14 Ağustos 2012 Salı

Hello Istanbul Traveller,

I'm Ahmet Aydogan, from Istanbul CouchSurfing.
I decided to create this blog to give firsttimers to Istanbul a rough idea of what there is to see in the city... all accecible on foot or public transport... meaning it is essential to have city's public transport card Istanbulkart.
But, Please, be reminded that the blog is still incomplete as it is new and Istanbul is a diverse giant to cover easily ;)
A quick reminder of the money scene here as for you to have an idea about the prices given in the blog...
The exchange rate as of 2nd May, 2014: 1 USD = 2.10 TRY / 1 EUR= 2.92 TRY / Currency Converter.

So, here we go...

There is no social difference between the two sides of Istanbul. The words 'European' and 'Asian' or 'Anatolian' only refer to the geographical facts as the city is devided into two between the easternmost point of the Continent of Europe and the westernmost point of the Continet of Asia (Asia Minor).
Generally speaking, the Historic Peninsula, once the mighty Constantinople, is the historic centre... Taksim Area is the centre for 'city lights' of all sorts...
The Asian side is residential... altough there are some sights and few things to do... at the end of the day it goes to sleep not much later than midnight.

How to get into the city from Ataturk and Sabiha airports:

(ISTANBUL'S PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS A RIP-OFF IF YOU PAY IN CASH. DO GET AN 'ISTANBULKART' AS A FIRST THING AT THE AIRPORTS if you arrive during official work hours of the buses and the metro (underground)... or as soon as possible when you get in town.
Please, do also note that to be able to get the discounts everyone should have their own card.)

Apart from the taxi option Havatas Airport Shuttles are the most straight forward way getting into the city particularly during the night when the public transport is scarce.
From Ataturk to Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque area) and Taksim Square you can also take the metro (M1)... changing at ZEYTINBURNU to the tram (T1) line (KABATAS direction)... and either get off at Sultanahmet station, or just continue to the last station of the line: Kabatas... and take the funicular up to Taksim Square from there.
For the asian side, get off at KARAKOY station which is at one end of the Galata Bridge and ask for the KADIKOY-HAYDARPASA ferry which is only about 100 meters away.

From Sabiha (on the asian side) to Taksim Square the best way is the Havatas Shuttle (12 TL.)... once you are there, you can take a taxi or the funicular-and-tram combination to get to Sultanahmet.
Also from Sabiha there are three public buses running to three places of the asian side: E-9 to Bostanci (the one to get to my place); E-10 to Kadikoy centre, where you can catch ferries to the european side of the city... and the third SG-1 to Kadikoy (you can ignore this one).
Public bus fare from Sabiha is 6 TL... You can purchase an istanbulkart here, too.


Metro and Tram runs from 06:00 till Midnight... the Funicular from 06:15 till midnight.
E-9 and E-10 from Sabiha run 24 hours.
SG-1 runs from 04:00 till 01:00... again almost 24h.
The Kadikoy-Haydarpasa ferry from 06:00 till 23:00, in the summer till midnight.

How to get into the city from the main bus terminal.

Most bus companies have free shuttle services from Esenler 'Otogar' (city's main bus terminal) to Taksim Square and other central locations... and vice versa.
However, there is still the metro (M1) option available here:
To get to Sultanahmet and Taksim, for example, take trains going Ataturk Airport direction and change at Zeytinburnu station to the tram line (T1) going Kabatas direction.
For Taksim, get off at Kabatas and take the Funicular up... (each ride 3 TL).

26 Temmuz 2012 Perşembe

Historic Sights & Walks

The Historic Peninsula: 'Byzantine'... 'Constatinopolis'... 'Estambul'... Istanbul...

Hagia Sophia (360 AD) or Ayasofya in Turkish is my number one monument of the city... a witness of the rise and fall of two empires and today's Turkey.
Besides, there has been a very important recovey of a face of a seraph, a six winged angel, 160 years later after being plastered. So, Certainly not to be missed.
Also, don't be mislead by the word 'museum' in its official name as it has nothing to do with classical museums. The word is used just to tell that the place is not a place of worship. (Entry: 30 TL / Closed on Mondays / Last entry: 16:00)
One interesting point here is that Hagia Sophia has a sister who experienced the same type of destiny, La Mezquita, the cathedral-mosque of Cordoba (987 AD), Spain... which started off as the big mosque of The Moors, later converted into a cathedral by the new comers. Although, today it's being used as the cathedral of the city the name remains as 'The Mosque of Cordoba': La Mezquita.
Blue Mosque (1616) one of the masterpieces of the Ottoman architecture, located right opposite Hagia Sophia.
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi / Entry: 10 TL) located right across the road on the right as you're coming out from Hagia Sophia.
Topkapi Palace Museum Although the palace has a very 'museum-museum' feel to it, it's still a unique example reflecting the aesthetics and the glory of the Emperial Ottoman period of human history. The Harem section -the golden cage- is worth seeing as it not spoiled with glass displays like the rest of the palace. (Entry: 30 TL, Extra 15 TL for The Harem / Closed on Tuesdays).
Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, gone very touristy today with its 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops... once the heart of all trades and 'economy' of the Ottoman Empire... (Closed on Sundays)
'Little Hagia Sophia' Mosque (Kücük Ayasofya 565) or formerly the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus.
This Byzantine building with a central dome plan, maybe little boring from the outside, was erected in the 6th century by Justinian, likely was a model for Hagia Sophia (St. Sophia), and is one of the most important early Byzantine buildings in Istanbul. The building today is still being used as a mosque... since 1500s.

