“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Constantinople,” marveled Alphonse de Lamartine, the 19th-century French writer and politician.
Perhaps I should have paid more attention in school while learning about the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman Empires, but my extraordinary tour guides on my recent visit to Turkey had my undivided attention. Istanbul was known as Byzantium around 660BC than as Constantinople after Constantine moved the capital of the Roman there in A.D. 330 and then Istanbul by 1453 when Turkish Conqueror made it the seat of the Ottoman Empire. I would like to share my extraordinary journey with you and hope you will have the opportunity to travel to this beautiful country full of beauty, culture and legend.
Galati Tower – “The treasures of Galati are dangerously charming.” This is an old Turkish saying, probably devised by desperate house wives of old Istanbul, because Galati has been the most seductive of Istanbul’s treasures over the centuries. Once this place was a Genovese trade colony, and it kept its autonomy even after the conquest of the city by the Turks. The Genovese had a huge tower, called the Tower of Galati, of which the keys were handled to Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror as a sign acceptance of his authority.
Today, the Galati Tower still stands, and it has become a major attraction, with a great spectacle and great food; keeping the tradition alive
Karrie (Chore) Museum – Famous with its incredible mosaics and frescoes, dating from the later period of Byzantine Pictorial art. Between the years of 1948 and 1958, they were fully restored through the efforts of the American Byzantine Institute.
Sultan Ahmet Mosque – It was the dying wish of Sultan Ahmet, who perished at a young age at the 17th century, due to a disease, to finish the mosque so that his name would live forever. It is called Blue Mosque by visitors who fell in the awe of the delicate designs of Ottoman tiles that decorate the walls of the shrine. The floral patterns of the tiles, as well as well-lighted, capacious internal spaces are a testimonial of the eternity of the soul.
Basilica Cistern – The Underground Cistern was constructed at the time of Byzantine Empire in order to meet the water needs of the city. Its illuminated columns and mystical atmosphere will undoubtedly enchant you.
Hamam(Turkish Bath) Hürrem Sultan Hamamı. This historical Turkish bath was the present of Magnificent Suleyman to his beloved wife Hurrem. Experience Turkish bath like sultan’s had in the past, with scrubbing, foam massage and tea.
Topkapi Palace –The Topkapi Palace has been the Imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th to the 19th century. Its design, initially devised by Sultan Mehmed himself and then enhanced by Sinan, hides clues of the rituals of the structure of Ottoman hierarchy and the running of state affairs.
Home to the imperial treasury and the cabinet, as well as being the site of the barracks for the Janissaries, the elite of the army, every corner of the palace tells about the splendor of the Ottomans. Apart from the priceless treasury, a distinguished collection of Chinese porcelains, holy relics, sultan’s costumes and imperial weaponry are exhibited in different sections of the palace.
Museum of Islamic Arts – Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts – Originally, this palace, which dates from the sixteenth century, was offered as a gift to the Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha by the Sultan Süleyman the Lawgiver. The building was converted in to a museum in 1983, housing handwritten Qurans, epigraphs, hand-woven carpets, wooden and stone artifacts dating back to the ages between 9th to 17th centuries.
Suleymaniye Mosque – It is said that the master architect Sinan has built his mosques that decorate Istanbul for over 450 years, in the image of their donators. Sinan’s masterpiece in Istanbul, the city’s largest mosque, clearly verifies that, as one can feel the dignity and the power of the greatest of Ottoman sultans: Suleiman the Magnificent.
Apart from the mosque, you may also see the resting places of the two heroes of a love story that has changed the fate of an empire: Sultan Suleiman, the man called the Magnificent in Europe and “The Lawmaker” by his subjects; and his beloved wife, Roxelana.
Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar– Oriental shopping area located in the heart of old city , where you may experience the vibrant pulse of Istanbul at its best, rare spices, herbs, vegetables, fruits, live animals, flowers are sold.
Bosphorus Cruise – A poet once described the Bosporus as “God’s beautiful calligraphy written by an ink made of sapphires”. This straight, separating (and connecting) to two continents that form the two faces of a city, take its name from a mythological legend. Ever since those ancient times, it had marveled people with its beauty.
While cruising along the Asian and European shores(app. 21 miles long), you will be surprised to see the harmony of Ottoman and modern architecture; as well as having an opportunity to see the major highlights of the city’s fairy tale-like skyline from the sea.
The İstanbul Museum of Modern Art, Turkey’s first private museum to organize modern and contemporary art exhibitions, was founded in 2004 and occupies an 8,000 square meter site on the shores of the Bosphorus.
İstanbul Modern embraces a global vision to collect, preserve, exhibit and document works of modern and contemporary art and make them accessible to art lovers.
As part of its commitment to sharing Turkey’s artistic creativity with wide audiences and promoting its cultural identity in the international art world, İstanbul Modern hosts a broad array of interdisciplinary activities.
Hippodrome – The Hippodrome had been a center for sports and entertainment in the old Constantinople, the Eastern Roman Capital; as well as very important center for politics, as sports and politics were closely knitted up at these times. No wonder that Hippodrome had been a starting point for revolts and political movements throughout the history.
Echoes of cries by slaves riding chariots in ferocious races; and the passionate words of intellectuals and poets that lit the flame of public movements have still been reminiscent, to those with a powerful imagination.
