August 1999

We spent only about two or three days in the Sultanahmet (the old section on the European side of the city) at the beginning and end of our trip—not enough time to see everything, but enough to give us a flavor of this ancient city (previously, Constantinople and before that Byzantium).

1999 Turkey Trip Web Pages

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The enormous grounds of the Topkapi Palace was built in the15th century as the Sultan’s residence and headquarters; now a museum with such relics as footprints, letters, hair, and teeth of the Prophet Mohammed and supposedly Moses’s walking stick, as well as a fantastic collection of Ottoman jewelry, dishes, military hardware, clothing, etc. Ruth (above left) inspecting a courtyard within the Harem. To the right is a stained glass window in one of the Harem's rooms.
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The massive St. Sophia (6th century Byzantine church, once the largest in the world, built by Roman Emperor Justinian, converted to a mosque when the Ottomans conquered the city in the 15th century and now a museum). A Byzantine fresco (above right) was once again revealed this century after centuries of being covered by Ottoman plaster.
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The Hippodrome—site of chariot races and center of life in Constantinople and Ottoman Istanbul for centuries. It took Ruth and Ed a full day to realize that the Hippodrome was simply a long rectangular park in the center of the city featuring three obelisks, including the remarkably well preserved Obelisk of Theodosius (above left) carved in Egypt 3500 years ago—not a structure with walls that we were searching for. The base (above right) of a second, more damaged, obelisk was repaired in the 10th century, but its origins are unknown.
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The “Sunken Palace” is a giant underground cistern with over 360 columns ordered up by Emperor Justinian 1400 years ago—a dark eerie place that now contains a little water, a few fish, a boardwalk around the columns, and giant Medusa heads (above right) at the bottom of a couple of columns, all the while with Western classical music piped in.

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The magnificent 16th century Blue Mosque (so named because of the blue interior tiles) still active and requiring proper attire—we had to remove our shoes and carry them in plastic bags, and we thought Ruth (above right next to a massive column) would have to wear a head scarf but she passed inspection better than many others including men in shorts who were provided giant wraps to wear like sarongs and women in sleeveless blouses and shorts who had to cover up completely.
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The Grand (or Covered) Bazaar (entrance above) has a reputed 4000 shops of all sorts besides the ubiquitous carpet sellers.
A shop in the Egyptian Market or Spice Bazaar—fabulous smells of spices, endless shops selling all kinds of foods including Turkish Delight, dried fruits (we should have bought more of the natural dried apricots, the best we’ve ever tasted), nuts, teas, incredible spices, and so forth; hawkers were constantly pushing saffron and caviar. spices.JPG (30722 bytes)
hotel.JPG (25268 bytes) Our 37-room hotel, situated within a five-minute walk of the Hippodrome, was a restored old Ottoman wooden house complete with restaurant and an original Turkish bath (we passed that up as it seemed just too hot to be tempted). About half the hotel was filled with people who came for the eclipse (though all of us would have to travel over 500 miles east of Istanbul to view totality), including two young Japanese women picked up at the airport with us.

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