Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Where Sultans once walked

We finally made it back home from Istanbul!  It was pretty amazing to be able to walk where Roman emperors and Ottoman sultans once roamed.  A place that at one time, was even declared to be the New Rome and the capital of the Roman Empire. 

I have so much I want to share with you!  For me, the most fascinating and remarkable sites were in Old Town around the Hippodrome, a long, narrow park-like square which was once a Roman chariot racetrack.   I'll try to give you a brief overview of each site, but believe me, there is so much more that could be told!

The Egyptian Obelisk & the Column of Constantine

The Obelisk was carved 1,500 years before the birth of Christ to honor Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III and was brought here on the Upper Nile in the 4th century A.D.  It was a huge piece of construction with only the upper third of the original now being viewed.

Behind the Obelisk in the photo is the Column of Constantine that was built in the 4th century A.D. 

The Blue Mosque

My favorite of all the sites was The Blue Mosque.  With its 6 minarets, it is named for the rich blue color of the handmade ceramic tiles.  It was built in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmet to rival Hagia Sophia (which comes later in this post).  The enormous central dome can fit Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral or the Statue of Liberty minus the torch.  Many of the floral designed stained glass windows are original.

This was the pinnacle of Ottoman architecture and marked the beginning of the empire's decline.  
It is still used as a mosque today.

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace, with its many pavilions, courtyards and 16th century kitchens, was built on the remains of ancient Byzantium.  Not only was it the residence of many great sultans but it served as the administrative palace.  The rich colorful detail took my breath away.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia has been called the greatest house of worship in the Christian and Muslim worlds.  Built in 537 A.D (!)  it was the single greatest achievement of the Byzantine Empire with its mosaics and beautiful fine marble.  First a church, then a mosque, it now serves as a museum.  Take a look at the marble in this place.  Just gorgeous and some of those pieces are huge!

Underground Cistern

The underground cistern was built in the 6th century A.D. to store water for the city.  It is the size of two football fields and once held 27 million gallons of water.  336 recycled Roman columns support the brick ceiling.  A walkway has been built above the foot high water which these days is the home of various fish which help keep the water clean.

Hope I haven't bored you yet with a little of Istanbul's history.
These pictures can not adequately illustrate the
richness of this remarkable place.

Over the next few days, I'll share some of our other

And in the meantime, I hope to catch up with all of you
and see what you have been up to!

Later, my friends!