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The Rest Of Istanbul

After breakfast in our hotel, we were picked up at 8:30 by our tour guide, Akin, a cheeky and personable young man. Joining another couple from the US, we had a full day’s guided tour ahead of us of Istanbul's other main attractions. Having kept a punishing scheduleI in Israel over the past 11 nights and a hectic first day in Istanbul, I didn’t know if I had the stamina left in me for a second full day of touring in a row. Nevertheless, I was prepared to give it my best shot.

Our first stop was the Topkapi Palace Museum, the residence of the legendary Ottoman Sultans, now converted into a museum. Consisting of several exhibition halls, including the porcelain section, the armory, the rooms devoted to holy relics and the Treasury (which houses an impressive display of priceless royal jewels, including an 85 carat diamond), it was the Topkapi Harem that captured our imagination. Ruled over with an iron fist by the Sultan’s mother, it was a gilded cage filled with beautiful concubines, some brought into the harem from the age of 6, and scheming eunuchs. It was an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue.

Having explored the Topkapi Palace for well over two hours , my legs, calf muscles and hip joints were screaming for mercy. Offering our apologies to our guide, Akin, and couple, Jim and Nancy, we explained that we’d be bowing out of the afternoon’s programme due to my extreme physical discomfort. After enjoying a pleasant lunch at the Sultanahmet Fish House with the group, we said our goodbyes as we were dropped off at our hotel. We had a show booked later in the evening and I needed the rest.

A half hour nap and a deep tissue massage at the Levni was exactly what I needed. As my masseuse worked my stiff muscles and tendons, I felt the tension and strain melt away. Feeling restored, we dined on a truly mediocre meal at an al fresco local eatery, in between our hotel and the theatre, prior to the evening’s performance - at least the beers were cold and good. 

After our meal, it was an easy 2-minute stroll to the Hodjapasha Dance Theater & Cultural Center to enjoy a performance of Ryhthm of the Dance. Located at the center of Istanbul, the Hodjapasha Dance Theater was originally a 550 year old historical Turkish bath, called Hocapaşa Hamamı, for both men and women. Built by Hoca Sinan Paşa, teacher and later vizier to Fatih Sultan Mehmet, during the 1470s, it was converted into a theatre in 2008. The highlight of the show for me was the male belly dancer. Never having seen a male belly dancer before, he was powerful and mesmerizing! Here he is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUO33BSIU7I

Having missed out on the afternoon's tour, I’ve listed the afternoon’s programme here for you, should you wish to follow our itinerary: 

* City Walls and Golden Horn by vehicle: Ride along the shores of the Marmara Sea with the driver and guide and follow a major portion of the city's Byzantine walls until the drive turns inland from the sea. The guide will discuss the remains of Constantinople's old city, the history of the construction and about the battles during which the walls either saved the city or were breached by its attackers.

* Saint Savior in Chora Church Museum: This delightful church was built in the 11th century just within the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople, as the city was known throughout the Byzantine era. The Theodosian Walls were built roughly 1500 meters beyond the original Constantinian Wall at the behest of Emperor Theodosius II during the early 5th century. The significance of the church's name (Chora means countryside in Greek) lies in the fact that it was constructed upon the site of a much older church that had been built outside of the Constantinian Wall prior to the construction of the Theodosian Walls. The Chora's dozens of exquisite mosaic depictions, dating from the early 14th century and visible throughout the interior, are what have made it a must see destination when in Istanbul. These are some of the highest quality Byzantine mosaics anywhere that have survived until the present. Ironically, it is because the mosaics were covered with plaster when the church was used for centuries as a mosque that the mosaics have been so well preserved.

* Suleymaniye Mosque: This elegant mosque with its distinguishing four slender minarets was built on the order of Sultan Suleyman by the most famous of Ottoman architects, Mimar Sinan, between 1550 and 1558. It is the second largest mosque in the city and sits prominently upon the third of old Istanbul's seven hills. In addition to the mosque, the original complex consisted of a hospital and medical college, four madrasahs as well as a special school for study of the hadith, a hamam, a Caravansarai and a public kitchen. The tomb of Mimar Sinan is located adjacent to the mosque.

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 21st September, 2014 | Trackbacks
Categories: Turkey

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