joy at this sound that he spontaneously stretched out his arms and started spinning in a circle the Whirling Dervish was born. Whirling Dervishes wear a white gown to symbolize death, a black cloak to symbolize the grave and a tall brown hat to symbolize the gravestone. At one point in the ceremony they throw off their black cloaks and spin on their left foot with their right palm facing upwards towards Heaven and their left hand pointindownwards towards the Earth. The whole ceremony symbolizes man achieving a deep sense of happiness through submitting himself to the will of God. The Galata Mevlevihanesi was founded in 1491 by a nobleman from the palace of Sultan Beyazit II. The first leader of the Mevlevihanesi was Muhammed Semaî Sultan Divanî. He was a descendant of Mevlâna, the founder of the Whirling Dervish Sect. The original Mevlevihanesi was burnt down in 1765 and rebuilt in 1796. In the peaceful, rose filled garden there were several Ottoman style tombstones. One is the grave of Galip Dede, the leader of the Galata Mevlevihanesi in the seventeenth century. One is the grave of Kumbaracıbaşı; Ahmet Paşa, the Islamic name of Claude Alexandre, Comte de Bonneval, a French nobleman who converted to Islam and entered the service of the Ottoman sultan. Another tomb is that of İbrahim Müteferrika a Hungarian from Transylvania who converted to Islam and established the first Arabic moveable type printing press in the Ottoman Empire in the 1720s. I know I have photos of those tombstones somewhere, but they do not seem to be here in Hong Kong. For this tip I will add a photo of the Whirling Dervish Ceremony. I did not take this photo; I bought it probably in the shop of this museum. I cannot write the name of the real photographer as I do not know who it was. My own photos of the Whirling Dervish Ceremony were taken with a camera with no zoom and they are very poor quality.

large_7189366-The_Whirling_Dervishes_Istanbul.jpg
The Whirling Dervishes.

The Pera Palace Hotel.

The Pera Palace Hotel is a historic hotel located in Beyoglu. Beyoglu used to be known as Pera. Its main street, Istaklal Caddesi, used to be known as the Rue de Pera. The Pera Palace was built in 1892. It was designed by Alexander Vallaury, a FrenchTurkish architect, who also designed Istanbul's Archaeology Museum. Originally passengers who had travelled to Istanbul on the Orient Express used to stay in the Pera Palace. It is the oldest European style hotel in Turkey. It was, and indeed still is, a luxury hotel. When it opened, it was the first hotel in Turkey to have electricity and hot
running water. It had the first electric elevator in Istanbul. The hotel's first owners were the Armenian Esayan family. Famous people who have stayed in the Pera Palace include Agatha Christie, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Ernest Hemingway, Sarah Bernhardt, King Edward VIII, Greta Garbo, Graham Greene, Mata Hari, Pierre Loti, Josephine Baker, Tito, Jacqueline Kennedy, King Carol of Romania, Shah Riza Pehlevi of Persia, Alfred Hitchcock and Yehudi Menuhin. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey, stayed in the Pera Palace in 1917. He stayed in Room 101. This is now the Atatürk Museum Room. It is painted sunset pink Atatürk's favourite colour. It is filled with his possessions. In 1928 Agatha Christie stayed in the Pera Palace in Room 411. She had travelled to Istanbul on the Orient Express. An experience that no doubt inspired her famous novel, 'Murder on the Orient Express'. Agatha Christie was travelling with her archaeologist husband, Max Mallowan. They were on their way to Baghdad to visit excavations. The Pera Palace features in literature. In Ernest Hemingway's short story 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro', the main character, Harry, stays at the Pera Palace during World War I. In Graham Greene's 1969 novel, Travels With My Aunt, Henry Pulling and his Aunt Augusta Bertram, stay at the Pera Palace when they visit Istanbul. When I last saw the Pera Palace, it could be described as in a state of faded grandeur, but the hotel was closed in 2006 and underwent a major renovation until 2010. It now belongs to the Jumeriah Hotel Group and is once again luxurious. One of its restaurants is called Agatha in honour of Agatha Christie. It is famous for its luxurious afternoon teas. The area around the Pera Palace is home to many consulates including the British Consulate which we sometimes had to go to. I don't think I took any photos of the hotel, though I do remember visiting the Atatürk Room. I am putting a photo of the Golden Horn with this tip as the Pera Palace has great views over the Golden Horn. However, my photo is really taken from the Galata Tower and the view from the hotel would be further up the Golden Horn than in my picture.

large_7189238-The_Pera_Palace_Hotel.jpg
View from Pera Palace.

Kilyos.

Kilyos is a little village on the Black Sea. You can get here by taking a bus from Sariyer on the European side of the Bosphorus. On our last year in Istanbul we both had Fridays off and we very frequently spent our Fridays in Kilyos having a swim. There is a beach next to the village, but we used to walk to a slightly further beach which we invariably had to ourselves. When I told my students, that we went swimming in Kilyos every week, they thought I was crazy and told me it was famous for deadly rip tides. I did not listen to them and we swam every week without any problems. Then one week we were swimming at our usual spot. We swam out quite a long way and began to swim back towards our clothes. We started to notice that rather than swimming straight back we were being carried off to one side by the water. Neither of us could swim against the pull of the water, but what we did manage to do with considerable effort, was to get far enough in towards the shore to be able to stand up and walk back. We were both exhausted when we got out. We were very lucky not to have drowned. The water that day was so different from all our other experiences of it. We did swim there again, but a lot more cautiously, not going too far and paying attention to how the water was behaving. Kilyos is beautiful, but if you swim there be very careful. If you do get caught up in a rip tide, swim parallel to the shore to escape the current, then swim toward the shore. We did that, mainly because my husband stayed calm and shouted to me what to do; without him I would probably just have panicked and drowned.

large_7189387-Kilyos_Istanbul.jpg
Kilyos.

large_7189389-Kilyos_Istanbul.jpg
Kilyos.

large_7189388-Kilyos_Istanbul.jpg
Kilyos.

large_7189386-Kilyos_Istanbul.jpg
Kilyos.

Şile.

As well as being able to get to the Black Sea on the European side of the Bosphorus at Kilyos, you can also get to the Black Sea on the Asian side of the Bosphorus at Şile. Şile is pronounced Shelay You get to Şile by taking a bus from Üsküdar. On the way, as well as passing parts of the Asian side of the Bosphorus, you also pass lots of barbeque sites where it is common to see people roasting a whole lamb on a spit. Lamb is the meat of choice in Turkey, whereas in Hong Kong, where I live now, it is almost the least popular meat. Here in Hong Kong it is overpriced, not of great quality and invariably imported. I practically lived on it in Turkey and it was delicious; here I almost never eat it. Şile has a beautiful silver sand beach. It is a great place to come in the summer to cool down, but be careful like Kilyos it has dangerous rip tides. Şile has lots of restaurants and you have to be careful, some of them are very happy to rip off tourists. We were very lucky. Once we were strolling down the main street in Şile when a waiter rushed at us from one of the restaurants. Nothing unusual there, Turkey can be very hassley, but it turned out this waiter knew us. He had worked in a restaurant we frequented all the time in Kadiköy and he knew we were not tourists. This restaurant became our regular haunt in Şile and we were always undercharged. Regular customers are often undercharged to make them come back and to encourage them to be generous with their tip and probably also just from a sense of Turkish hospitality. There has been a fishing village in Şile since 700 BC and a lighthouse since Ottoman times.

large_7189516-350ile_Istanbul.jpg
Şile.

large_7189515-350ile_Istanbul.jpg
Şile.

Çamlica.

Çamlica means Pine Tree Hill. It is actually two hills: Küçük Çamlica which means Little Pine Tree Hill and Büyük Çamlica which means Big Pine Tree Hill. There is a large TV tower on the top of Büyük Çamlica. At 267m above sea level Büyük Çamlica is the highest point in Istanbul. We used to walk up here for the views. I remember once climbing up here after a period of heavy rain and having to wade through mud. Some locals were calling out to us in German, "Gute Strasser, wir haben." As many Turks have lived and worked in Germany, they often address foreigners in German as it is a language they can speak fluently. From the top of Büyük Çamlica you have an excellent view over the Bosphorus and the Bosphorus Bridge, There are cafes and tea shops at the top of Büyük Çamlica, so we could sit and enjoy a refreshing glass of Çay or knock back a nice cold Efes Pilsen after our climb. Çamlica is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus not too far from Üsküdar. It is a popular place for a picnic.

large_21146317189810-View_over_fo..C_Istanbul.jpg
Çamlica.

large_191098137189824-A_well_deser..p_Istanbul.jpg
Çamlica.

large_798350127189822-The_Gute_Str..p_Istanbul.jpg
Çamlica.

large_7189823-Camlica_in_the_snow_Istanbul.jpg
Çamlica.

