Istanbul Turkey – 2011

Finally, after trips to the Czech Republic and Italy, my wife agreed to visit Turkey.

Arriving in Turkey I was filled with mixed emotions. Gone was the apartment I rented in Yesikoy – it was now part of the expanded airport. Gone were the old French Citroen taxis that use to transport me mentally into the movie Casablanca. The streets were filled with newer cars, gone were the mustaches on men, now more women wearing burkas could be seen in the big city.  Gone were the pictures of John F. Kennedy hanging beside a picture of Kemal Ataturk that adorned almost every house and business.  But the old streets and hospitality were still there. Turkey was our most enjoyable trip abroad and to my surprise my wife Barb said she would not mind living there. Our only regret was that we did not spend enough time in Istanbul, not just Istanbul but Turkey. We missed visiting inside the Spice Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, dining at one of the top restaurants in the world, Beyti’s, just outside Istanbul in a town called Konya. We plan on visiting again and to include visiting the fashion district, and trips to Pamukale (cotton cliffs), the Turquoise coast and Canakale.


This web site is a great guide to the 1st time visitor to Istanbul

Istanbul is a contrast of old and new.

The old streets


New streets



Sights from the Old City where the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires were ruled. (Places worth seeing : St.Sophia, one of the greatest marvels of architecture constructed as a basilica in 536 by Emperor Justinian ; Blue Mosque, facing St. Sophia, famous with its more than 20.000 blue Iznik tiles and unique with its 6 minarets, Hippodrome, the scene of Byzantine chariot races, athletic events, victory celebrations, and political activities – with the Obelisk from Egypt, Serpentine Column from Delphi, the Fountain of Wilhelm II and the Colossus; the marvelous Underground Cistern; Topkapi Palace built in 1468 by Mehmet the Conqueror, the imperial residence of Ottoman sultans housing the souvenirs of 600 years and exhibiting imperial treasury, Chinese porcelains, weapons, calligraphy section, etc.; Grand Covered Bazaar the most attractive shopping center in the world with nearly 4000 shops.



HAGHIA SOPHIA- The first church to be built on this spot, dedicated to the Divine Wisdom, was officialy opened on February 15, 360 during the reign of Constantius, son of Constantine the Great. It was destroyed during the riots protesting the exile of the Patriarch John Chrysostome by Empress Eudoxia, wife of the Emperor Arcadius in 404. Reconstruction work was taken up by Theodosius II, Son of Arcadius in 408 and it was completed and dedicated in October 10, 415 to be again gutted by flames during the Nika Revolt in 532. Justinian immediately set out to build the church on a greater scale and commisioned the task to Anthemius of Traelles and Isidorus of Miletus, the two greatest architects of the age. The construction work was finished late in 538 and it was dedicated on December 26, Saint Stephen’s day of the same year. Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer, on the very same day he entered the city, May 29, 1453, converted it into a mosque and served as such for nearly five centuries.  In 1935, by the will of the Founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, it was declared a National Museum.





The Blue Mosque in Istanbul was built by Sultan Ahmet I to eclipse the grandeur of the Christian church of Haghia Sophia across the way, and grand it most certainly is . uring the years of its construction from 1606-1613, the Iznik tile producers were kept extremely busy creating 999 shades for 20,000 blue tiles with which to decorate its interior and nearly 300 stained glass windows were made to allow natural light to percolate through to the rug-filled floor below.

Sultan Ahmet died aged 27, just a year after the mosque was completed. His youth did not make him humble for he ordered that six minarets should adorn the Blue Mosque domes. This caused quite a stir in Mecca for until this date only Mecca’s Kaba Mosque was considered holy enough to have six minarets. Despite the outraged response he generated, Sultan Ahmet refused to reduce the number and was finally prevailed upon to send craftsmen to build another minaret onto the Kaba Mosque instead. To this day, the Kaba boasts a unique seven minarets.

Highlights of any visit to the Blue Mosque include the mesmerising view of the thousands of tiles and appreciating the fine carving and inlay work of the doors and windows. Have a good look too at the carved stone of the mihrab and mimber. Tourist access to the centre of the mosque is restricted: this is still a very religious and holy place which fills several times a day with the praying faithful, especially on a Friday. Remember to wear long sleeves and a long skirt or trousers, or you’ll be given a particularly tasteful sarong to wear by the kindly Imam!

There are so many mosques which demand a visit in Istanbul and it would be a great shame to call it a day after just seeing this one. A smaller scale version of the Blue Mosque, more intimate and perhaps even more beautiful, is the Rustem Pasha Mosque, and if you want to see the most famous architectural gem of all, then spare the time to visit the Suleymaniye Mosque too.

