1 Temmuz 2014 Salı

We Have Moved

Dear Tracers of Istanbul,

We made an announcement a few weeks back: 

Our blog has been moved. You can now reach our entries from www.istanbulyolculari.com/en/

Remember, you can read new entries every week.

Take care,

The Istanbul Tracer

8 Haziran 2014 Pazar

Blue Mosque with Six Minarets

Sultan Ahmet Mosque - Fatih

Following Sultan Ahmet I’s order, Sultan Ahmet Mosque was built by architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, pupil of famous Architect Sinan.  The land that the mosque stands on today was expropriated through paying large sums to Pashas whose villas stood on the way. 

The sixth ‘selatin’ mosque of the city, Sultan Ahmet I himself swung the first pickaxe blow symbolizing the start of the construction, and this pickaxe is still in Topkapı Museum. Built in the 17th century, the mosque has been appropriately nicknamed “Blue Mosque” for being decorated with more than twenty thousand pieces of porcelain, mostly in shades of blue.  

One of the most unique features the mosque holds is its six minarets. While Mecca Mosque was the only other mosque with six minarets in the world, after the completion of Sultan Ahmet, another minaret was added to Mecca Mosque.

Sultan Ahmet I’s mausoleum can be found in the graveyard in the mosque’s grounds. You can find 3D visuals of the mosque here.

The easiest route reach Sultan Ahmet Mosque would be to take either the ferry, bus or Marmaray to Karakoy, Eminonu or Sirkeci and then take to tram from here. 

Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

6 Haziran 2014 Cuma

From Port to Emperor’s Palace

Dolmabahce Palace - Besiktas

Where Dolmabahce Palace stands today was once a port that later turned into a swamp and then filled in  the 17th century. The palace was ordered to be built by Sultan Abdulmecit, its architects were Garabet and Nigogos Balyan, and the construction started in 1843 and ended in 1856. The palace is known for its aesthetically pleasing details and it attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year.

With the completion of the construction, the former headquarters of the empire Topkapi Palace was abandoned (You can read our entry on Topkapi Palace here)

Once again taking pictures are not allowed inside the palace, so instead you can click here to view photos of the palace.

Dolmabahce houses world’s largest ballroom, and the crystal chandelier in this room weighs 4.5 tons. Radiators were added and electricity was connected to the Palace in 1910. The palace is famous for being the spot Sultan Vahdettin boarded the ship that took him away from the Ottoman Empire, and that it was where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk passed away. As Ataturk passed away at 09.05, the clocks in the palace permanently stay at this hour. 

Another important landmark, Dolmabahce Clock Tower stands in between Dolmabahce Palace and Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan Mosque. Ordered to be built by Sultan Abdulhamit II, this clock is the most famous clock tower in the city.

To get to Dolmabahce Palace, just head towards Kabatas from Besiktas and the palace will be on your left. 

Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

28 Mayıs 2014 Çarşamba

Eying the Vault

The Ottoman Bank Building - Karakoy 

Transformed into Salt Galata art gallery a few years back, if you still haven’t been to the Ottoman Bank’s building on Karakoy’s Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Avenue) we recommend you do it soon.

 As a part of the gallery, the museum on the lower floor depicts the history of the Ottoman Bank from its start to the end. The museum is unique in housing vaults made by the era’s famous vault-maker Sameul Chatwood. The best part is that visitors get to go inside these vaults and view old Ottoman bills. You can find more information on the museum from here.

 Salt Galata quickly became famous for its temporary exhibitions in contemporary art and we recommend you go pay a visit. The building also houses a restaurant, bookstore and a library. Even the restrooms are result of special design. You can find more details about Salt Galata through this link.

Architect Alexandre Valluary’s design, the building’s construction ended in 1892. While the Ottoman Bank moved to this building from another location, we are choosing to keep this former location a secret for now. We promise that a new post on this topic will come later, and we promise it will be good! Here is a little preview.

Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

23 Mayıs 2014 Cuma

Islamic Inventors in Istanbul

Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam - Gulhane

Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam is situated at Has Barns near Topkapi Palace’s wall. Relatively new, the museum opened its gates in 2008.

The museum’s biggest collection consists of replicas based on works done in medicine, astronomy, physics, chemistry and geography fields. The founder of the museum Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin is known for founding an even larger museum of like in Frankfurt in 1980s.  Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam is the result of the Professor’s, Culture Ministry’s, the Governor’s and Istanbul Municipality’s joint initiative.

The museum shines a light on the way in which the Islamic world has contributed to different fields through out history by making discoveries and inventing technologies. The replicas that the museum houses are based on books, illustrations, and projects written and drawn by these scholars. You can get more information about this museum through this link.

To get to Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam just take either the Hagia Sophia Museum or the Sarayburnu entrance to Gulhane Park. 

Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

16 Mayıs 2014 Cuma

From Suleiman the Magnificent for his Father

Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque - Fatih

This week we bring you Yavuz Sultan Selim (Selim I) Mosque that Suleiman the Magnificent had it be made for his father.  This mosque is one of the seven “selatin” mosques that were built on the seven hills of Istanbul, and it is on the fifth hill.

Completed in 1529, the architect of the mosque is Acem Ali.  A special shroud from Mecca hangs on the wall facing qibla. Built as a an Ottoman social complex, the mosque grounds additionally housed a mausoleum part, an elementary school and a poorhouse, unfortunately the poorhouse did not make it to modern times. Alongside Yavuz Sultan Selim’s mausoleum, the graves of many famous historical figures reside here: Hanim Sultan’s, Hatice Sultan’s, Hafsa Sultan’s, Sultan Abdulmecit’s and even mausoleums of princes. Another interesting detail on the grounds is the entrance to a cistern through the mosque’s garden. To get more information on the mosque and do a 3D tour click here.

Behind the mosque lays a park that once was used as a cistern. The cistern was built during Byzantine times through the excavation of the ground and covering around the hole with bricks; basically building an underground room The name of the cistern, Aspar Cistern, came from the famous ethnically Goth Byzantine general Aspar and the cistern was built around 450 A.D. Ottomans used the cistern as a vegetable garden and named it Cukurbostan (holegarden). To this day this neighborhood is known as Cukurbostan. You can check out the modern usage of this historical site from here and perhaps try to reimagine what it once used to be.

And if you are wondering about how to get to Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque, it is located in Fener neighbourhood of Fatih, on the left side of Tabakyunus street. We would also like to remind you that if you choose to reach the Mosque by the shore route you will have to walk up a quite steep hill. 
Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

7 Mayıs 2014 Çarşamba

An Istanbul Nostalgia

Tunel - Beyoglu

Walking down Yuksek Kaldirim hill from the center of social life in 1870s Pera to the heart of finance and commerce Bankalar Caddesi was perhaps easy, but climbing up was an effort. For this reason the French engineer Eugene Henri Gavand designed an elevator inspired railway project “Tunel” (tunnel) and got Sultan Abdulaziz’s permit to build and operate the funicular system for 42 years.

Opened on January 17th, 1875, Tunel is the second oldest metro in the world after the London metro system. The first cars used were open-top, and lack of electricity meant the usage of gas lamps through out the system.

To get to Tunel you can either enter through Beyoglu Tunel square or Karakoy IETT (Istanbul Electricity, Tramway and Tunnel General Management) Building. You can get more information on the Tunel metro here.

It is astonishing that we still get to experience one of the most pleasant journeys available in the city today, and moreover that the metro itself still connects Beyoglu’s social life and Karakoy’s commerce as it did in 1870s. 

Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

30 Nisan 2014 Çarşamba

Shoots and Scores

Inonu Stadium - Dolmabahce

Architects of the stadium that opened its gates on May 19 1947 were Vietti Violi, Sinasi Sahingiray and Fazil Aysu. The uncovered grandstand section was later added to the stadium once the natural gas plant on the ground was demolished.