Chora Church.

Chora Church was originally a Byzantine church, later it became a mosque and wasknown as the Kariye Camii, then it became a museum. Chora Church is well worth visiting as its walls are covered with the most beautiful frescoes and mosaics. It is the best preserved church in Istanbul and is located in the Edirnekapi district. Chora Church was originally part of a monastery. The Church was located outside Constantinople's city walls, so the church's full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country. You can still see sections of Byzantine city wall near Chora Church nowadays. The first church at this site was built in the early fifth century. The current building dates mainly from 1077 to 1081. At that time Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, rebuilt Chora Church. Then in the early twelfth century Chora Church was damaged in an earthquake and was rebuilt by Isaac Comnenus, Alexius's third son. Theodore Metochites, a powerful Byzantine statesman, commissioned many of the church's fine mosaics and frescoes between 1315 and 1321. Later he was exiled, then he was pardoned and allowed to return to Constantinople. He spent the last two years of his life as a monk in Chora Church. Atık Ali Paşa, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayezid II, ordered Chora Church to be converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Conquest of the city and it became known as Kariye Camii. The mosaics and frescoes on the walls were covered with a layer of plaster, as Muslims believe it is wrong to depict the human form in art. In 1948 restoration work began at Chora Church. In 1958 Chora Church became a museum. Chora Church has three main areas: the entrance hall, the main body of the church and the side chapel. The building has six domes. My photos show a fresco in the side chapel depicting the Resurrection. Christ has just broken down the gates of hell and is pulling Adam and Eve out of their tombs. another shows Christ Pantocrator in the south dome of the church
entrance. Another shows part of the Patriarchs and Bishops Fresco which is under the Resurrection Fresco.

large_7189830-Christ_Pantocrator_Istanbul.jpg
Chora Church.

large_92565007189831-Patriarchs_a..o_Istanbul.jpg
Chora Church.

Yedikule means seven towers. It is a large fortress on the European side of Istanbul. Yedikule is located in an area also called Yedikule. The fortress was built in 1458 by Mehmet the Conqueror. Building it involved adding three new towers to a section of the Walls of Constantinople. This section of the walls included Altınkapi, the Golden Gate. With the construction of the fortress, the Golden Gate was no longer a gate and became a treasury, then an archive, and then a state prison. Among its most famous prisoners was the young Sultan Osman II. He was executed there by the Janissaries in 1622. A small mosque and a fountain used to stand in the middle of Yedikule's inner courtyard. Yedikule became a museum in 1895.

large_7189967-Yedikule_Istanbul.jpg
Yedikule .

large_7189968-Yedikule_Istanbul.jpg
Yedikule .

large_7189966-Yedikule_Istanbul.jpg
Yedikule .

The Princes Islands - Kinaliada.

We used to love taking a ferry out to the Princes Islands. There are five of them that you can reach by public ferry. The ferry calls first at Kinaliada, then Burgazada, then Heybeliada, then Büyükada. In summer ferries also call at the island of Sedefada which has a concrete slab beach.

Kınalıada means Henna Island. It is called this due to its reddish soil. The soil here is very rich in iron and copper. In the days of the Byzantine Empire nobles who had fallen out of favour were often exiled here. The most notable exile was Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes. He spent his exile in the Monastery of the Transfiguration. We enjoyed walking across Kinaliada to the little beach and bar on the far side of the island. We even came here and sat outside drinking beer in the snow once.

large_7189973-Kinaliada_Istanbul.jpg
Kinaliada.

large_7189971-Kinaliada_Istanbul.jpg
Kinaliada.

large_7189970-Kinaliada_Istanbul.jpg
Kinaliada.

large_7189974-Kinaliada_Istanbul.jpg
Kinaliada.

large_7189969-Kinaliada_Istanbul.jpg
Kinaliada.

