I guess I’ve already said I had great holidays, didn’t I 😉 ? I must admit I was truly mesmerised with Istanbul’s beauty. This city has it all – outstanding history, precious monuments yet vibrancy and soul of ever young metropolis. I would like to share some of my memories with you. So let me take you on a short walk around the Old Istanbul’s fabulous district – Sultanahmet (on the picture above you can see Aya Sofya on the left and Blue Mosque on the right – two outstanding creations that make the skyline of Istanbul so impressive).
Probably the most known monument of Old Istanbul is Aya Sofya. It is truly magnificent. I was honestly stunned by its colossal dome that is said to be the greatest of all. It is supported by 40 massive ribs that were constructed of especially made hollow bricks to lighten the construction. Since the completion in 537 it remained the greatest church in Christendom until it was converted into mosque in 1453 and further on into a museum in 1935. Apart from glorious dome Aya Sofya houses impressive mosaics of Christ, Madonna and archangels as well as the scene where Constantine the Great offers Mary who holds the Christ child, the city of Constantinopole.
Blue Mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet in the beginning of 17th century. Set opposite Aya Sofya it was supposed to rival in it’s exquisiteness. It’s not only the exterior grandeur to be admired. The interior is covered with tens of thousands of blue tiles (hence the name) and the light goes to the central prayer space through 260 stained-glass windows.
Another treasure of Sultanahmet is hidden underground. It’s the basilica cistern – enormous water storage of 140m length and 70m width with 4.8m thick walls, built by Byzantine emperor Justinianus. It has an amazing capacity of 100 000 tons water storage. This magnificent structure stuns in yet another way. The ceiling gravity is distributed to 336 columns in Corinthian and Doric style that are grouped in symmetric, seemingly endless rows.
Last, but not least one must mention splendid Topkapi Palace that was a home of sultans till mid 19th century. The palace is based on four court plan starting from the quarters that were available to every citizen and finishing on private monarch’s apartments. Not surprisingly, the most interesting part is visiting imperial family quarters so called Harem.
Islamic law allows the sultan to have four wives, but doesn’t regulate anyhow the amount of concubines (and some of the sultans were said to have over 300 of them!). Lonely Planet guide says: “The women of Topkapi’s harem had to be foreigners as Islam forbade enslaving Muslims, Christians or Jews. Girls, too, were bought as slaves or were received as gifts from nobles and potentates. On entering the harem, the girls would be schooled in Islam and Turkish culture and language, as well as the arts of make-up, dress, comportment, music, reading and writing, embroidery and dancing. They then entered a meritocracy, first as ladies-in-waiting to the sultan’s concubines and children, then to the sultan’s mother and finally if they were the best, to the sultan himself”.
As the Ottoman dynasty didn’t observe primogeniture any imperial son was able to inherit the throne, therefore each lady struggled to have her son proclaimed to the throne, what was resulting in numerous murders. Apart from Harem, Topkapi palace offers some other intriguing sights. Particularly worth of mentioning is the Treasury, where one can admire the 5th largest diamond in the world as well as Sacred Safekeeping Rooms that contain a hair of Prophet Mohammed’s beard, his footprint and sword as well as Moses wand, which he used to divide the waters of Red Sea amongst other peculiarities.
So this is it, I hope you enjoyed the post as well as I hope I left you hungry for more pics, cause I still have some stashed from other Istanbul’s districts 😉