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Summit Sight

Your Ararat Adventure

Touring Istanbul’s cultural sites
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The Aya Sofya seen at dusk.
The Roman emperor Justinian had this church built on the site of Byzantium’s acropolis to help restore the Roman Empire’s greatness. Completed in 537, the multi-domed marvel remained the greatest church in Christendom until the conquest in 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror turned it into a mosque. It became a museum in 1935, and today reigns as one of Old Istanbul’s most imposing structures. The name Aya Sofya means holy wisdom, and the stupendous structure is called Sancta Sophia in Latin, Hagia Sofia in Greek and the Church of the Divine Wisdom in English.
The Blue Mosque seen at dusk.
Ordered by Sultan Ahmet I, and constructed from 1606 to 1616, the Blue Mosque stands today as one of Istanbul’s largest, busiest and most recognizable structures. Designed by architect Mehmet Aga with a classic Ottoman motif, an ascending series of gates and stairs leading toward domes above, lift the entering visitor’s eyes toward heaven. Blue Iznik tiles and luminous stained glass windows decorate the stunning interior. The mosque has six minarets instead of the traditional four, since the Turkish words for gold and six sound alike, and when Ahmet ordered gold minarets, Aga heard six.
The Hippodrome marks the center of Sultanahmet Istanbul’s old city. The center of Byzantium’s life for 1,000 years, the Hippodrome hosted politically motivated and boisterously contested chariot races. The Ottoman sultans closely watched the Hippodrome races for another 400 years, since a riot at the Hippodrome signaled trouble in the empire.

The Hippodrome is easy walking distance from hotels in Istanbul’s old city.
The Grand Bazaar
This is Istanbul’s grand old shopping mall. Miles of crazy, but covered streets, alleys and lanes contain 4,000 dazzling shops selling everything from gold to gristle. The touts’ sometimes comical calls seem to be more show business than a serious sell. Bargaining is part of the fun, but you may cut the price in half and still pay too much. Nevertheless, bargains abound, and there are more shoppers than shops.

Reaching the Grand Bazaar from hotels in the old city requires a half mile walk or easy trolley ride.
The famous Turkish carpets are for sale throughout the city, and you will have numerous opportunities to learn about and shop for these beautiful coverings. With tourism booming in Turkey, prices have increased in recent years, but with careful, comparative pricing, and crafty bargaining, you can still find your floor friend.
The Suleymaniye Camile Mosque

Istanbul’s largest mosque crowns a hill overlooking the Golden Horn. Suleyman I, the richest and most powerful Ottoman Sultan, chartered Mimar Sinan, Turkey’s greatest architect, to build Turkey’s grandest mosque. Built between 1550 and 1557, architect Sinan challenged the great Aya Sofya’s vaulted glory, and visiting Suleymaniye Camile’s interior is an inspiring, neck-bending experience.
The Beylerbeyi Sarayi Palace

Sultan Abdulaziz had this 30-room summer palace built in the 1860s. Located on the Asian shore of the Bhosphorous, this marble marvel is replete with a fountain in the entrance hall, Bohemian crystal chandeliers, huge Ming vases and room-filling carpets. You can view the era’s opulence as part of a Bhosphorous tour.
Chora Church or Kariye Muzesi

The first church at this location was built in 333 on what was then a country site surrounded by bucolic scenery. Rebuilt in the late 11th century, the building has been repaired, and the frescos and mosaics inside carefully restored in recent years. The church is a museum today.

Inside, you will find an array of mosaics and frescos depicting the standard Byzantine order. They trace Christendom through the dedication, the offertory, Mary and Christ’s early years, Christ’s ministry, Mary’s dormition and finally a dramatic fresco showing Christ braving the gates of Hell to rescue Adam and Eve from their graves on judgment day.
Shopping for leather goods

In sharp contrast to Istanbul’s millennium-old marvels, a visit to this leather shop will jolt you back to today’s reality. After a strutty, leggy fashion show, you will have a chance to purchase your choice of fine leather jackets and leather accessories.
The Basilica Cistern

Justinian, incapable of thinking in small terms, had this enormous water storage tank built in 532. An astonishing 336 columns support the ceiling of this 230-foot by 460-foot sunken cistern, which once held almost a trillion gallons of water. Taken from distant, destroyed buildings, there are many different column styles on display here. In particular, two columns are supported by blocks with carved medusa heads. Now restored and scrubbed, this is a delightful, cool attraction.

The Cistern is adjacent to the Hippodrome in Istanbul’s old city.
The Bhosphorous Bridge

One of two bridges that cross the Bhosphorous Strait, this bridge links Europe and Asia. In this photo, Europe is on the left, and Asia is on the right.
Calmica Hill

This restful, open air restaurant offers a garden view of the Bhosphorous Strait from the Asian side of the bridge.
Every truth has two sides.
It is well to look at both sides before we commit ourselves to either side.
– Aesop
Copyright 2001-2021 by Gerry Roach and Stan Havlick. All Rights Reserved.