Burgazada.

Burgazada was our favourite island and we used to come here a lot. We would bring a picnic with us, climb up the island's hill and in summer swim in the sea off an area of rocks here. The Greek Orthodox Church of St John towers above Burgazada town.Short story writer Sait Faik Abasıyanık lived here from 1939 to1954 and used the island as a setting for some of his stories. Nowadays his former residence is a museum. Sadly in 2003 Burgazada was very badly damaged in a terrible forest fire. Hopefully most of its vegetation will have grown back.

large_7189975-Burgazada_Istanbul.jpg
Burgazada.

large_7189978-Burgazada_Istanbul.jpg
Burgazada.

large_7189976-Burgazada_Istanbul.jpg
Burgazada.

large_7189977-Burgazada_Istanbul.jpg
Burgazada.

Heybeliada.

Heybeliada is the second biggest of the Princes islands. Its name means Saddlebag Island due to its shape. Half of it is under the control of the Turkish navy and not open to the public. We had a Turkish friend who was a former naval officer who took us on a tour of that bit once. The large Naval Cadet School near the pier has two interesting pieces of architecture on its grounds: Kamariotissa, the only remaining Byzantine church on the island and the grave of Edward Barton, the second English Ambassador to be sent to Constantinople by Queen Elizabeth I. Heybeliada Town has some lovely old wooden houses. At the top of Heybeliada's hill is an 11th century Greek Orthodox monastery. There are pleasant walks through the islands pine forests. Heybeliada is a beautiful island, but we did not come here a lot as all the naval parts were closed to the general public.

large_7189981-In_the_naval_cadet_school_Istanbul.jpg
Heybeliada.

large_7189980-In_the_naval_cadet_school_Istanbul.jpg
Heybeliada.

Büyükada.

Büyükada means Big Island. It is the largest of the Princes Islands and the one that tourists are most likely to visit. Büyükada has some beautiful old wooden houses, hotels, restaurants and shops. Restaurants here often rip tourists off so be careful.There is an old wooden clock tower in the centre of town. Many rich residents of Istanbul have summer houses here. You can go round the island by phaeton, but we always walked. It is a pleasant walk past old wooden houses with beautiful gardens and, although it is hot, there is some shade from the many pine trees. You will pass picnic sites and barbecue sites on your walk. We normally headed for the hilltop monastery and church of St George. An old Greek priest still performed services here. Next to the monastery there was a wonderful outdoor restaurant which we frequently ate in. Once we were there with a
guest on St George's Day. A large crowd was there celebrating. They had ordered food and drink and they were dancing. Suddenly someone danced with someone else's woman and a huge fight broke out. When the poor waiter arrived with their food, there was not an intact piece of furniture left to put the food on. In fact the only intact furniture was our table at which we were sitting open mouthed. Meanwhile everyone who had been fighting had made up with each other and they all strode away with their arms around each other leaving chaos behind them. To get to the monastery involved climbing the island's highest hill. Phaetons cannot get up it. Some people went up by donkey. We always walked. The trees on the way up had white ribbons or tissue or bits of plastic bag tied on them for making wishes. Leon Trotsky lived on Büyükada for four years from 1929 to 1933 after he was deported from the Soviet Union in February 1929.

large_7190000-Phaetons_Istanbul.jpg
Büyükada.

large_7189998-Climbing_up_to_the_monastery_Istanbul.jpg
Büyükada.

large_493034897189999-The_restaura..y_Istanbul.jpg
Büyükada.

large_442679657189996-The_Monaster..e_Istanbul.jpg
Büyükada.

large_909505697189960-Bueyuekada_t..s_Istanbul.jpg
Büyükada.

Sedefada.

