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Turkey - Embrace your Dreams - 2007



Date of Travel: March 10 2007 - March 14 2007
Travelers: Karthik Raja and Shwetha Shrivatsa

We decided to extend my school trip into a delightful vacation in Turkey. Turkey, especially Istanbul, is where east meets west. Grand Roman and Ottoman monuments stand majestically amidst modern structures. Every street corner boasts of some historic monument. The city is dotted with over 2000 mosques and chances are that you would spot a minaret wherever you look. It is also the only city that lies in two continents and has a sea runnning through the city. The entire historic area of Istanbul is a World Heritage Site.

Day 1: Karthik joined me on Saturday afternoon after a long 11 hour flight. We transferred to our hotel, Historia, in the historic neighborhood of Sultanahmet. It is a small family run hotel, like many in the area. The rooms are not spacious, but the people are friendly and the balaconies offer great views. We spent the afternoon at the Ayasofya and Blue Mosque, both a few hundred metres from the hotel. The Ayasofya or Saint Sophia or Hagia Sophia is a museum now, but was once a church and then a mosque. The architecture is a unique combination of Byzantine and Ottoman influences. The Christian mosaic pieces and Islamic calligraphy are exquisite and reflect the mastery of the artisans. The Blue Mosque was the Ottoman's answer to the Hagia Sophia, and though not as big is nevertheless a masterpiece. With its six minarets it would stand out even in the best of company. The Blue Mosque is a functional mosque so be cognizant of the prayer times as the mosque is closed for visitors during this time. Both of these monuments lie in the Sultanahmet square area right next to the Hippodrome. We spent the rest of the evening in the square, ended the day with a relaxed dinner at one of the restaurants in the area.

Day 2: We began the day early and reached Topkapi Palace around 9:30 am. Topkapi Palace was the seat of the Ottoman empire for many centuries. Having conquered Constantinople, Mehmed the conqueror had his newly acquired peninsula crowned with this magnificent palace. The harem section opens at 10:00 am so try and be a part of the first group to get in else it gets extremely crowded. This section has a separate entrance fee of 10 liras and is a guided group tour for half an hour. The tiles, carvings and beauty of each of the rooms in the harem is mind blowing. We then saw the treasury, library, pottery and armory sections and ended the visit with a magnificent view of the Bosphorous from the terrace of the palace and understood why this peninsula, being naturally surrounded by water on three sides, served as the capital for many empires and also why it was so difficult to capture. The next stop was the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque, the biggest mosque in Istanbul. It is a 20 minute walk from the palace but definitely was not boring, as nothing in Istanbul can be. Along the way, we stopped for a typical Ottomon cuisine, and being vegetarians, we coulnd't taste the meat, but the rice, beans and veggies were well prepared. The Suleymaniye Mosque exudes the beauty and elegance like all the Ottoman monuments. Again this is a functional mosque and we had to wait a while before we could get in. Our last stop for the monuments was the Bascilla Cistern. This is an engineering marvel, which once provided water to the palaces of the Ottoman Empire. After a hectic day of sightseeing we decided to unwind by going to see the night life on Istiklal street, one of the most happening places in Istanbul. If you thought Istanbul is all about history and is very conservative, think again. A walk down this street will bring you face to face with today's Istanbul, young, western influenced and vibrant.

Day 3: One of the must do things while you are in Istanbul is a cruise on the Bosphorous sea. So we decided to enjoy a morning observing the sights and sounds of Istanbul from the water’s edge. We got a chance to see the Dolmabahce Palace (the current functional palace that hosts all the visiting dignitaries), the Kuleli Military High School, Rumeli fort, the summer palace, hunting palace and Ortakoy Mosque to name a few. Our guide Hanifi was a great help. If you are visiting Istanbul on your own, then we would advise contacting the registered guides in the city to help walk you through the many monuments. After a refreshing boat ride we decided to spend the afternoon shopping at the bazaars. Shopping at the Grand and Spice Bazaars is a unique experience. Bargaining is the name of the game. We ended our Istanbul experience with an excellent Turkish dinner at the Haci Baba restaurant on Istiklal street.

Day 4: We set out early to Bursa which is about 300km from Istanbul. The city is famous for its ski resorts and silk, being the last stop on the silk route. The tour operator picked us up from the hotel and we drove for about an hour into Asia and then took a ferry. This was followed by another 2 hour drive and we finally arrived in Bursa. We took a quick tour of the Arasta silk bazaar attached to the Ulu Mosque and then proceeded to the mosque. The calligraphy inside the mosque was exquisite and artistic and not to mention apparently one of a kind. The next stop was the Green mosque. The interior of the mosque is decorated with a mosaic of blue green tiles on walls and ceiling of eyvans from which it gets its name. The city is known for its Iskander kebabs but being vegetarians we had to settle for pizza. We ate in style however, on a terrace overlooking Bursa, from the famous Kebab of Alexander restaurant. Our final destination was Mt. Olympus or Uludag. After two cable car rides we reached the top of the mountain where it was snowing hard. The view from the cable car was breath taking. This would be a great resort to come to in the peak of winter for the skiing or peak summer to enjoy the views. We ended the day with another delicious Turkish meal at The Turquoise Café in Sultanahmet. Turquoise itself is derived from the French word for Turkey.

Our Turkish vacation was short and sweet and we headed back home on the 14th. We definitely want to go back some day and visit the Cappadocia and Ephesus regions.

View of the Golden Horn, Istanbul
View of the Golden Horn, Istanbul
Istanbul rooftops
Istanbul rooftops
Galata Tower - man's first flight, Istanbul
Galata Tower - man's first flight, Istanbul
Sultanahmet Peninsula, Istanbul
Sultanahmet Peninsula, Istanbul
Bebek area, Istanbul
Bebek area, Istanbul
Dolmabahce palace, Istanbul
Dolmabahce palace, Istanbul
Bosphorous coast,  Istanbul
Bosphorous coast, Istanbul
Ciragan Palace, Istanbul
Ciragan Palace, Istanbul
Beylerbeyi Palace, Istanbul
Beylerbeyi Palace, Istanbul
Mansion on the Bosphorous, Istanbul
Mansion on the Bosphorous, Istanbul
Mansion on Bosphorous, Istanbul
Mansion on Bosphorous, Istanbul
Savarona on the Bosphorous, Istanbul
Savarona on the Bosphorous, Istanbul
Rumeli Fortress and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge, Istanbul
Rumeli Fortress and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge, Istanbul
Rumeli fortress, Istanbul
Rumeli fortress, Istanbul
Speeding away from the Rumelli Fortress, Istanbul
Speeding away from the Rumelli Fortress, Istanbul
Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, Istanbul
Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, Istanbul
Kuleli Military High School, Istanbul
Kuleli Military High School, Istanbul
View of the European side, Bosphorous, Istanbul
View of the European side, Bosphorous, Istanbul
The Turkish flag
The Turkish flag
Bosphorous Bridge, Istanbul
Bosphorous Bridge, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia from Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia from Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul
The historic glow at dusk, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
The historic glow at dusk, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Stone for sacrficing lambs, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Stone for sacrficing lambs, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
The beautiful dome painting, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
The beautiful dome painting, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Islamic mihrab, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Islamic mihrab, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Pulpit, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Pulpit, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Names of Caliphs, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Names of Caliphs, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Close up of the gold paint, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Close up of the gold paint, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Christ Pantocrator, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Christ Pantocrator, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Virgin Mary and child, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Virgin Mary and child, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Mother Mary and Baby Jesus, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Mother Mary and Baby Jesus, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
A view from below, inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
A view from below, inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Offering Istanbul and the Haghia Sophia, Istanbul
Offering Istanbul and the Haghia Sophia, Istanbul
Mosaic unrestored, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Mosaic unrestored, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
The Blue Mosque, Six minarets - the identifying mark, Istanbul
The Blue Mosque, Six minarets - the identifying mark, Istanbul
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Fountain, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Fountain, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Dusk, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Dusk, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Entrance to the Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Entrance to the Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Shawl seller, outside Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Shawl seller, outside Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Fountain to perform your ablutions, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Fountain to perform your ablutions, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The many domes of the Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The many domes of the Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The main prayer area, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The main prayer area, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Stained glass windows, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Stained glass windows, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Reflections, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Reflections, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The candles - Prayer Hall, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The candles - Prayer Hall, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Prayer time, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Prayer time, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Blue Tiles - the reason for the name, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Blue Tiles - the reason for the name, Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Entrance, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Entrance, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The Gate, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The Gate, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Coat of Arms, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Coat of Arms, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The Harem, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The Harem, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The Concubine rooms, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The Concubine rooms, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The courtyard, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The courtyard, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
School visit, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
School visit, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The princes'  room, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The princes' room, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Windows in Iznik style, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Windows in Iznik style, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Dome patterns, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Dome patterns, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Dome, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Dome, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Hand painted walls, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Hand painted walls, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The golden gate behind which the Sultan hid, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The golden gate behind which the Sultan hid, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Even before restoration it's beautiful, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Even before restoration it's beautiful, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The decorated tap, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The decorated tap, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The council room dome, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The council room dome, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Dome, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Dome, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
