On the Other Side of the Golden Horn

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

A visit to Istanbul is not complete without crossing the Golden Horn to the other side of European Istanbul.  And it cannot be any easier.  A short walk from the Grand Bazaar you can cross the Golden Horn (which back in the day was closed with a long chain to prevent ships from coming in) by bridge or by a short boat ride to the Galata/Karaköy area.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, sea, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Walking to catch a boat to cross the Golden Horn (Galata Tower to the upper left)

I opted to cross by boat.  Upon landing on the other side, I went past a spot with a lot of activity where fishermen came in with their goods.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, fish, Karakoy, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Fishermen with their goods

The sea was right there, no big barrier between the sidewalk and the beautiful blue waters of the Bosphorus!

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, blue, Topkapi Palace, Golden Horn, Karakoy, sea, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking back across the Golden Horn towards Topkapi Palace

I made my way to the Galata Tower (about 67m high) built in 1348 by the Genoese who had commercial interests in then-Constantinople.  It sits on a hillside so you will do some exercise getting there and then you will climb it.  Yes, lots of work but you will rewarded with great views of Istanbul landmarks like Topkapı Palace, the Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, photos, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

View from the Galata Tower towards Seraglio Point. You can see, from left to right, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blues Mosque

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Karakoy, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking towards the Asian side of Istanbul

Along the way, I stopped at the Neve Shalom Synagogue that had been bombed a dozen years earlier (and then 5 years after my visit).  It is not an old building by Istanbul standards having been finished I 1951 but it is the largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul.  The guards were not sure if to let us in but they spoke Turkish and Yiddish only, languages none of us knew.  Thankfully German (which I spoke at a very elementary level) and Yiddish sort of relate a little – enough to say we were American, to understand they wanted to know what hotel we were staying at, and answering.  We were allowed in.

Beyond these places, I enjoyed a local place called Ece Bar in Tramvay Caddesi, facing the Bosphorus.  It was a three level locale with the bottom level offering a feel for traditional local music and dance.  We were hosted by the owner, Ece, and it was a neat experience.  Other levels offered more standard restaurant and bar services.  I have tried to see if it is still in operation but have had no luck.

I also meandered up some large avenue going east-ish from the Golden Horn which gave me an opportunity to see more of modern Istanbul, not just the old quarter where I spent most of my time.  Istanbul offers contrasts in so many ways:  the population reflects in its “look” the mix of peoples that have been through here; modern buildings sitting side by side structures from days long gone in one incredible juxtaposition.

Istanbul, Estambul, Turkey, Turquia, Turkey, modernity, juxtaposition, photos, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

The juxtaposition is everywhere

At the end of this walk I met my friend’s girlfriend for lunch and then I decided not to walk back as I was tired and ended up with a mini-adventure.  See, I wanted to come back by water so I could admire the grand old mansions that sit right by the shores of the Bosphorus.  However, I somehow got lost trying to find a boat stop and the locals I ran into spoke none of the languages I could communicate in at the time (English, Spanish, French and German).  After a lot of walking and beginning to wonder what to do, I ran into an older Dutch couple who had a clue and who were doing exactly what I had hoped to do – success!!

Dolmabahçe Palace, Ataturk, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Dolmabahçe Palace, an European style palace built towards the end of the Ottoman years; where Ataturk died

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Other grand buildings along the Bosphorus

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Other grand buildings along the Bosphorus

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Other grand buildings along the Bosphorus

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

mansions, palaces, Ottoman, Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, Estambul, architefcture, Bosphorus, photos, travel Canon EOS Rebel

Can you imagine living on the building right under the bridge??

I highly recommend the crossing of the Golden Horn and a boat ride along the shores of the Bosphorus (not just crossing the Golden Horn) as you will a glimpse of the Istanbul of today – and of yesteryear.

The Ottoman Ruler’s Residence: Topkapı Palace

Topkapi, palace, Istanbul, Turkey, Canon EOS Rebel, Ottoman, sultan

Topkapı Palace sits at the entrance to the Golden Horn, an inlet of water that splits the European side of Istanbul.  It is located quite close to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  It was the Ottoman ruler’s humble abode for part of the time they ruled the empire (the rulers eventually moved to a different type of palace of a more European style further up the Bosphorus).  This palace is where the Empire was managed from – an empire that at peak included, more or less, Southeast Europe, Western Asia, part of North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.  A Muslim empire that was quite tolerant of other religions.  And an empire feared in Christian Europe.  Eventually the empire disintegrated over a period of a few decades finally ending its life after World War I.

The palace is strategically situated high on a promontory on the tip of Istanbul (Seraglio Point) west of the Golden Horn which affords great views of the Karakoy/Galata area, the Bosphorus and the Asian side of the city.  It consists of many buildings and gardens so it was not a massive building as were more European-style palaces like Versailles or El Escorial.  The most important buildings sit up high with the rest of the complex working its way down to the shores of the Bosphorus where the complex is walled with some parts of the walls going all the way back to what was then the acropolis of Byzantium.

An interesting part of the palace is its imperial harem where the sultan kept his many wives, concubines but also where the women of the royal family lived – and schemed.  It must have been an interesting place with all the intrigues, jealousies and power fights.  The mother of the sultan ruled the roost so it surely must have been a fun place!  You may picture the harem as a big room with women just laying around (I did, anyway) but it really is a series of buildings consisting of over 400 rooms!  Of course, space was allocated according to rank.  Oh, and this also included the eunuchs (slaves especially trained –and castrated- to serve in the harem) who guarded and took care of the harem.

Today, the palace is a museum, letting the visitor get a glimpse of some of the spaces, enjoy the vistas, and see some of the collection of important artifacts in the gallery.  I enjoyed learning more about the sultans and Ottoman Empire, especially in such an incredible location in such an incredible and unique city.

Below is a gallery of photos of the buildings, rooms, grounds, and vistas of the Topkapi Palace, a must-see in Istanbul!

Click on the pictures to enlarge and view.

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