The first game the stadium held was on November 23 1947 between Besiktas and AIK of Sweden. Besiktas’s Suleyman Seba scored the first goal, but the match was won by AIK as 2-3.

The stadium was demolished in June 2013 for restoration purposes; the construction currently continues.

Also housing Besiktas Gymnasium Club’s museum, the stadium since 1990s also functioned as an international concert arena.

Bryan Adams gave the first concert of such on July 28 1992, and names such as Guns N’Roses, Elton John, Metallica, Madonna, and Michael Jackson followed.

You can find more information on the stadium and the museum from here. To get there, just follow the traffic moving from Besiktas towards Kabatas: the stadium is located right across Dolmabahce Palace.

Take Care of Yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul 

22 Nisan 2014 Salı

History Calling

Archeology Museum - Gulhane

Collected artifacts of the Ottoman Empire since the reign of Fatih the Conqueror was first gathered in Hagia Irene in 1869, hence founding the Muze-i Hümayun (Museum of the Empire). As the collection grew, Cinili Kosk (China Tiled Villa) that still belongs to the Archeology Museum started hosting the collection. You can take a 3D tour of the villa from here.

In 1881 Ottoman Museums reached a new age with the appointment of Osman Hamdi Bey as head of the Archeological Museum. One of first four students to be educated in the West, Osman Hamdi Bey not only was thoroughly knowledgeable on museum management, protecting historical artifacts and restoring them, but he also took many measures to stop the smuggling of artifacts out of the empire. If you ever make it to Eskihisar we recommend you stop by at his old house, which now stands as a museum.

Going back to our topic, Cinili Köşk was built by the order of Fatih the Conqueror, and is the oldest building on the grounds. Eastern Artifacts Museum’s building used to be the Fine Arts Academy that Osman Hamdi Bey founded and taught at. This academy was the first step to the foundation of Mimar Sinan University. The architect of the building was Alexander Vallaury whom also designed the Archeology Museum’s main building. This main building is one of the rare examples of a building designed only to be used as a museum. The building which holds the air of a temple has the engraved Ottoman writing of Asar-ı Atika Müzesi (Museum of Old Artifacts), and Sultan Abdülhamit II’s sign whom have had ordered the building be constructed.

The grand opening date of the museum in 1891, June 13th is still the national museum day in Turkey.

To get to the Archeology Museum you need to take the side road next to Hagia Irene in Topkapı Palace or climb the small path across Gulhane Park. You can find more information on the museum here.

There are no words to describe the variety of artifacts and information this museum harbors. We suggest you visit it early in the morning and take a little break at the teahouse in the museum’s garden. Resting here in the beauty and calmness, we are sure you’ll hear history calling. 

Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

17 Nisan 2014 Perşembe

The Gate Where Once Cannons Dominated and the Palace Where the Sultans Ruled

Top Kapi Gate (Topkapı) - Topkapi Palace (Sultanahmet)

Top Kapi (Cannon Ball + Gate) gets its name from Fatih the Conqueror’s camp in which they utilized the main and largest cannon balls to take over the city. The gate before 1453 had few different names including Aiyos Romanos, Saint Romanos and Porta Romanos Gate. A confession; we did not tried to find this gate yet but we will soon. By then you can find a photo of the gate from here.

On the other hand Topkapi Palace is one of the most popular and touristic spots in Istanbul, we decided to give you interesting details on Topkapi Palace rather than repeating the generic historical summary you can find everywhere. But you can still check out the history through this link.

And here as promised, interesting facts on Topkapi Palace :

  • Through out history, no one but the Sultan was allowed to enter through the middle gate Babusselam except Ivaz Mehmet Pasha who captured the Castle of Belgrade (the picture is above).
  • The tallest structure within the palace is the justice tower in the court section. This tower marks the silhouette of the historical peninsula in pictures of Istanbul (picture is on the right)

  • Situated on the right side of the entrance, palace kitchen includes these sections: main kitchen, sherbet room, helva (a Turkish dessert) room, pewter room and storage room.  Lamb meat consumed in the palace always came from a certain specie of sheep found in Thrace. A separate kitchen called Kushane cooked only for the Harem and the Sultan.
  • There are 11000 pieces of Chinese porcelains in Topkapi Palace.
  • Zulfu Baltacilar Guilds guarded the Harem. They were the only hearths allowed to stay on the palace grounds at night.
  • Gazelles were easy to run by in the Palace Gardens.