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The Dolmabahçe Palace, a blend of various European architectural styles, was built between 1843-1856 by Karabet Balyan,the court architect of Sultan Abdulmecid. The Ottoman sultans had many palaces in all ages, but the Topkapi was the official residence until the completion of the Dolmabahce Palace.The three-storied palace built on a symmetrical plan has 285 rooms and 43 halls. There is a 600 m long quay along the sea and two monumental gates, one of them very ornate, on the land side. Well-kept, beautiful gardens surround this seaside palace. In the middle, there is a large ballroom with a ceiling higher than the other sections. The entrance section of the palace was used for the receptions and meetings of the sultan, and the wing behind the ballroom used as the harem section.

The palace has survived intact with its original decorations, furniture, and the silk carpets and curtains. It surpasses all other palaces in the world in wealth and magnificence.  The walls and the ceilings are covered with paintings by the famous artists of the age and decorations made using tons of gold. All the furnishings in the important rooms and halls are in different shades of the same color. The ornate wooden floors have different designs in each room, and they are covered with the famous silk and wool carpets of Hereke, some of the finest examples of Turkish art.

Rare handmade artifacts from Europe and the Far East decorate every room in the palace. Brilliant crystal chandeliers, candelabras and fireplaces add to the lavish decor.

The ballroom is the largest of its kind in the world. A 4.5 ton colossal crystal chandelier hangs from the 36 m high dome. The hall, which is used for important political meetings, receptions and balls, was previously heated by an oven-like system under the floor. Central heating and electricity were later additions to the palace.

Of the six baths in the palace, the one in the section reserved for men was made of unique and beautifully carved alabaster.

The upper galleries of the ballroom were reserved for orchestras and the diplomatic corps. Long hallways lead to the harem, where the bedrooms of the sultan and the quarters of his mother, other ladies of the court and the servants were located.

An annex in the north was reserved for the crown prince. The entrance to this building is from Beşiktaş and it now serves as the Museum of Fine Arts.

In the Republican era, Atatürk used to reside in this palace when he visited Istanbul. He died here in 1938 and before his body was taken to Ankara, it was laid in state while the public poured in to pay him their last respects.

A view of the palace from a boat cruise on the Bosphorus.  Note the dock on the left was for visiting dignataries and the one on the right was for the harem.


Taking a tour of the palace one passes the guard which reminded me of the Vatican Guards, British Guards and the guards ast the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe palace has several gates to pass through.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImagine this 4-1/2 ton chandelier was lit with candles.  Wonder if first one burned out by the time you lit the last one.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe grounds looking out over the Bosphorus  are as beautiful as the palace.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABarb looking at the Bosphorus.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A clock tower (Dolmabahçe Saat Kulesi) was erected in front of the Treasury Gate on a square along the European waterfront of Bosphorus next to the mosque. The tower was ordered by sultan Abdülhamid II and designed by the court architect Sarkis Balyan between 1890 and 1895. Its clock was manufactured by the French clockmaker house of Jean-Paul Garnier, and installed by the court clock master Johann Mayer. (Source




The Grand Bazaar (Turkish: Kapalıçarşı, meaning ‘Covered Bazaar’; also Büyük Çarşı, meaning ‘Grand Bazaar’) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops  which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.

The construction of the future Grand Bazaar’s core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.  A history of the Grand Bazaar can be found at,_Istanbul

The oldest and largest covered bazaar in the world is situated in the heart of the city. One cannot appreciate this market without visiting it. It resembles a giant labyrinth with approximately sixty lanes and more than three thousand shops.

The bazaar consisted originally of two 15th century buildings with thick walls that were covered with a series of domes. In later centuries the streets around these buildings developed and were covered and new additions were made, turning it into a trading center. In the past each lane was reserved for a different profession and the handicrafts produced here were rigorously controlled.

Business ethics and traditions were strictly adhered to.  All types of jewelry, fabrics, weaponry and antiques were sold by merchants whose expertise in the trade went back for generations. At the end of the last century the bazaar suffered an earthquake and several fires.

Although it was repaired according to its original plan, it lost its former characteristics and deteriorated.  In the old days the tradesmen commanded so much respect and trust that people asked them to safeguard and to invest their money. Today the shops in many lanes have changed character. Trades such as quilt makers, slipper makers and fez makers only remain as street names now.

The so-called main street of the bazaar is lined with jewelry shops, and a side lane opening to this street is allocated to goldsmiths. Prices vary and bargaining is customary in these rather small shops.

Although the bazaar retains its former charm and allure, since the 1970’s the modern and large enterprises near the main entrance offer better shopping opportunities for the tourist groups visiting Istanbul.  The covered bazaar is crowded and bustling the whole day. Shop owners insistently invite the visitors to their shops. In the large and comfortable shops at the entrance one can find examples of all the hand-made articles produced in Turkey.  The handmade carpets and jewelry sold here are the finest examples of traditional Turkish art. Every item on sale carries its tag of authen-ticity and it can be shipped to anywhere in the world.  Along with the carpets and jewelry, these shops offer a wide collection of high-quality Turkish silverware, copper and bronze souvenirs and decorative objects, ceramics, and onyx and leather goods.

