Posted by: vlibrizzi | November 17, 2009

Istanbul: Day 3–New Istanbul

We began our final day in Instanbul by enjoying the sun while having breakfast on the roof deck of our hotel (ahh…life is good!)

After enjoying the sun for a bit, we walked through the book bazaar (famous for selling used books and old maps) to see the beautiful gates of Istanbul University. Unfortunately, the gates were closed and we weren’t allowed to enter the school (it was Sunday after all and there were no classes in session), but it was nice to just be able to see the famous, ornate gates and then move on.

 

Our bad luck continued when, after striking out at the university, we tried to visit the Suleymanye Mosque …but it was closed because the mosque is under renovation. Shucks! 

Determined not to allow our string of bad luck to continue, we happily walked around the grounds of the mosque and got to see some really interesting Muslim tombstones (see photo to the left). 

Later in the day, we took the above-ground tram across the river to the new(er) section of Istanbul. 

 

 

 We took an elevator to the top of the Galata Tower (photo to the left) in order to see some views of Istanbul from above. The Galata tower was built by the Romans for defense purposes, because from the top of the tower, you can see all of the three different waterways feeding into the center of they city. (Yes, we are aware of the irony that there are 1,500 year old buildings even in the “new” section)

More than any other city we’ve visited this year, we thought that Istanbul is perfectly placed. It’s a great strategic city because it sits on so many waterways and trade routes…it’s not wonder that this city was head of powerful empires for 15 centuries. 

 

Here’s a photo of the two of us on the top of the tower. You can see some views of the Bosphorous and the city in the background.

 

 

 

 

Before moving on to our next tourist destination for the day, we stopped at a fabulous, small fish restaurant a stones throw away from the Galata Tower (photo to the left). As you can see in the photo, the restaurant only has two tables, and a husband and wife team work in the small kitchen to grill up the fish specials of the day. 

We absolutely loved our meals…especially the cod fish wraps. In fact, we even had to order more after our first serving…the food was just that good!

 

 

So, after our lunch, we took a taxi to Dolmabahce Palace. The palace was built in the 1800’s by the Ottoman Sultan at the time, and compared to the Topkapi palace, it really shows how much Ottoman styles were influenced by other European monarchies over time. For example, the Topkapi palace is a series of smaller buildings in a very Middle Eastern style with ornate tilework,and domes and arches that remind one of other Muslim architecture. In contrast, the Dolmabahce palace is one large building with very ornate design and decor in the style of Versailles, or any other grand European palace. 

 

 

Unfortunately, we were not able to take photos inside the palace (we even had to wear booties over our shoes so as to not damage the floors or ornate Turkish rugs), but I can tell you that it is definitely worth the visit. The Sultans had beaucoup bucks! I saw probably the most beautiful chandelier I’ll ever see in the palace with red and white French baccarat crystal…it weighed several tons. That’s all I have to say about that.

The grounds of the palace were beautiful as well. You can see in the photo to the left one of the many gates that leads onto the water. Wouldn’t it be nice to pull up on a boat to that gate? 🙂

 

As the palace was closing, we took a taxi up the Bosphorous to a trendy neighborhood near the bridge called Ortakoy.  This area is filled with little restaurants, bars, and cafes, where locals were playing backgammon at all the outdoor tables.  The streets all spill down onto a waterfront plaza featuring a beautiful baroque-style mosque.  The view of the mosque lit up and the bridge up above is gorgeous as you walk along the water.  We dropped into one of the many cafes to have a drink and enjoy a few mezes (small plates, like eating tapas in Turkey).

Later that night, C. and I went to Kadikoy (a neighborhood that was very far from our hotel…we had no idea how large Istanbul really is), for dinner at an excellent buffet-style restaurant called Ciya Sofrasi. If you’re ever in Istanbul, you have to eat at this place. The food was amazing…and so were the prices!

But, really, if you haven’t been to Istanbul, you must go. It is an absolutely amazing city, both in terms of it’s history and its culture…and the food isn’t too bad either 🙂

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