  • The Palace collection contains 22000 handwritten books. 2500 of these books were illustrated.
  • Friday prayers were always held outside of the palace in different locations.
  • Murat IVth was the only Sultan that visited the sports arena. The stone throne in this arena belonged to him (picture is on the right)
  • Just like we mentioned on our entry on Yildiz Palace here, Topkapi Palace also reached its current size through the addition of buildings throughout ages.
  • Sultan Abdulmecit abandoned the palace.

  • Two interesting spots can be found located on the leftside when entered from Bab-ı Hümayun (the picture is on the left): the remains of Samson Hospital that was burned down during the Nika Riot, and the Aya Irini (Hagia Irene) Museum. You can find more information on how to visit Aya Irini (Hagia Irene) from here.
  • Babussade, Happiness Gate, opened to the third courtyard.  The general who was about to go on a campaign would receive Sancak-i Şerif (Sacred Standart - believed to be the battle standard of Prophet Muhammad) from the Sultan in front of this gate (the picture is below)

There are a lot of important must sees in the Palace grounds like Sacred Relics Department, Treasurt Ward, Harem... We are not quite sure if only a day is enough to visit this Palace in detail.

We compiled these facts for you through visiting the Palace with tour guides and studying Murat Belge’s Istanbul Tour Guide book.

Take Care of Yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

9 Nisan 2014 Çarşamba

A History of Relaxing

Historical Galatasaray Hammam - Galatasaray

Galatasaray Bathhouse was built by the order of Beyazit II in 1481 on the grounds of Galatasary social complex.

Renovated in 1964, Galatasaray Hammam is one of the many spots in Istanbul for the ones who want to have a relaxing bathhouse experience. Located in the center of the town, the bathhouse not only has welcomed famous foreigners throughout its history, but also is a popular spot for art and fashion shoots.

Since we weren’t able to take photos of the Hammam (we didn’t want to creep out the patrons) you can check out the interior of the bathhouse from here.

To get there all you have to do is take the side street next to Galatasaray High School located on İstiklal Street.

To finish, here’s something we’ll bet our hat on: Ask any Turk about this movie scene and they will surely start chuckling.

Take Care of Yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul

31 Mart 2014 Pazartesi

Education in the Palace

Mimar Sinan University - Findikli

Garabet Amira Balyan from Balyan family is the architect of the double palaces Sultan Abdulmecit have ordered to be built for his daughters Cemile Sultan and Munire Sultan.

Cemile Sultan’s palace was used as the parliament after the fire that damaged Ciragan Palace. Established as Sanay-i Nefise after the independence, with a name change the palace joined the Fine Arts Academy in 1928.

A fire that took place in April 1st 1948 resulted in the loss of various important books, documents and pieces of art.

By being reopened in 1953 after the restoration, Adile Sultan Palace that was used as the Ataturk High School for Girls and Zevki Kadin Elementary School buildings were joined to Mimar Sinan University’s grounds. 

Now the Elementary School building has the tiniest post office inside, and a beautiful fountain by the building. You can get more information about the history from here (only Turkish).

While the university is mostly only open to students and educators, you can still visit these spectacular buildings through keeping up with the special exhibitions and events that take place in the establishment. You can follow their program here (only Turkish). To get there, just walk towards Karakoy from Kabatas and take in the amazing view of the Bosphorus.

And here’s an insider’s tip: While here, stop by at the Mimar Sinan University shop located in the Tophane-i Amire building across the street. The shop sells Mimar Sinan University publications at a discount rate as well as university related memorabilia. 

Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul