Sunday, May 3, 2015

Day 1 - Istanbul

Turkey

Wiki:"Turkey is a parliamentary republic largely located in Western Asia with the portion ofEastern Thrace in Southeastern EuropeTurkey's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia makes it a country of significant geostrategic importance.

Turkey has been inhabited since the paleolithic age,[7] including various ancient Anatolian civilizations, Aeolianand Ionian GreeksThracians, and Persians.[8][9][10] After Alexander the Great's conquest, the area wasHellenized, which continued with the Roman rule and the transition into the Byzantine Empire.[9][11] The Seljuk Turks began migrating into the area in the 11th century, starting the process of Turkification, which was greatly accelerated by the Seljuk victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.[12] The Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm ruled Anatolia until the Mongol invasion in 1243, upon which it disintegrated into several small Turkish beyliks.

Starting from the late 13th century, the Ottomans united Anatolia and created an empire encompassing much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, becoming a major power in Eurasia and Africa during theearly modern period. The empire reached the peak of its power between the 15th and 17th centuries, especially during the 1520–66 reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. After the second Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 and the end of the Great Turkish War in 1699, the Ottoman Empire entered a long period of decline.

Turkey is a democraticsecularunitaryconstitutional republic with a diverse cultural heritage.[18][19] The country's official language is Turkish, a Turkic language spoken natively by approximately 85 percent of the population.[20] 70–80 percent of the population are ethnic Turks; the remainder consists of legally recognized(ArmeniansGreeks and Jews) and unrecognized (KurdsCircassiansAlbaniansBosniaksGeorgians, etc.) minorities.[18][21][22][23] The vast majority of the population is Muslim."


Airbnb Experience:

Our Airbnb Apartment for 5 of us (3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom).
I am becoming a fan of Airbnb especially when it comes to group traveling, everyone stays together and enjoys food together in the dining area. And it is normally located in the local neighborhood, which allows us to have a glimpse of local life. 

Hammam - Turkish Bath

Wiki:" A Turkish bath or hammam (Turkish: hamam, Arabic: الحمام, ḥammām‎) is the Turkish[1] variant of the Roman bath,steambath, sauna, or Russian banya, distinguished by a focus on water, as distinct from ambient steam.
In Western Europe, the "Turkish bath" as a method of cleansing and relaxation became popular during the Victorian era. The process involved in taking a Turkish bath is similar to that of a sauna, but is more closely related to ancient Greek and ancient Roman bathing practices."

Apparently, most Hammam claims to be at least a few hundred years old. Went for this local bath near our apartment, it was quite an experience. The skin exfoliation was painful, it felt like scrubbing my skin with sandpaper - lotsa dead skin. The massage was okay, abit too short and uncomfortable to lie down on a marble slab. It's an interesting experience though.



Street View - reminds me of Trinidad in Cuba

Random Street View


Turkish (Street) Food


Freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice. =)


Roasted Chestnut and Corn

Bread

Turkish Tea

I was excited when I was served with Turkish Tea in this saucer (exactly the same as the one in the guidebook). Then, I realized almost all Turkish Tea is served in this saucer.

Turkish Ice-Cream.
The performance (while preparing the ice-cream) was good & funny, but the ice-cream was okay only.


TOPKAPI PALACE

Wiki:"The Topkapı Palace (Turkish: Topkapı Sarayı[2] or in Ottoman: طوپقپو سرايى) is a large palace in Istanbul, Turkey, that was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign.[3]
As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It is now a museum and as such a major tourist attraction. It also contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed's cloak and sword.[3] The Topkapı Palace is among the monuments contained within the "Historic Areas of Istanbul", which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and is described under UNESCO's criterion iv as "the best example[s] of ensembles of palaces [...] of the Ottoman period."
This palace is ranked one of the top tourist attraction sites in Istanbul. I found it over-rated, if you are traveling there, just spend 1-2 hours.

Guard in the Palace

Guard in the Palace

View from the Palace 
- the Europe Continent (on the left) separated from the Asia Continent by Bosphorus river.

Distinctive Islamic Architecture Design 
(similar to the Muslim Mughal Empire in India, which built the Taj Mahal)

Within the Palace

Love the symmetrical design. 
Very typical Muslim design.

One of the grand halls in the Harem.


Courtyard in the Harem.


SPRING TIME

Coming from the tropical Singapore, I really love to see the flowers blooming during spring time.



Tulip - the national flower of Turkey (made famous by the Dutch)

Brief History: "Everybody thinks that tulips come from Holland. Actually, Tulips are native to Central Asia and Turkey. In the 16th Century they were brought to Holland from Turkey, and quickly became widely popular. Today Tulips are cultivated in Holland in great numbers and in huge fields. Dutch bulbs, including tulips and daffodils, are exported all around the world so people think that it's originated from there as well. In fact many cultivated varieties were widely grown in Turkey long before they were introduced to European gardens.

In the 17th century the overgrown interest and high popularity of Tulips brought a sort of "Tulipmania" in Holland. Especially in 1637 bulbs were highly praised and prices gone up day by day reaching extraordinary numbers. Bulbs were sold by weight, usually while they were still in the ground. Some examples could cost more than a house at this time. The Dutch government unsuccessfully tried to outlaw this commerce but couldn't do anything to stop it, the trade was all about access and demand. But the end of the game came quick: Over-supply led to lower prices and dealers went bankrupt and many people lost their savings because of the trade, and the tulip market crashed."

Another Trivial: Is Kiwi fruit originally from New Zealand?
The Answer is Nope! It is originally from China. It is also known as the Chinese gooseberry.



Tram in the City.


HAGAI SOPHIA

Wiki: "Hagia Sophia (from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya) is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodoxcathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,[1] except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was thensecularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.[2]
The church was dedicated to the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity,[3] its patronal feasttaking place on 25 December, the commemoration of the birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ.[3] Although sometimes referred to as Sancta Sophia (as though it were named after Saint Sophia), sophia being the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom, its full name in Greek is Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας, "Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God".[4][5]
Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture[6] and is said to have "changed the history of architecture".[7] It remained the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having both been destroyed by rioters. It was designed by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus andAnthemius of Tralles.[8]
The church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 15-metre (49 ft) silvericonostasis. The focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years, the building witnessed theexcommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius on the part of Pope Leo IX in 1054, an act which is commonly considered the start of the Great Schism.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered this main church of the Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque. By that point, the church had fallen into a state of disrepair. Nevertheless, the Christian cathedral made a strong impression on the new Ottoman rulers and they decided to convert it into a mosque.[9][10] The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the mosaicsdepicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over. Islamic features—such as the mihrabminbar, and four minarets—were added. It remained a mosque until 1931, when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey. Hagia Sophia is currently (2014) the second-most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually.[11]
From its initial conversion until the construction of the nearby larger Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque of Istanbul) in 1616, it was the principal mosque of Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia served as inspiration for many other Ottoman mosques, such as the Blue Mosque, the Şehzade Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque."

Hagia Sophia


A mix of elements from Christian Church and Muslim Mosque

Impressive Dome


Virgin Mary holding Christ & Islamic Scripture.
Very unique - never seen anything like this before.

If different religions could co-exist together like this museum, 
won't it be great. =)


BASILICA CISTERN

Wiki: "The Basilica Cistern (TurkishYerebatan Sarayı – "Sunken Palace", or Yerebatan Sarnıcı – "Sunken Cistern"), is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul (that is formerly Constantinople), Turkey. The cistern, located 500 feet (150 m) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I

The name of this subterranean structure derives from a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was originally constructed. Before being converted to a cistern, a great Basilica stood in its place, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries during the Early Roman Age as a commercial, legal and artistic centre.[1]The basilica was reconstructed by Illus after a fire in 476.
Ancient texts indicated that the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing the Hagia Sophia.[1]According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine built a structure that was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532, which devastated the city.
Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern.[1]
The enlarged cistern provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times."

Underground water storage


"Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage ofMedusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. There is no written evidence that suggests they were used as column pedestals previously. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons' gaze,[citation needed] however it is widely thought that one was placed sideways only to be the proper size to support the column. The upside down Medusa was placed that way specifically because she would be the same height right side up.[citation needed]"

Random Street View:
Modern & Historic


BLUE MOSQUE

Wiki: "The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii) is a historic mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.[2]
It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still popularly used as a mosque."






Very Grand




Interior of the Blue Mosque
It is very peaceful, and I like the atmosphere here. =)

Beautiful!!

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