Sunday, June 24, 2012

Treasures of Istanbul

Hello from the mystical city of Istanbul...I stopped by this historic Turkish wonder during my travels this past week. Istanbul is a melting pot of European and Asian heritage, these two culturally-rich continents are separated only by the deep blue Bosphorus Strait. The opulent architecture of the Old City is richly influenced by Byzantine and Ottoman designs. Grand mosques, bustling bazaars, steaming Turkish baths and museums that house sacred relics from centuries ago. Then there is the other side of Istanbul - the New City, flecked with hip hotels, fine dining restaurants, shopping malls and buzzing night spots. 

It's the best of both worlds; ancient and modern, classic and upwardly mobile, old traditions collide with 21st century technology, and through it all, Istanbul's practice of time-honoured hospitality has remained an integral part of it's steadfast foundation. The best way to explore the city is on one of the many Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing buses. Which is when I got to capture some of these important historical sites.

The Blue Mosque, which probably the most iconic landmark in Istanbul, has towered over the city since the 1600's. The eight domes and six minarets that are perfectly proportionate, the faint blue tiles gave the name to this palatial monument.

The half-hour long queues to enter the Topkapi Palace was an indication of how intriguing and fascinating it would be. The Ottoman empire ruled for three centuries from within the grandiose walls of this castle. Inside is a spectacular treasury of artifacts worth far more than it's weight in 22-carat gold. Lavish thrones and everyday household objects that were carved from solid gold and silver, encrusted with rubies, diamonds and emeralds the size of your mobile. Unfortunately they do not allow photographs to be taken inside the museum and is under constant security. Jewel thieves and everything. 

Walking underground in the icy chambers of the Basilica Cistern was like being on the set of The Vampire Diaries. Built in the 6th century and held up by 336 Corinthian-style columns, the cistern was used to store water. A strange but very interesting feature of this reservoir are the two upside-down heads of the Greek mythological character, Medusa. It's most likely that her presence was to ward off evil spirits in those ancient times.

The exotic scents of earthy spices and rose-water, pistachio rolled Turkish delight led me to Egyptian Spice Bazaar, and from there, the famous Grand Bazaar, where I tried (very unsuccessfully) to haggle my way to a not-so genuine original imitation Birkin bag. There are 4400 indoor sidewalk stores selling silk pashminas in every imaginable shade, enticing pieces of jewellery, leather jackets in all styles, luxurious Persian rugs and local handicrafts. 

A traveler's street side view of the Hagia Sophia, once a church, a mosque and now a museum, it retains features of both Roman and Ottoman architecture. With an awe-inspiring 56m dome, antiquated chandeliers, intricate mosaic finishings, sturdy pillars and soaring arches, the 'Aya Sofya' is one of most extraordinary historic buildings in Turkey.

The serene blue waters of the Bosphorus waterway.

A marvelous vista over Istanbul in a very warm 34 degrees. A city of many faces and traditions, the ripples of it's captivating history has made way for a very exciting future and a present which is just that, 'A Gift'.

*All photographs by me. 


Post a Comment