Thursday, March 29, 2012

A quicky in Turkey

No, it is not about what is going on in your dirty mind. This post is about my short visit to Istanbul. Unfortunately, I was there not for leisure but for work. So, never got a chance to explore the city like I usually try to do. Therefore, I would definitely try to visit it again sometime. But for now, let me share some highlights from the time I got to see a little bit of the city.

Now, Turkey has always been considered as a bridge to connect the east and the west. Even today, the local people there talk about the European and the Asian side of Turkey/Istanbul. So, it has always been a place of great importance in history books. I have observed a particular fascination for Istanbul both among Europeans and Asians. There is a lot of history of Turkey related to India as well but let us not get there.

After spending the first four days, just hopping between meetings and returning late every evening back to the hotel, I was getting restless. After all, I was in the land of the Ottomans. After having read so much about their history, I wanted to see the place. So, on the last day, fortunately, work ended before lunch and I rushed to the main city to see whatever I could in that short time. I had my flight back to Germany late in the evening.  

Typically, the first place to visit in Istanbul is always Hagia Sofia. It is the biggest attraction of Istanbul. Maybe because of its history which dates back to the 5th Century. It was initially an Orthodox church basilica later it became a Catholic church cathedral, then it became a mosque and now serves as a museum for tourists. It is a typical example of Byzantine architecture with its huge dome and was used as a model of others mosques later build in the area. Unfortunately, due to the time restrictions, I was not able to visit it since there was a long queue outside the museum.

So, I decided to visit the place which was top on my list, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque (because of the blue tiles used). It had always fascinated me specially after seeing it in pictures and many movies. The view of the mosque from the Bosphorus is heavenly. If there is a movie shot in Istanbul, then I think there would be at least one shot of the mosque from the water. Another special feature for me was to see a mosque with six minarets instead of the usual four. Here is a picture while approaching the mosque

The monument is huge. And when I say huge, I really mean it. You feel it more once you enter the main door on the perimeter of the mosque.

And when you enter it through that main door, you just stand there in awe of the masterpiece. It is one of the most humongous monuments I have ever seen in my life. You can get an idea from the picture below.

I arrived there at the wrong time. It was time for the prayers so I could not enter the building. But, I was quite adamant to see it from the inside so I decided to come back again. In the meantime, I tried to check out the surroundings and the beautiful park build around the mosque. Below is a picture from the backside of the mosque.

I had always heard and read about people of faith performing the ozoo or Wudhu (in English) before performing the prayers. But, this was the first time to see that place in person. It was quite interesting for me to see so many taps and seats in a row in the picture below.

While waiting for the prayers to get over, I ended up at the Topkapi Palace Museum, the royal place of residence for the Ottomans. Here is a picture from its entrance facing the Blue Mosque. It has always fascinated me to see how in olden times they used to make buildings with such precision etc where the view from one door is to another fancy building.

Finally, I was back to the Blue Mosque after the prayers to witness its interiors. I can only say that I was blown over after seeing the place from the inside. It was really huge and beautiful. It is so big that it is almost impossible to get the complete thing in one picture. Here is a picture I took which I liked the most. People of faith praying inside one of the most beautiful holy places I have seen.

After the tourist attractions, I decided to see the real Istanbul i.e. the local area and the markets. I always believe that to get a real feel of a place, you have to visit its city center. So, I headed to the local markets. I used to think of Turkey very similar to India, culture wise, economic level wise, mentality wise etc. But after seeing a flashy tram running on its roads, I felt we need to catch up a bit technology wise.

A section of the main market had mostly small restaurants. Each restaurant had a guy standing on the walkway near the main street and screaming at the top of their lungs trying to lure tourists for a meal into their restaurants. Instantly, the view reminded me of Pahar Ganj side of New Delhi Railway Station :)

Below is a picture from the famous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It is one of the oldest and the largest covered markets in the world. I found it very similar to the Paalika Bazaar (near Connaught Place) in Delhi. The difference was that this was many times larger and spacious than Paalika Bazaar. But, it was similarly packed with shops selling everything from textiles to electronics, many of which were not original. And it was pretty crowded, lively and had a big hustle-bustle going on during the day.

I also could not miss to see the Bosphorus Bridge (often called the Golden Gate of Turkey) on the Bosphorus Strait which connects Europe with Asia. So, I went to see it as well. I always considered it as a big landmark. Unfortunately, I don't have a nice picture from there :(

I definitely have to visit it again to do proper justice to the city  !


Vaish said...

I visited Turkey 2 years back around same time of the year..spent about 5 days touring around istanbul...If you have time, check out my tukish delight series!

Carpe Diem! said...

::jealous:: said...

Vaish .. I know the horrors of loosing one's pics :( but I hope the pics here refreshed your memory :)

Carpe Diem ... ahh cmon dont be jealous .. save it for when I write about the Antalya trip :P

Carpe Diem! said...

I'm not even going to read that. :/ :P

Dr Mandeep Khanuja said...

oh i love the travelogues ! so absolutely enjoyed this piece on one of the most ethereal places in the world said...

I am glad you liked it :) it is really a place where the west meets the east

Nefertiti said...

A bit late in commenting, but man Turkey is so awesome. I loved the place and the post took me back a year when I was there... said...

It is never too late to say a few words :) And yes, it is pretty good. Like I said in the beginning of the post, I have to visit it again :)
Great to know that you had been there. Would be great to read your experiences as well !