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.

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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.

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Fishermen with their goods

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!!

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

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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.

Jewels of Istanbul: Its Mosques

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During my 5-day visit to Istanbul, I had ample time to walk around, often aimlessly, to get to know the city.  While some sights were on the must-see list (like the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace), I also “discovered” places not on my list.  I quickly developed an interest in entering the many mosques I encountered (and there are plenty!).  For a non-Muslim like me, they are worth exploring for their architecture / construction for sure but also for their interiors.  The interior of mosques in Istanbul were different than the ones I had seen in Egypt (which were the only mosques I had ever entered at that point).  What made the interiors different was their use of ceramic tile typical of Turkey (more on this further down…).

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The skyline of “old” Istanbul is accentuated by many mosques

While I don’t remember all the names and locations of the mosques I visited (though I was writing about travel at the time, it was only in emails to friends and family), I will at least share some of what I saw so you get an idea of what I mean.  But there is one that is a must-see for sure:  the “Blue” Mosque.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, aka the Blue Mosque

Almost across from the Hagia Sophia resides the most imposing mosque I saw in Istanbul:  the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

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Looking up to the domes with an ablution fountain in the courtyard

The Blue Mosque was built in the early 17th century so it is a “baby”, really, by Istanbul standards but, nevertheless, monumental inside and out.  It boasts 6 minarets, one main dome, and many secondary domes.  It has a courtyard as large as the mosque itself surrounded by arcades (apologies to architects if I am not using the proper term) with the fountains for the ablutions located in that space.

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The arcade around the courtyard

As is the case with mosques, its interior is a vast open space (unlike Christian places of worship with benches and chairs throughout) since the prayers are done by sitting and prostrating on the floor which, of course, is covered in rugs/carpets.

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Not the best photo of the interior but you can see the faithful praying (I wanted to not be close to them while taking the pic) and some details of the interior (chandelier, carpets, etc.)

Can you believe that at the time Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI visited the mosque in 2006, it was only the second time a Pope had visited a Muslim place of worship?  Not only shocked for ecumenical reasons but also thinking the beauty they missed seeing!

Ceramic tile

As I mentioned, what appeals to me about mosques in Istanbul is the use of ceramic tiles in many different styles and geometrical patterns and using a lot of blue (could it be the influence of the close-by Aegean Sea blue??).  The writing in Arabic script that you see is actually verses from the Koran.  I don’t read Arabic so all I can do is say that they add to the beauty of the place.

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Side walls of a mosque in the city; notice how blue plays a prominent role in the tiles’ color

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Dome of the same mosque

Parting tips…

If you have never been to a mosque, it is good to know that you need to be properly dressed (no shorts, etc.) and that you will have to remove your shoes before you enter – please do not miss observing these rules!!  Some mosques I have been to require you leave the shoes outside (not placing them inside your bag).  A fellow traveler decided not to leave his shoes in the area that some attendant watches it because he didn’t want to pay (at the mosque close to the Golden Horn and the Grand Bazzar).  When we came out, his shoes were gone.  BIG LESSON LEARNED:  don’t skimp.  Attendants are just earning a living though, certainly, this one was a thief.

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Mosque by the Grand Bazaar where the “shoe incident” happened: the New Mosque

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Looking down onto the New Mosque, built in the 17th century right by the Golden Horn (Asian side of Istanbul in the background)

So discover Istanbul and its mosques if you visit!  I leave you with a parting shot of one of these beauties:  the Blue Mosque at sunset sporting a different color!

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At sunset

 

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