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Destination Istanbul Turkey

“If the whole world was a state, Istanbul would be the capital of it.” Napoleon BONEPART

Sounds of the Ezans melts in the first lights of the sun every morning and a day starts with the screams of seagulls chasing the public ferries sailing from Asian to European side carrying students, workers or young lovers… Blowing its horn to salute the other ferries, Bosphorus Ferry slowly leaves its port to the legendry shores adorned with old wooden houses and palaces. This ferry might have taken a place in the photo of Bosphorus taken by a tourist in the balcony of Galata Tower. Then tourist moves his camera to the right for taking the picture of the Hagia Sophia’s Huge Dome and at the same time, tens of people will take the photo of the dome from inside. Tourist will thrill with the courage of the architecture of Hagia Sophia and get more curious about another architect lived in 16th century in Ottoman period, Mimar Sinan the Great. Tourist moves his eyes to the left and watches the balanced portions of the Suleymaniye mosque which reminds him the interior decorations and start thinking about the best tiles. Whicdh mosque has the bests, Blue Mosque, Rustempasa Mosque or Sokollu Mosque? Maybe the tiles in circumcision room of Topkapi Palace? On the other hand, tourist start thinking about mosaics, kind a different variation of tiles and can’t decide if the mosaics or the frescoes are the more interesting and fascinating in Chora Museum. With the last lights of the sun, seagulls stop chasing the public ferries and fly to their special dance around the minarets with the sound of ezan…

Istanbul is the cultural, economic and financial centre of Turkey with a rich cultural heritage and long history. It is the only metropolis in the world that connects two continents and has served as the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. There are too many places to see and unlimited things to do depending on your interests.

Seven million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2010, when it was named a European Capital of Culture, making it the world's 10th most popular tourist destination.

Culture, history, arts, leisure, adventure, whichever is the motto of your trip, you will find such many things in Istanbul..

» UNESCO declares Istanbul as a World Heritage Site. 
» Hagia Sophia was the biggest cathedral on the world for thousands years and it’s still the 4th biggest one. 
» The 4 Bronze Horses of San Marco Cathedral welcoming the guests today in Venice, were taken from Istanbul. 
» In the Middle Age, Istanbul had more than 1400 public toilets in the city meanwhile there weren't any in European cities. 
» Jason & The Argonauts passed through Bosphorus while looking for The Golden Fleece… 
» Tomb of Hannibal is very close to Istanbul, in Gebze… 
» Green columns of Hagia Sophia were brought from Artemision, one of the Seven Wonders of ancient world…

This is the only building that has an imperial title for both Byzantine and Ottoman Empire. It is the first example of this mixed architectural plan and considering its monumental size, it’s absolutely one of the most important edifices not only in Turkey but also in the world. The size and the architecture of the building, when compared with its coevals, shows a great difference. 

Constructing that size of a building in 5 years is still like an utopian dream but they did and nearly with the same size of Duomo Cathedral that was built after nearly 1000 years later. Hagia Sophia is still the 4th biggest cathedral in the world. It is the first rectangular building with dome. 

Hagia Sophia has too many important stories behind. From Guardian Angel to the Islamic figure of Hizir, this huge old temple keep many legends. It has witnessed two Great Empires’ rise and fall, lived many special moments of great happiness and torments. Moreover, it must be one of the biggest temples built as a compensation of a crime. Justinian killed his own citizens as a result of Nika revolt. Right after this bloody shame, Justinian ordered Hagia Sophia to regain power and support from his citizens instead of their hatred.

Hagia Sophia served as the Imperial Cathedral during Byzantine Times. At the same day Constantinople fell , it started to serve Ottoman Empire as their first Imperial Mosque. In 1935, Ataturk, the Founder of Turkish Republic, converted the site into a museum as a gift to his supporters. Today, Hagia Sophia stands in the Old City of Istanbul with all its magnificence. Its famous dome, gilded mosaics, divine hugeness and energy attracts thousands of visitors each year from all over the world.