Hagia Sophia – The “Shrine of Holy Wisdom”, the marvelous Byzantine basilica built in the 6th century marks the true beginning of the golden age of Justinianus, the conqueror of Africa and Italy, who achieved lasting fame through the complete revision of all Roman law, resulting in what is known today as the Corpus Juris Civilis.
The domed construction of the sanctuary is an architectural innovation; and was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian proclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee! Mankind would have to wait for over millennia before being able to build a cathedral that would surpass the gigantic size of Hagia Sophia. Converted to a Mosque following the Ottoman conquest of the city, by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453; as the young Sultan fulfilled a divine premonition by the Holy Prophet Mohammad himself. In 1935 the building was converted to a museum, by the executive order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Culinary Lecture at Nar Restaurant ( Learn and experience how to make a rock candy from one of the famous chefs of Turkey) Rock Candy (Akide) – Rock candy (also called rock sugar) is a type of confectionery mineral composed of relatively large sugar crystals. This candy is formed by allowing a supersaturated solution of sugar and water to crystallize onto a surface suitable for crystal nucleation, such as a string or stick.
Grand Bazaar – The largest and the most attractive covered bazaar in the world; where people have been trading diamonds, carpets, food, perfumes, and, even gossip for centuries!
Fun Facts : Turks introduce Tulips to the World and the first shipment from Turkey arrived in Belgium in 1562 and is the only city in the world that sits on two continents, Asia and Europe.
One hour flight to Bodrum, pearl of Aegean coast the Turkish have dubbed ‘St. Tropez’ of Turkey and justly so. The Greek-style whitewashed houses that dot the hillside and overlook the bays are poster card perfect.
A quick stop at the crumbled yet lasting remains of the Mausoleum, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders and then on to
St. Peter (Crusaders’) Castle- The Crusader castle was built by the Knights of St. John between 1402 and 1409. The fortifications of the castle consisted of walls to which ramparts and central towers were added. Today the castle’s rooms are used as a museum where findings from the Bronze Age, Mycenaean, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods are exhibited. The castle also houses the largest underwater archaeological museum in Turkey. It is one of the few of its kind in the world. Reconstruction of shipwreck is in display in the museum.
The following day was spent sailing the beautiful bays of Bodrum aboard the the Luxury Private Yacht “DIVA” , sailing by Orak Island, Kisebuku Bay ,Mazı Bay,Cokertme Bay while enjoying a gourmet meal prepared by our personal chef.
The next day we made a journey to visit The House of Virgin Mary. This Christian and Muslim shrine is located in the vicinity of Ephesus; and it is believed by many that Mother Mary was taken to this stone house by Saint John and lived her last days there.
The day continued with adventure as we then explored Ephesus- The Ancient City of Ephesus is one of the crown jewels of mankind’s greatest cultural and historical heritage We visited the ancient city of Ephesus, the Roman capital of Asia Minor including the Odeon, the Marble Street, the Hadrian Temple, the Celcius Library and the Great Theatre.
We also discovered Artemission (Diana) Temple -Ephesus is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BCE and destroyed in 401 CE by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom). You still see the remnants of the huge temple.
Seljuk Castle/ Basilica of St. John-The Basilica of St. John was a basilica in Ephesus that was constructed by Justinian I in the 6th century , standing over the believed burial site of John the Apostle. The basilica is on the slopes of Ayasuluk Hill just below the fortress near the center of Seljuk, It is believed that the Apostle John traveled from Jerusalem to the city of Ephesus where he remained for the rest of his life. It was during his time there that Emperor Domitian exiled him to the Isle of Patmos, when Nerva became emperor John was pardoned and returned to Ephesus, where he lived the remainder of his days and completed Gospel of St. John.
Our afternoon was made unspoiled by stopping and having lunch at an old Greek village in the top of Selcuk mountains well known for typical cherry wine.
As all good things must come to an end our conclusion was a walk through Dario Moreno Street ( Jewish Singer who lived and died in Izmir) to Asansor for watching the colorful nightlife of Izmir.
Asansor-Turkish for “elevator”, derived from the French word ascenseur is a historical building in İzmir, Konak. It was built in 1907 as a work of public service by a wealthy Jewish banker and trader of that period in order to ease passage from the narrow coastline of Karataş to the hillside, the elevator within the building serving to carry people and goods through the steep cliff between the two parts of the quarter.
In time, the small street that led to the building also came to be known under the same name, Asansör Street (Asansör Sokağı). In the 1940s, one of the residents of the street was the singer Dario Moreno, who was to attain fame later.
It was recently restored and since then, became one of the landmarks of İzmir. The street was renamed Dario Moreno Street in memory of the singer.
My only wish is I had more time there to explore the beauty, culture, and legend of Turkey. All the more reason to go back!. All of our exceptional accommodations, tours, guides, transportation, and services were provided by Premium Destinations, a leading provider of travel services. Together with Honeymoons and Get-A-Ways, we will customize a truly one of a kind trip for you or you can enjoy one of their suggested itineraries which you may find at http://www.honeymoonsandgetaways.com/getaways/turkey
Nancy Barkley- Owner, Honeymoons and Get-A-Ways-877-793-4808