The Spice Bazaar is another covered market place on a smaller scale. A small 15th century covered bazaar in Galata is still in use.





I confess I was not a fish lover. However, upon eating fish in a restaurant under the Galata Bridge, I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. It was indescribable. There are so many types fresh Mediterraneanfish available. In most fish (balik) restaurants you can pick out your own fish.\OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



The SPICE BAZAAR is located near the Galata Bridge at the waterfront of the Golden Horn.



The park offers an elevated view of the Golden Horn and the city surrounding it.

Pierre Loti is the pseudonym of French author Julien Viaud. On his first arrival in the Ottoman dominions as a naval officer (1876-1877), he fell in love with a young local girl called Aziyade. They met frequently in his house in Eyüp and he recorded his affair in a journal published under the title of Aziyade shortly after his departure from the country. According to legend, he wanted to marry his lover but was forbidden by her father .

Today, attractive parks and promenades line the shores, a picturesque scene especially as the sun goes down over the water. At Fener and Balat, neighbourhoods midway up the Golden Horn, there are entire streets filled with old wooden houses, churches, and synagogues dating from Byzantine and Ottoman times.





During our day cruise we enjoyed the beautiful weather and sights ranging from the boats, historical buildings, beautiful and luxurious homes and the bridge linking Europe and Asia.


Dolmabace Palace



Cirgan Palace



This bridge spans Europe on the left and Asia on the right


Our night cruise on the Bosphorus included dinner, folk  dancing an invitation to join in the dancing and for dessert a traditional belly dance.





The wedding dance.

During a night cruise on the Bosphorus we were treated to a folk wedding dance.

During a night cruise on the Bosphorus we were treated to a folk wedding dance.



A boat ride on the Bosphorus included dinner and dancing. Of course there is the traditional belly dancer.

Barb even got into the act.




Simit (Turkish bagel) is a circular bread typically encrusted with sesame seeds or the less usual poppy or sunflower, common in Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and other parts of the Balkans, and across the Middle East from Egypt to Lebanon and beyond. Simit’s size, crunch, chewiness, and other characteristics vary slightly by region. In the city of İzmir, simit is known as “gevrek,” although it is very similar to the Istanbul variety. Simits in Ankara, which is the capital of Turkey, are smaller and crisper than those of other cities. Simits in Turkey are made with molasses. I encourage you to purchase simit from a street vendor for an enjoyable snack.



Throughout Turkey you can see aqueducts built in Roman times to transport water to the populated areas. Water flowed by gravity in troughs on top of the aqueduct.



Hand woven Turkish carpets are still available.  We visited a state run institution dedicated to keeping the hand woven tradition alive.  There we saw silk thread being extracted (see China page for additional silk information) for the most expensive carpets.  Turkish carpets can be distinguished by their double loop weaving.

From the cocoon of the silk worm, silk threads are extracted for a silk carpet.

From the cocoon of the silk worm, silk threads are extracted for a silk carpet.

Turkish hand woven rugs are noted for double loop. The state sponsors a school for keeping the tradional weaving alive. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



Turkey is also known for its fine leather coats and jackets.   Every tour we have taken, you stop at some commercial outlet that features a local product.  In Czech Republic it was glassware, In China silk and Jade.  In Turkey it was carpets and leather.  In fact I was wearing a leather jacket made in Turkey but purchased in the USA.  Barb got to model a coat for our tour group.  Her coat had soft leather, thinner than a sheet of paper, on the  outside.



3 Responses

  1. Merhaba A good friend met you today at the barber shop and he called me and told me about you being stationed in turkey. I was stationed at chock mocley our base was 35 ks outside of istanbul. I was in charge of the calibration facility to include all calibration along the black sea this was Aug 1978 to aug 1979.. I to fell in love with the turkish people and the country also. I was there when konami took iran and most of turkey went under martial law. our missions there was to keep the russians home..Nice pictures(the bazaar) i still have a few.. when I was there is was a 1 year tour

  2. lindsay werden says:

    Was there in 67-68. Major Winney was CO. Agee that he was as good as it gets. I remember he could look at a string of about 25 numbers or words and recite them back after a few seconds. Good man

  3. Sgt. Daniel johnson says:

    Merhaba abbé, I hope things are coke with you. I was the documents control specialist at det 168 starting in early 1971. I must have missed your stay at the cak by just a few months. The company commander that I remember was capt Thomas Bithel and my immediate boss was Lt. Dennis McLaughlin. I have always thought that the 19 months II spent in the army was the best army career that I ever could have had. I had a responsible job, never slept in a tent, never felt endangered, explored Istanbul, bursa, Nicea, Athens ,Italy,Ephesus,and one week before discharge Iwas promoted to Sargent. That was great because while getting out at fort Dix the lowly trainees always seemed to want to hold doors for me or help carry my bags. I have great memories of that regards Dan Johnson

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