Friday, December 18, 2009

Istanbul in Blue

My husband and I recently returned from a short trip to the city of Istanbul. Let me just say that the city definitely won us over, and soon we discovered why it was titled “world’s hippest city”. In true tourist fashion, we visited some of its important historic buildings such as Dolmabahce Sarayi and Topkapi Sarayi, Ottoman mosque Hagia Sophia ( all located in the charming quarter of Sultan Ahmet), and the restored and converted 19th-century Ciragan Sarayi of Sultan Abdulaziz, now a modern five-star hotel of the Kempinski Hotels Chain, with magnificent grounds overlooking the Bosphorus.
There’s more than enough to see during the day that I could go on about for pages on end. However, it is at night that the city swings into high-velocity action. We could not help but be affected by the infectious joie de vivre of Istanbulis as they flocked at restaurants, bars and clubs, and two A.M found us strolling the popular Istiklal Street that branches out from Taqsim square, despite the low temperatures and heavy rain.
In Ortakoy, a lively seafront area, popular with young people (and the young-at-heart!), we stumbled across The House Café, a cozy place decorated with dim lights suitable for a romantic evening while sampling delicious Turkish dishes.
For the perfect romantic spot, we made reservations at the 2400 year old Kiz Kulesi (Maiden’s Tower) located on a rock in the middle of the Bosphorus. Legend has it that a king sequestered his fair daughter here to protect her from the world, and particularly from a sorcerer who put a curse on the princess: the princess would die from the bite of a snake. The tower-turned-restaurant provides international and Turkish delicacies. I personally enjoyed a delicious salmon on spinach puree while listening to live Turkish music (which prompted me to buy Istanbul in blue, by Turkish composer and jazz musician Fahir Atakoglu).
You can also climb to the top of the tower where you can enjoy a beverage while overlooking the city from a distance.
P.S. I could not resist attaching a picture of the popular Turkish fast food: Kumpir. It is basically a jacket potato loaded with various fillings topped with chilli sauce, ketchup, couscous, and yoghurt, definitely a must-try!


Esin said...

Great sultanahmet pics.

Thanks for sharing.

The Soapmaker said...

Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya, from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia) is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and to have "changed the history of architecture."[1] It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 A.D. on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building to be converted into a mosque. The Islamic features — such as the mihrab, the minbar, and the four minarets outside — were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans. It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey.