Those wonderful people at the Luxury Cruise Company (www.theluxurycruisecompany.com) have come up with another of their popular “Top Ten Things to Do” items – this time featuring Istanbul. The author is Jacqui Ridler.
- Blue Mosque: decorated with 21,000 blue Iznik tiles. Ithis was built near the Hagia Sophia, over the site of the ancient hippodrome and Byzantine imperial palace. Construction began in 1609 and took seven years. It was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I when he was only 19. Starting point for many pilgrimages to Mecca.
- Topkapi Palace: official residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Visit the famous Treasury section, home to the Spoonmaker Diamond, the seventh largest diamond in the world. The kirchens contain one of the world’s richest collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelain.
- The Grand Bazaar: one oldest shopping areas in the World, now housing over 3,000 shops. Watch demonstrations of Turkish Carpet-making.
- A Bosphorus Cruise: explore the waterway between Asia and Europe. Look out for the Anatolian Fortress built in 1393, the European fortress (1452), the Dolmabahce, Ciragan and historical Beylerbeyi Palaces, and sail under the modern Bosphorus Bridge. Istanbul (or Constantinople) was Europe’s largest and wealthiest city in the Middle Ages.
- Hagia Sophia: the Byzantine Church of Divine Wisdom, in the Old City. Superb mosaics and marble decorations.
- Byzantine Hippodrome: once one of the largest chariot race grounds of the Byzantine Empire.
- Archaeology Museum: built at the end of the 19th century on land that was previously the gardens of the Topkopi Palace. The museum occupies two buildings. Highlights include artefacts and works of art belonging to ancient Greek, Roman and other Anatolian civilizations.
- Ibrahim Pasha Palace: a fine collection of art and ethnography in a lovely setting. It was built in the 16th century and donated to Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha by the great sultan Soliman the Magnificent.
- Byzantine cistern: southwest of Hagia Sophiaand and dating from the 6th century. This could store 100,000 tons of water, brought from Belgrade Forest, 12 miles north of Istanbul. It is supported by 336 various types of columns brought from different parts of the Empire. There are two Medusa friezes brought from the Temple of Apollo.
- Jewish Heritage (best seen on an organized tour): the history of the Jews can be dated back to the 4th century B.C. Ortaköy is a cosmopolitan area and popular for its art galleries, night clubs, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Visit Etz-Ahayim (Life Tree) Synagogue; the Galata district which includes the Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) Synagogue; and the Jewish Museum of Turkey. (Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews.)
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