My cousin and his wife scheduled a layover of a few days in İstanbul on their way to visit family in Tbilisi. Ferda and I planned an itinerary for the four of us — some classic tourist sites and also stuff we had never seen before.
Ferda and I flew into Sabiha Gökçen and did a little sightseeing between the airport and our hotel in Haseki (aka Yusufpaşa?, not far from Aksaray). The highlight was this stained glass window at the Armenian Surp Takavor Church in Kadıköy.
If I understood correctly, all the churches in that window are still standing in Turkey. Anyone know which ones they are?
The main chapel of the church was closed. We have to go back on a Sunday for a service.
Of course we got one of the classic İstanbul views from the ferry between Kadıköy and Eminönü:
Also some classic İznik tiles on a çeşme near the Mısır Çarşısı (spice market), I believe:
I had never noticed this balcony for the ezan (call to prayer) in the Mısır Çarşısı before:
Ferda and I checked into our hotel, and I barely had time to visit the recently opened Rami Kütüphanesi before Andrew and Galya arrived at the hotel after their long flight from Chicago. Rami Kütüphanesi is İstanbul’s largest library, opened in January 2023 (wikipedia).
I don’t know much about the collection, but the building (an Ottoman army barracks?) surrounds a large courtyard with some coffee shops and art installations. I couldn’t restrain myself from buying a few books at the bookstore.
The next day was a Bosporus tour, something Ferda and I had never done before. Our plans had been thwarted by rain at least twice on previous trips. We had perfect weather.
We got off for a couple hours at Anadolu Kavağı where the thing to do is walk up to Yoros Kalesi — less interesting than I expected:
but the view is nice.
After the boat I was happy to get Andrew and Galya into Rüstem Paşa Camii with its 2000 hand-painted İznik tiles.
Near the Kapılı Çarşısı (Grand Bazaar) is the 18th century Nuruosmaniye Camii. The library supposedly showcases the baroque style, but we couldn’t get in when we were there. I have to go back.
We spent the next day doing more typical tourist stuff near Sultanahmet, starting with the sound and light show at Şerefiye Sarnıcı (a cistern).
Here’s the courtyard of the 17th century Yeni Camii:
Both Aya Sofya (Hagia Sohpia; now a mosque, remember) and Sultanahmet Camii (aka Blue Mosque) were closed to non-Muslims because of prayer time when we were there. If you want to visit, I recommend going early.
is İstanbul’s only Byzantine church that was never converted to a mosque. It was 90% closed for renovation — another visit.
Andrew and Galya were leaving the next day in the evening but had some time in the morning. I don’t think they were very excited about it, but I really wanted to take them to one of the huge Minar Sinan mosques. Fatih Sultan Mehmet Camii wasn’t a long walk from our hotel.
Inside there were kids playing, people sleeping, people praying. Andrew was surprised by how much it felt like a community space rather than strictly religious. We sat down on the carpet for a while and chatted. I think they were both glad that we visited.
That mosque is in a very conservative, religious neighborhood. We saw many headscarves, black robes, and even full face coverings as we sat in the street drinking coffee. There was a pro-Palestine rally in the mosque courtyard following noon prayers.
As a sharp contrast we had dinner at Çiya in Kadıköy before sending Andrew and Galya off to the airport for their flight to Georgia. In Kadıköy it’s one meyhane (drinking establishment) after another with the young women in ripped jeans and bare midriffs. Yep, Andrew wondered how its possible for Turkey to bridge this gap politically.