Also known as the Istanbul Strait, Bosphorus is a strait that forms one part of the boundary between Europe and Asia and known worlwide as a symbol of Istanbul. As a part of the only passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus has always been of great commercial and strategic importance. 
Bosphorus tours, we generally start with Spice Bazaar, the second oldest covered bazaar in the city. Mystical smells of various spices, traditional shops selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, aromatic hygienic materials etc. 
Then we proceed to Rüstem Paşa Mosque, built by famous architect Mimar Sinan in 1560 and decorated with İznik tiles covering both inside and outside.
After then, we proceed to Holy Savior of Chora, the most interesting Byzantine churches in the city. The mosaics and frescoes are by far the most important and extensive series of Byzantine paintings in Istanbul and among the best and most beautiful in the world. Next by, we visit Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European style palace built during Ottoman Empire between 1843 and 1846, famous fort he great collection of European antiquity, furniture and 4.5 tons of chandelier. 
After the lunch break, we continue to Ortaköy, a cosmopolitan area in the middle of Bosphorus on beachfront, bordering waters of Bosphorus with many different communities of Turks, Greeks, Jews and Armenians. We will take a tour in the local bazaar to look at the shops, stands and coffee bars, maybe take a cup of turkish tea in a seaside local tea garden. 
Finally, we take the fabulous private boat cruise. This romantic cruise will allow you to admire all the historical highlights, ancient wooden willas, waterfront Victorian houses, Ottoman era waterfront houses, Rumeli Castle..

You will turn back to your hotel totally refreshed by the fresh climate and relaxed as check-out from a spa center..

It is absolutely the best example of Classic Ottoman Architecture of 16th century, dedicated to Suleyman the Magnificent. Dance of the domes, delicate figures of the minarets and the calm in the decoration represent us the owner of mosque, Suleiman the Magnificent (Kanuni Sultan Suleyman). Noble, brave, righteous and (unfortunately) full with love with a very dangerous lady, Hurrem Sultan. Suleiman the Magnificent has a great mysterious similarity to Justinian of Hagia Sophia. First, both of them enabled creation of great temples dominating Istanbul silhouette. Both men loved one lady and stayed loyal to her even they had the right to choose many more and both ladies were femme fatal and eager. Both men expanded their kingdom’s border but at the same time they started the decline period.

The architecture, Mimar Sinan, the genius of Ottoman Architecture, used his great skill to build such a fascinating building on the hill side. Mosque is located in the middle of Old City and surrounded with some public buildings such as, hospital, soup kitchen, dormitory, turkish bath, library and school. Today, all parts are still in function.

Bosphorus view from the garden with the chimneys of dormitory is one of the best corners in the mosque as well as its legendry tomb. Suleiman the Magnificent was so much loved by his citizens including Mimar Sinan. For that reason, he brought stars to his tomb dome with crystal stones inlayed to the dome ceiling reflecting the light throwing out from candles…

The biggest Ottoman building complex, Topkapi Palace stands on the first hill of Constantinople. The palace has been home to Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years and the remnants of old glory are waiting to be seen.

86 carat diamonds, dark green emeralds, solid gold thrown, golden cradle and many more pieces of treasure are exhibited in the palace as well as Sultan’s dresses including special design inner clothes as talisman, Sultan portraits, miniatures, kitchen materials, weapons, porcelain collection and gifts.

Topkapi Palace consists of many different buildings built in different periods and the oldest section is the Cinili Kosk (Tiled Pavilion) which is a part Archeological Museum today.

“Harem” moved to main palace in 16th century with Hurrem Sultan’s special request. Before then, Harem was an apart complex from Ottoman Palaces. Today you can visit its enigmatic corridors and pavilions. Since we have very limited information about Harem life, you can only imagine how was the life in this Golden Age ruled by Big Mother, so called “Valide Sultan” who was the mother of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Palace contains too many stories and art pieces as well as treasure but there are some items you must definitely see;

Spoon Maker Diamond
Topkapi Dagger
Rock-crystal materials
Thrones (especially Nadir Shah’s, Golden Throne and throne design by Sedefkar Mehmed Aga) 

There are hundreds of ancient cisterns hidden underneath the streets of Istanbul. The Basilica Cistern is the largest and Istanbul’s most unusual tourist attraction.

