Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Ottoman Chronicles –I

I’m an avid traveler. E-Traveler. Every single minute I have free on my hand I browse through the sites like Lonely Planet, Discovery, etc. Gazing at those beautiful pictures from far away lands and choking over the astronomical flight ticket rates which burned holes in my pockets and heart just by glancing them; I had been content to be what I was, the e-traveler.

So when we made a plan to visit Turkey. Booked hotels and packed our bags. People kept asking me “Why Turkey? Why not Greece or Europe?” To be honest, I had no definitive answer.

Turkey is under explored if you ask me. The place has so much to offer and I only had a paltry ten days to spend there. So the trip planning itself became difficult. There were too many beautiful places to see. We had to pick and choose. It’s like being in Baskin Robbins if you know what I mean. You run from one end of the counter to the other to make sure that every gram of your cup is worth it. Same way we ran our fingers back and forth the map of turkey to see what we could accommodate in the ten precious days we had. So finally we decided to do the west coast of Turkey. We would fly to Doha and after then to Istanbul. That would be the first leg of our trip.

Turkey has its presence both in Europe and Asia. Istanbul happens to be in Europe while its capital Ankara is in Asia. There are two bridges that connect the two continents as well – Bosphorus Bridges.

Turkey was ruled by Byzantines till around 1200’s AD and from then on till 1923 (when Turkey was declared a republic) they were under the powerful Ottoman Empire. In fact Ottoman Empire happens to be one of the longest lasting empires in the history of the world. Turkey was never a colony to any country of the west. Thanks to this fact there is an absolute absence of the colonial form of racism-Whites and Asians are treated with equal respect; a welcome change after being in the Asian environment for a long time and assuming “white man gets priority” was the way the world worked.

After eight hours flight from Singapore to Doha, a nine hour stop over at Doha inclusive of a half hour spent at Doha air port hospital* , four hours flight to Istanbul and numerous meals in between we landed at Istanbul Airport. All my life I have been a tropical creature and was suddenly placed in a near chilling temperature with cold winds so that by the time I walked into the hotel I was shivering so much that I thought all my teeth would fall off. We had a nice dinner at the nearest restaurant. Lovely tomato chorba as they call it and a variety of vegetarian options.

Next three days in Istanbul was not tightly packed, but we saw a lot of things, bought a lot of stuff and generally had very relaxing days. One of the days I walked from my hotel down the town to stand by the sea. It was chilly but I felt at peace. There I was standing by the sea, in a strange country with a language I could not speak, alone watching the sea gulls.

So here’s what we saw:
Blue Mosque:
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historical mosque in Istanbul.The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, it has also become a popular tourist attraction.

Hagia Sophia: Built as a church converted to a mosque,the silent witness to conversion from Byzantine to Ottoman,the church stands a testimony to the history of Turkey.The dome and the walls of the church are covered by images from Bible in  mosaic and tiles.They were later covered by Koran scriptures by the Ottoman Rulers.The archaeologists have painstakingly uncovered one of the faces as seen in the picture(top left).

Basilica Cistern:The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. The enlarged cistern provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

Grounds of Topkapi Palace
Oh yeah, we were busy photographing every cat and dog on the way that by the time we got to the palace, it was closed.So we got around photographing the entrance of Topkapi palace.

Whirling DervishesI am not an expert on Sufism and Dervishes. We managed to catch a show featuring them. The mystical music and the dervishes whirling in a trance, I felt I was part of an Arabian Night story.

I simply love museums.I was in for surprise this time.I got to see the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.Woohoo 

Bazaars of Turkey:
This is one you don't want to miss.Exquisite crystal works,spices,textiles,hand made soaps, sheesha's or nargil's and lot more.  

Bosphorus Cruise: 
There we sat on a boat,chilled to our marrows,assimilating the knowledge of being at the borders of two continents,where east meets west. 

After the three days in Istanbul, we took a flight to Denizili to visit our next destination. (To be continued...)


  1. Awesome that you finally wrote about Turkey - Istanbul your way seems way way more chilled out than mine, that said I went with a group of crazy college kids.

    Their Shorba and Chai is to die for, isn't it?

    Looking forward to the next part.

  2. nice idea of e-traveling...
    daily new place...:)

  3. wonderful travel chronicle!!

    I too am an avid traveler!! this post is very very welcome.. thanks for showcasing Turkey!!

    one request plz, put bigger size pics!!

  4. Interesting pics. A mix of Asia and Europe

  5. Beautifully written travelogue. What made it more interesting was Istanbul! I've been dying to go there but the husband is not convinced.

    Pinning it for future reference :-)