Archiv für August 2013

Sightseeing in Istanbul

Aya Sofya is called the Church of the Divine Wisdom in English. This is the most famous monument which has long and fascinating history. It was built by Emperor Justinian. The dome which is 30 m in diameter is supported by 40 massive ribs constructed of special hollow bricks made in Rhodes from a unique light and porous clay, resting on four huge pillars concealed in the interior walls.

In the side aisle to the northeast of the imperial door is the weeping column with a worn copper facing pierced by a hole. Legend says that the pillar is that of St. Gregory the Miracle Worker and that putting one´s finger in the hole can lead to ailments being healed if the finger emerges moist.

Topkapi Palace – this palace is the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world´s museums put together. It was the home of Selim the Sot who drowned in the bath after drinking too much champagne, Ibrahim the Crazy who lost his reason after being locked up for four years in the infamous palace kafes and Roxelana beautiful and malevolent consort of Suleiman the Magnificent. One hour tour is done in large groups, so you need to negotiate if you want to take the tour in a small group or by yourself. A collection of lush green courtyards and delicate kiosk, the Topkapi boasts and treasury to put the crown jewels in the shade, as well as views to die for over the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn. The secretive harem – really just the family quarters – is a warren of lushly-tiled rooms wrapped round a gem of a Turkish bath.

The city´s most romantic attraction, the Basilica cistern, offers an insight into the complicated system which brought drinking water into Istanbul from Thrace. It was constructed in the sixth century and then forgotten for centuries. Do not miss the upside-down head of Medusa which forms the bottom of one column. The cistern that once stored the water has been fitted with lights and music. Fish flitter around the bases of the 336 columns which support the ceiling.

Istanbul archaeology museums – if you do not have so much time then go straight to the large porticoed building housing the glorious sarcophagus of Alexander which depicts scenes from the life of Alexander the Great. Children will for sure love the model of Trojan Horse in the children´s section. Afterwards go into the lovely tiled Pavilion which is beautifully restored to show off its finest ceramics.

Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is housed in what originally was the palace of Ibrahim Pasha, a favourite grand vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, and overlooking the Hippodrome where Byzantine lovers of chariot racing once brought the same passion to their sport as modern Turks do to football. This museum houses a great collection of gigantic carpets from all over the country. Do not go away without trying a thick black Turkish coffee in the pretty café in the grounds.