Archeological Museum Worth even to pop in & out just to see the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great. (10 TL / Last entry: 18:00 / Closed on Mondays)
Spice Bazaar or Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) is the second largest covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar. The bazaar was (and still is) the center for spice trade in Istanbul, but in the last years more and more shops of other type are replacing the spice shops.
Rüstem Pasa Mosque (1563) A little architectural gem built by The Architect Sinan, famous for its tiles... only about 100 meters to the west of the Spice Bazaar.
Süleymaniye Mosque (1558) One of architect Sinan's masterpieces and a landmark of Istanbul. There are couple of non-touristy rooftop cafes on the narrow road along its (north) facade facing the Golden Horn & Galata Tower, where you can snap some breathtaking dusk and evening photos of the city and the Bosphorus, (pic below).

Street Market (only on Wednesdays) also called the Wednesday Market (Carsamba Pazari)... Istanbul's second largest... next to Fatih Mosque about 500 meters from Süleymaniye Mosque. In between you will see the most striking part of the Roman Aquaduct which carried water to the Basilica Cistern.
Vefa Bozacisi A traditional place between the Aquaduct and Süleymaniye modque where you can taste a glass of millet drink, Boza with cinnamon sprinkle and 'leblebi', a kind of snack made from roasted chickpeas.
Sirkeci Railway Station Constantinople end of The Orient Express... right opposite the Sirkeci tram station, 200 m east of the Spice Bazaar.
St.Chora (Kariye Müzesi) or formerly The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora... as important as Hagia Sophia, in Edirnekapi, east end of the neighbourhood of Fatih.
St.Chora is in about 50 min. walking distance from the Süleymaniye Msq. (15 TL / Closed on Wednesdays)
Fethiye Museum or formerly the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos. The least busy one of the three 'once-church&mosque-but-today-museum' places, along with Hagia Sophia and St.Chora. It's located about a km west of Fatih Mosque on the way to St.Chora (5 TL. / Closed on Wednesdays).
Tekfur Palace or formerly The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus. Once you are at St Chora, which is only 50 m. from the city wall you might as well walk up there and have a quick glimps of this Palace from the otside as it's closed to visits.
Ali Pasa Medresesi for waterpipe. It's quite a popular place among locals and visitors... located on the right handside of the main road where the tram runs, from Sultanahmet to Beyazit Sq. (Grand Bazaar), say about 100 m. before you get to Beyazit tram station.

If you drarw a straihgt line from the Sultanahmet Square you'd find -from east to west- Hagia Sophia, Ali Pasa Medresesi, Grand Bazaar, Süleymaniye Mosque, Vefa Bozacisi, The Roman Aquaduct, Fatih Mosque, Fatih Market (only on Wed), Fethiye Museum, St.Chora, Tekfur Palace and The Western Walls streching from the sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn.
Eyüp Sultan Mosque (1458) is situated in the district of Eyüp on the European side of Istanbul, near the Golden Horn, outside the Walls of Constantinople. It was the first mosque constructed by the Ottoman Turks following their conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
The mosque rises next to the place where Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Eyüp Sultan), the standard-bearer of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, is said to have been buried during the Arab assault on Constantinople in 670. As some of the personal belongings of Muhammad are also preserved in the tomb, Eyüp Sultan is greatly visited by Muslims especially on Fridays and religiously important periods like Ramadan, Eids, etc.
Google Map for the places so far...

Istanbul Walks

Across the Historic Peninsula

Once you are in Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque District) the main sights are almost next to one another in a big circle centering Hagia Sophia.
So, here is one nice strech of walk starting from a spot on the edge of this circle: Beyazit Square (near Grand Bazaar) all the way to the Western Wall of Constantinople and little beyond... to Eyup Sultan, covering some very important Byzantine & Ottoman remains.... like Beyazit Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, Vefa Millet Drink Shop, Roman Aquaduct, Fatih Mosque, Fethiye Museum (except Wednesdays), St.Chora / Kariye Museum (except Wednesdays), Western Wall & Tekfur, the last Byzantine Palace and Eyup Sultan Mosque & the Holy Relics.
From Eyup there are public buses to Eminonu and Taksim Square.

Google Map of the Walk & Its Photo Album

Taksim to Sultanahmet

You can start this walk from either end... In Taksim Square, the Victory Monument, designed by Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica, in 1928, is one nice piece of art to look at, in the heart of the city.
The monument was also constructed in order to challenge the taboos that had existed from Ottoman times that restricted the depiction of the human form, this was done in compliance with the Sharia. The 11 m (36 ft) high monument portrays the founders of the Turkish Republic. The monument has two sides, the side facing northward depicts Atatürk at an earlier period and the other one facing Istiklal Caddesi has Atatürk and his comrades dressed in modern, western-European clothing, symbolizing him in both his roles, as military commander-in-chief and as statesman.
Along the strech from this monument as far as the Galata Bridge you can see Balik Pazari & Avrupa Pasaji (Fish Market & Europe Arcade), Italian Catholic Church, Galata Tower & Beyoglu Eye Hospital Building, Camondo Stairs, Bankalar (Banks) Street, Karakoy Fish Market & Restaurants and the Galata Bridge.
On the other side of the bridge, in Eminonu, you first get to a place where you can have Fish Sandwiches from a boat & Pickles... go underpassage to the other side of the road for the Egytian Spice Market, Yeni & Rustem Pasa mosques... further up the hill Suleymaniye Mosque where it is possible to try traditional Turkish Bean & Rice dish at the raw of restaurants.
From Suleymaniye you can either continue to Beyazit Square - Grandbazaar & Sultanahmet, or keep going west to find Vefa Bozacisi, the millet drink shop, and the Roman Aquaduct, Sehzade Mosque and then arrive in Beyazit Square.

Google Map of the Walk

The Islands

Prince Islands (Adalar)