What a dome!, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
What a dome!, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Obelisk, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Obelisk, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
The carvings, Obelisk, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
The carvings, Obelisk, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
German fountain, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
German fountain, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Dome of the German fountain, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Dome of the German fountain, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Serpent Column, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Serpent Column, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Hotel Historia, Istanbul
Hotel Historia, Istanbul
Milyonbar, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Milyonbar, Hippodrome, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul
Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul
Ancient pillar, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Ancient pillar, Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Band playing in the Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
Band playing in the Sultanahment Square, Istanbul
View of the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul
View of the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul
Marmara University, Istanbul
Marmara University, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Windows, Istanbul
Cafe, Istanbul
Cafe, Istanbul
The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı) entrance, Istanbul
The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı) entrance, Istanbul
Underground magic, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
Underground magic, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
Fish in the pond, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
Fish in the pond, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
Medusa, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
Medusa, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
A never ending passsage, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
A never ending passsage, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), Istanbul
Entrance, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Entrance, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
The grand courtyard, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
The grand courtyard, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Sinan's work of art, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Sinan's work of art, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Towering minaret. Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Towering minaret. Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Courtyard, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Courtyard, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Inner Dome, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Inner Dome, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Prayer Hall, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Prayer Hall, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Artwork on Dome, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Artwork on Dome, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Ortakoy, Istanbul
Ortakoy, Istanbul
Past meets Present - Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan (Dolmabahçe) Mosque, Istanbul
Past meets Present - Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan (Dolmabahçe) Mosque, Istanbul
Fishing in the Golden horn
Fishing in the Golden horn
Constantinus Monument - Cemberlitas, Istanbul
Constantinus Monument - Cemberlitas, Istanbul
Turkish Bath, Istanbul
Turkish Bath, Istanbul
The Clock Tower at Dolmabahce, Istanbul
The Clock Tower at Dolmabahce, Istanbul
View of the busy Bosphorous, Istanbul
View of the busy Bosphorous, Istanbul
Galata Tower in the distance, Istanbul
Galata Tower in the distance, Istanbul
Tram, Istanbul
Tram, Istanbul
Sultan II. Abdulhamid ve II. Mahmud Türbesi, Istanbul
Sultan II. Abdulhamid ve II. Mahmud Türbesi, Istanbul
Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Nightlife on Istiklal Caddesi (street), Istanbul
Nightlife on Istiklal Caddesi (street), Istanbul
Entrance to Spice Bazaar, Istanbul
Entrance to Spice Bazaar, Istanbul
Shopper's paradise, Bazaar, Istanbul
Shopper's paradise, Bazaar, Istanbul
Nuts, Bazaar, Istanbul
Nuts, Bazaar, Istanbul
Tea anyone?, Bazaar, Istanbul
Tea anyone?, Bazaar, Istanbul
Nargile, Bazaar, Istanbul
Nargile, Bazaar, Istanbul
'How can I help you spend your money?', Bazaar, Istanbul
'How can I help you spend your money?', Bazaar, Istanbul
Entrance to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Entrance to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Shopping Maze, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Shopping Maze, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Another loop, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Another loop, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Entrance to the jewellery section, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Entrance to the jewellery section, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Coasts of Yalova, Turkey
Coasts of Yalova, Turkey
Ferry across the Sea of Marmara, Turkey
Ferry across the Sea of Marmara, Turkey
Hungry Sea Gulls, Sea of Marmara, Turkey
Hungry Sea Gulls, Sea of Marmara, Turkey
Great Mosque - Ulu Camii, Bursa, Turkey
Great Mosque - Ulu Camii, Bursa, Turkey
View of beautiful Bursa
View of beautiful Bursa
Green Mosque, Bursa
Green Mosque, Bursa
Colorful buildings, Bursa
Colorful buildings, Bursa
Cable car ride, up Uludag mountain, Turkey
Cable car ride, up Uludag mountain, Turkey
Hill slopes, Uludag, Turkey
Hill slopes, Uludag, Turkey
Mountain Lodge, Uludağ
Mountain Lodge, Uludağ
Great Mosque, Bursa
Great Mosque, Bursa
Arasta bazaar, Bursa
Arasta bazaar, Bursa
Green Mosque, Bursa
Green Mosque, Bursa
Praying time, Green Mosque, Bursa
Praying time, Green Mosque, Bursa
Calligraphy, Green Mosque, Bursa
Calligraphy, Green Mosque, Bursa
Tower into the sky, Green Mosque, Bursa
Tower into the sky, Green Mosque, Bursa
Entrance to the Green mosque, Bursa
Entrance to the Green mosque, Bursa
Door, Green Mosque, Bursa
Door, Green Mosque, Bursa
Pulpit at the Green Mosque, Bursa
Pulpit at the Green Mosque, Bursa
Magical land, Bursa - Uludag, Turkey
Magical land, Bursa - Uludag, Turkey
Turkish Airlines, Istanbul
Turkish Airlines, Istanbul
Magic Carpets, Istanbul
Magic Carpets, Istanbul
Turkish Delights, Istanbul
Turkish Delights, Istanbul
Water Chestnuts, Istanbul
Water Chestnuts, Istanbul
Baklava, Istanbul
Baklava, Istanbul
Turkish Coffee, Istanbul
Turkish Coffee, Istanbul
Simit on the streets, Istanbul
Simit on the streets, Istanbul
Freshly squeezed orange juice and Apple tea, Istanbul
Freshly squeezed orange juice and Apple tea, Istanbul
Ottoman cuisine, Istanbul
Ottoman cuisine, Istanbul
Cats in Turkey
Cats in Turkey