Another week in İstanbul

This is what? my 6th visit to İstanbul? Ferda and I started by staying a few nights in Kadıköy, the first time I’ve stayed on the Asian (Anadolu) side of the Bosporus. With the exception of the beautiful Rüstem Paşa Camii, we spent the week visiting sights that we hadn’t seen before. It’d be easy to go back to İstanbul and spend another week seeing all new (for us) attractions again. We’re already talking about it!

We started our first full day with a walk from Kadıköy to Üsküdar. The courtyard of the 18th century Ottoman Ahmediye Medresesi:

IMG_20220929_132051 by bryandkeith on flickr

looks a lot like the courtyard of the nearby, also 18th century, Yeni Valide Camii:

IMG_20220929_135454 by bryandkeith on flickr

I was reminded of the cloisters at the cathedrals in Portugal.

If you spend too much time frittering about on the internet, you’ve probably heard of the Ottoman bird palaces. The first one I saw was here at Yeni Valide Camii:

IMG_20220929_135945 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220929_140343 by bryandkeith on flickr

A bit farther downhill is the 16th century Mimar Sinan mosque, Şemsi Paşa, on the edge of the Bosporus.

IMG_20220929_141118 by bryandkeith on flickr

A short bus ride north and three centuries later (time travel?! — I’ve been watching Outlander) is Beylerbeyi Palace. French chandeliers, vases from China and Japan, European furniture, and the incredible blue room with painted plaster pillars that were so well done I had to ask the guard if they were blue marble! Dang, the Ottomans had some money. It’s definitely worth it to get the audio guide. Photos aren’t allowed inside. Here it is from the outside:

IMG_20220929_172445 by bryandkeith on flickr

You probably get an even better view from one of the Bosporus cruises, something I still haven’t done and definitely on our list for next time.

The only other sight we visited on the Asian side is Turkey’s largest mosque, the new Büyük Çamlıca Camii. Located on the top of a hill above Üsküdar it’s visible from much of the city. Indeed, in the tradition of autocratic Ottoman sultans, Erdoğan has built himself a giant mosque. I took a bus up there on our last morning in Kadıköy to see how our taxes are being spent.

IMG_20221001_083634 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221001_085227 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221001_085359 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221001_084136 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221001_083251 by bryandkeith on flickr

A little ways north on either side of the Bosporus are Rumeli Hisarı and Anadolu Hisarı, two fortresses that the Ottomans built to gain control of the strait before they took the city from the Byzantines in 1453. We visited Rumeli Hisarı.

IMG_20220930_124401 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220930_124531 by bryandkeith on flickr

There wasn’t a lot to see. That’s the middle of the three bridges that span the Bosporus. We made our way south to the first bridge where many tourists takes photos of waterside Büyük Mecediye Camii (aka Ortaköy Mosque).

IMG_20220930_151921 by bryandkeith on flickr

I was impressed with the bright interior.

IMG_20220930_153440 by bryandkeith on flickr

We thought our next stop would be Çırağan Palace, but it’s now used as a hotel. Rooms start at 750 euro/night (breakfast included!). We kept walking.

The most moving experience of our whole week in İstanbul was visiting the Armenian Church in Beşiktaş, Surp Asdvadzadzin Kilisesi. They still have services every Sunday morning for a small congregation and welcome guests. I actually started crying as the woman showed us around the church. Oh, the history. BTW, Surp Asdvadzadzin Kilisesi seems to be a very common name for Armenian churches. Keep that in mind if you’re trying to find a specific one.

IMG_20220930_164257 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220930_164814 by bryandkeith on flickr

A short walk down the hill and we found ourselves in the hip fish market bar neighborhood of Beşiktaş on a Friday afternoon.

Beşiktaş bar scene on a Friday afternoon by bryandkeith on flickr

Rüstem Paşa Camii is my favorite mosque in İstanbul, and Ferda had never been before. It’s a small mosque with stunning tilework.

IMG_20221001_134154 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221001_133619 by bryandkeith on flickr

Around the corner we also poked our heads in Yeni Camii.

IMG_20221001_141741 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221001_140957 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221001_140921 by bryandkeith on flickr

From the Byzantines sadly the best things to see are the cisterns. Seems like all the churches have been turned into mosques including, since my last visit, Fethiye Müzesi, Kariye (Chora) Müzesi, and most egregiously Aya Sofya. Previously I would have put all three of those among my top five favorite museums in İstanbul. Now, well, the latter two aren’t even worth visiting, and having been at least three times to Aya Sofya, I’m afraid to see its current condition. We stayed in Sultanahmet so of course we walked by Aya Sofya a few times.

Aya Sofya by bryandkeith on flickr

Near our hotel was another 6th century Byzantine church turned mosque, Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus,

The 6th century Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus is now a mosque. by bryandkeith on flickr

looking like a standard mosque on the inside.

IMG_20221002_095251 by bryandkeith on flickr

Pantokrator Monastery was built about 500 years later, but it’s still Byzantine!

IMG_20221003_114845 by bryandkeith on flickr

It also has nothing special inside. So let’s try the Byzantine cisterns. The Nakkaş Halıcısı Sarnıcı is underneath the eponymous carpet shop. It now houses a decent exhibit on Constantinople’s Byzantine Hippodrome, a bit of which is still visible across the street from the carpet shop.

IMG_20221001_172522 by bryandkeith on flickr

What used to be the Hippodrome is now Sultanahmet Square, still hosting a couple obelisks that adorned the Hippodrome.

the old hippodrome by bryandkeith on flickr

The cistern on Soğukçeşme Sokağı is now used as a restaurant.

Sarnıç Restaurant by bryandkeith on flickr

In the Cistern of Theodosius, now known as Şerefiye Sarnıcı, you can watch a sound and light show if you pay enough.

IMG_20221002_130033 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221002_133755 by bryandkeith on flickr

Mostly, however, we concentrated on the Ottoman monuments. Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Camii is supposed to be a good example of early Ottoman (16th century Mimar Sinan) architecture.

IMG_20221002_102227 by bryandkeith on flickr

The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is housed in the Ottoman İbrahim Paşa Palace, but I didn’t find the palace or the collection all that exciting. It was a good place to hang out while it was raining.

This museum (Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi) is housed in an old palace (İbrahim Paşa Sarayı). by bryandkeith on flickr
Pieces of Muhammad's beard by bryandkeith on flickr
Pieces of Muhammad’s beard

More exciting (to me) was Şehzade Camii complex (again 16th century Mimar Sinan),

IMG_20221003_102551 by bryandkeith on flickr

where we can find İbrahim Paşa’s tomb (Bosnalı (aka Damat), the same İbrahim Paşa from the aforementioned palace?)

İbrahim Paşa Türbesi (Bosnalı (aka Damat) İbrahim Paşa) by bryandkeith on flickr

and another nice cloister-like courtyard, this time around the rooms of a madrasa.

Şehzade Mehmed Medressesi by bryandkeith on flickr

Behind that mosque, just to shake things up a bit, is a 4th century Roman aqueduct.

IMG_20221003_104715 by bryandkeith on flickr

Walking toward Balat I kept seeing more and more women in full black abaya, perhaps more than I even saw in Iran.

IMG_20221003_123234 by bryandkeith on flickr

Turns out it was Monday morning women only sermon time at the Yavuz Sultan Selim Camii (16th century).

IMG_20221003_124016 by bryandkeith on flickr
This was the most covered women I've seen at once anywhere.  It was a special Monday sermon (vaaz). by bryandkeith on flickr

I knew about the colorful houses in Balat,

IMG_20221003_130335 by bryandkeith on flickr

but I was quite surprised to come across this Greek school built in the 19th century and still in use.

IMG_20221003_124939 by bryandkeith on flickr

Also in the Balat neighborhood is the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the highest see of the Orthodox Church which has retained its center in İstanbul (Constantinople) for 17 centuries. I guess that’s like the Vatican for Orthodox Christians. There’s not much to see. A screaming baby was getting baptized (in Latin? or Greek?) when I went in the church.

In the Laleli neighborhood I was excited to visit the late Ottoman (19th century) Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque (aka Aksaray Valide Mosque) with its unusual architecture (wikipedia calls it “Turkish Rococo“) and elaborate decorations.

IMG_20221003_093051 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221003_094345 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20221003_094358 by bryandkeith on flickr

But, coming full circle now, the real reason to visit Laleli is for more bird palaces, this time on a tomb in the Laleli Mosque complex.

IMG_20221003_100949 by bryandkeith on flickr

How exciting is that?!

Thanks, İstanbul.

IMG_20221003_150856 by bryandkeith on flickr

And cheers with a little soju from Korecan our last evening in the city.

IMG_20221003_182234 by bryandkeith on flickr
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2 Responses to Another week in İstanbul

  1. Mike Painter says:

    Lots to see and wonderful pictures!

  2. Jennie Werner says:

    Wonderful–I miss Turkey so much!! Cheers, Jennie

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