Also known as the “Sunken Palace”, The Basilica Cistern, was built as a water reservoir to provide water to the Great Palace and nearby buildings during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century CE. 

With a capacity of 900.000 m3 water and covering nearly 1000 square meters, the cistern is 132 m legnth, 64.6 m wide consisting of 336 marble columns combining to each other with brick vaults. Most of the column capitals are either in Corinthian or Doric Style. It is the best preserved Byzantine cistern example in the world.

The cistern was forgotten for centuries and accidently rediscovered by the Frenchman Peter Gyllius in 1545 who came to Constantinople in search of Byzantine antique monuments. He noticed that local people got their water by lowering buckets through holes in the floors of their houses.

Walk to the back of the Cistern, you will notice one upside down Medusa head supporting one of the columns. Why it is upside down has been subject to much discussions, the most logical one is that people who placed the stone was believing that if the head was upside down, it would ward off evil spirits.

Basilica Cistern is in walking distance to Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Don’t miss it if you will visit the Old City.

Near the Byzantine city walls, The Church of the Holy Savior in Chora is the most interesting Byzantine church in Istanbul with sapper facade and high drum little domes. The churches houses best Byzantine frescoes and mosaics. The mosaics and frescoes are by far the most extensive collection of Byzantine paintings in Istanbul and among the best and most beautiful in the world
Originally built in the 4th century as the 'Church of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls', the building you see today was built in the late 11th Century with lots of repairs and restructuring in the following centuries. All of the interior decoration, famous mosaics and mural paintings date back to 12th Century. The frescos generally refer to the theme of death and resurrection.
For 4th Centuries after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul, it served as a mosque and today it’s open to visitors as a museum.

Ottoman Empire lost its vision after 17th Century and this was the beginning of their decline period. By the end of the 18th Century, Ottoman Sultan and statesmen tried to catch the century and imported foreign teachers for their princes’ education. As a result, a new Ottoman generation grown up with new ideas as well as architecture. Art Nouveau, Baroque, Neo – Classic architectural style monuments in the city reflect this period.

In the same period, Ottoman imperial architect was an Armenian “Balyan” dynasty who have been the Imperial architects for 5 generations and after Mimar Sinan from 16th century, they impressed Ottoman Art with their European-style palaces, mosques and houses.

Two members of this family, Garabet and Nikogos Balyan built Dolmabahce Palace and even today, it is still a special art concept which is mesmerizing with its details as well as the items used. Constructed in 19th century, its architecture reflects the modern face of the Ottoman Empire with Ottoman Baroque and Rococo Style. Baccarat and Bohemian Crystal chandeliers, limoges porcelain fireplaces, Hereke carpets… Especially crystal staircases are one of the most attractive parts of the palace, as well as ball room and Great Chandelier. Sultan’s alabaster Turkish Bath is another stunning place with its delicate decorations.

Dolmabahçe Palace is the first European style palace built during Ottoman Empire..

Bazaars are the highlights of daily local life and reflects city culture. Grand Bzaar and Spice Markets are two most popular bazaars identified with Istanbul. 

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world with 61 covered streets and over 3000 shops  which attract 250.000 / 400.000 visitors each day. The bazaar was built after the conquest of Istanbul  and got bigger and larger over the centuries with the addition of new sections and inns. 

Today it's a heaven for shoppers with its traditional shops and goods. There are thousands of items you can find and buy according to your interests or you can just enjoy local people and Turkish hospitality as well. It’s one of the most favourite destinatons with its location, architecture, history and fame. 

Spice Market is the second largest covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar. The name of the Spice Market comes from Egyptians who used to sell their spices. You can see and smell many interesting spices, dried fruits and nuts, teas, oils & essences, sweets, honeycombs etc. It has 86 shops inside and the ceiling is also covered with domes as in the Grand Bazaar which gives the market a very authentic atmosphere. 

Grand Bazaar mainly houses shops of gold, textile and leather, Spice Markets spices and foods as well.

Could you say “No, thank you?” to sunset cruise for watching the beauties of Istanbul in your private boat and then step in one of the chic restaurant along the Bosphorus for dinner?