Ferries only called at Sedefada in the summer. It had a big concrete slab of a beach from which you could swim . I think I only went here once. Our photos make us look like mafiosa, I think. It must be the dark glasses. Sedefada is mostly private property. Its owner Şehsuvar Menemencioğlu,
purchased the island in 1956. This island's Greek name was Terebinthos which apparently means turpentine. This name came from a type of tree that used to grow here. As with other Princes Islands, Sedefada was a favourite place to send someone into exile in Byzantine times. In 857 Patriarch Ignatios was sent into exile here and remained here for ten years.

large_7190011-On_Sedafada_Istanbul.jpg
Sedefada.

large_7190012-On_Sedefada_Istanbul.jpg
Sedefada.

Money! Money! Money!

We lived in Turkey at a time when it was experiencing a period of hyperinflation. Pay day involved cash. No-one at that time trusted banks. An armoured car would pull up at the school and staff would be given a heap of cash, which sadly was not really worth very much. As soon as we got paid, we always converted our money to sterling as it devalued so fast. We would take most of our great mound of money to an officially tolerated but illegal money changer and be given a very small amount of foreign notes back in return. In the 1990s we got into conversation with a lovely old Turkish man in the beautiful village of Iznik. We were all lamenting the fall in the value of money. He told us how in his youth his wages had been around 40 kuruş. We all had a laugh at that as kuruş were worth less than nothing at that time. In the photo my husband is celebrating being a millionaire. A million Turkish lira at the time of the photo was worth about 350 pounds. Later there were around two million lira to one pound, so a million was worth about 50p. The government had to take action. After all if it is a million for a loaf of bread, how much is a house? The lira was revalued in 2005 and six zeros were chopped off the end. I guess we are not millionaires any more.

large_7190391-Becoming_a_lira_millionaire_Istanbul.jpg
Lira Millionaire.

Weddings.

The first year I worked in Istanbul I was taken to work in the staff school minibus. Our driver looked about twelve years old. He was incredibly friendly, but drove like an absolute maniac. He operated on the principle: if they don't get out of the way, they deserve to be mown down. Sometimes when we finally reached school, I had difficulty detaching my hands from the seat in front of me; I had gripped on so hard. But nothing, nothing compared to when our driver saw a wedding car. Wedding cars are decorated, thus advertising the fact that the poor souls inside have to get to the marriage registry office on time or they will lose their slot. This leads every insane driver in Istanbul to chase them and try to cut them off. The happy couple to be has to pay them to go away. Young couples carry cash in their wedding car to hand out to these mad drivers. On a day when our driver took off after a wedding car, we were all late for work. I'm cheating a bit on the photo as the beautiful bride in it was one of our students in Isparta.

large_7190408-Beautiful_Turkish_Bride_Istanbul.jpg
Turkish Bride.

Flowers.

Turkish people love flowers. We sometimes strolled through the beautiful flower market in Kadıköy or bought flowers from the gypsy girls who intercepted passengers leaving the ferries. Flower tributes are sent by well wishers to newly opened businesses. They are kept around the doorway for a few days so everyone can see when a new business has opened. One of my favourite Istanbul plants was holly. They don't actually have holly in Istanbul, but they do know that people like to decorate their house with it in winter, especially around Christmas, so the gypsies create a bouquet formed from a spiky green but berryless plant. They then tie red berries from a different plant onto it with rubber bands. We always decorated our home with this makeshift plant in winter. We loved it.

large_377681387190396-Flower_tribu..s_Istanbul.jpg
Floral Tribute.

Posted by irenevt 04:48 Archived in Turkey

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

Nice historical pictures there, I passed through Istanbul more times than I can accurately recall during the 70's, staying in grubby hotels in the Sultanahmed district, the famous "Lale" Pudding shop was the focal meeting place for travellers driving old beat-up vans and buses which they had planned to sell until they got the vehicle's details and registration number stamped in their passports at the Greek/Turkish border at Edirne which meant that they could not sell on the vehicles without paying 100% import taxes!

Me included, I had to drive my Morris van ( along with a knowledgeable English-speaking tout) up along the Bosphorus to the customs compound where I got the stamp released from my passport in order to be able to travel further east overland to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, collecting my van on the return journey.

Some happy memories in there along with some I would rather forget!

by Bennytheball

Hi Benny, I doubt I will get to any of those countries you mentioned except India which I do intend to visit. Can't imagine booking a trip to Afghanistan nowadays sadly.

That pudding shop still existed when we lived there and probably still does.

I personally think Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

All the best, Irene.

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