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Archive for the ‘Attractions and Monuments’ Category

One of my favourite Turkish painter

One of my favourite Turkish painters: Oktay Bozkurt

Hi followers,

This is just to have a sample of what you’re going to read in the next posts…
I’m writing from Istanbul right now, I’m on the terrace of my hotel looking the Blue Mosque in front of me. Unfortunately this great trip is coming to an end, and these are my last hours here, because tomorrow I’ll fly away, but I’m really happy because I’ve met wonderful people and visited fantastic places, and I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with you all soon. I guarantee it will be very interesting because I’ve a lot of material to show you and many stories to tell you, especially about some of the most interesting personalities of the Istanbul‘s artistic and cultural life. I’ve met painters, ceramicists, rug dealers, collectors, travelers, and everyone has a story or more that will fascinating you, I’m sure. Maybe you’re asking yourself why I’d like to talk so much about art and culture right now. Well, first of all because many people doesn’t know how rich is the turkish culture and how fine are their artistic works. Then, obviously, because Istanbul is going to be the Capital of Culture in 2010 so, let’s make sure we’re ready for that!

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The Spoonmaker Diamond in Topkapi Palace

The Spoonmaker's Diamond in the Topkapi Palace

The story I’d like to tell you now is the story of the Spoonmaker’s Diamond (Turkish: Kaşıkçı Elması), the pride of the Topkapi Palace Museum. Although the Imperial Treasury is full of ancient daggers, pendants, book covers, chests, rings, and various other ancient artifacts artfully decorated with beautiful stones, the Spoonmaker’s Diamond rests its most valuable single exhibit. It is an 86 carat (17 g) pear-shaped diamond, surrounded by a double row of smaller forty-nine diamonds, giving it the appearance of a full moon lighting a bright and shining sky full of stars.

According to one of the origin myths of the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, a poor fisherman was wandering penniless and empty-handed around Istanbul,  when he found a shiny stone among the litter. Unsure of what the stone was, but recognizing it as beautiful, he carried it about in his pocket for a few days, and then stopped by the jewelers’ market, showing it to the jeweler, who recognizes it as an extremely valuable diamond, but feigning disinterest gave it a cursory glance-over, and stated that it was just a hunk of glass. So he’d had give the fisherman three spoons for his trouble, out of sympathy. The fisherman agreed, and walked away from the deal feeling better off.

According to a slightly different version of the story, the person finding the diamond was Rashid, an impoverished man who found the diamond in 1699 while scouring the Istanbul garbage dumps. He haggled with a spoonmaker and managed to get three wooden spoons in exchange for the shiny rock. The spoonmaker, recognizing the gem as valuable but not realizing that it was worth a fortune, sells it to a jeweler for ten silver coins. After changing a number of hands, the diamond was confiscated by Grand Vizier Ahmed Pasha and soon passed into the hands of Sultan Mehmed IV.

According to researchers and historians, was a French officer named Pigot who purchased the diamond in 1774 from Maharajah of Madras and brought it back home with him to France. But during his trip some thieves robbed him, and the diamond ended up in numerous auctions, where it was first bought by Casanova and then by Napoleon’s mother, who had to put it up for sale in order to save her son when Napoleon went into exile. Who bought the diamond from her was a man who worked for Tepedeleni Ali Pasha, who later, during the reign of Mahmud II, was killed under charges of rebellion and treason. His treasury, including the Pigot Diamond, was confiscated by the state.
It is still unsure if the Spoonmaker’s Diamond was cast with the forty nine brilliant cut diamonds by Mahmud II’s men or by Tepedeleni Ali Pasha’s men, but what is true is that they increase its dazzling appearance as well as its market value.

So, whatever happened, now I’m sure you have another good reason to visit Istanbul and the wonderful Topkapi Palace!
You’ll find yourself completely dazzled, and recalling its incredible story, you’ll be able to fantasize about the characters and the misadventures of the marvellous diamond in front of you. 😉

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Today I’d like to suggest you a quick look at the city of Istanbul with this brief video. I’s a good travel guide through some of the most beautiful attractions in Istanbul, providing you with a dive into the history of Haghia Sophia, built as a Byzantine cathedral and then converted in a Mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453;
a visit into the majestic Sultanhamet Mosque, one of the Istanbul’s finest structures also known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior;
and a walk in the Hippodrome area, the center of the social life during the Byzantine period: built following the model of the Circus Maximus in Rome, the Hippodrome had a capacity to accommodate more than 100,000 spectators, so the most important sporting events were held right here!

It’s just a first taste of Istanbul, and there are lots of other fabulous places to see, so enjoy the video and see you at the next post! 🙂

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Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul

Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul

Nowadays we’re getting used to short and low budget holidays and the “3 days formula” is becoming the most used to visit a city or take a weekend off. So I decided to start a mini guide collecting useful tips on what to see, where to stay or eat in your 3 days in Istanbul. Let’s start with the “what to see”, the top destinations you can’t miss:

In Sultanahmet:
Topkapi Palace – it takes you at least half a day, but it’s amazing! Although many people see the Topkapi as a too commercial and touristic attraction, I think that with the right mood it may let you understand the real culture and way of life of the Ottoman Istanbul.
Sultanhamet Mosque and Haghia Sophia – the first one, the Blue Mosque, is my favourite. I’m used to stay at a hotel just in front of it, where I can stay on the terrace and admire that great dome and the minarets. Haghia Sophia has a great story too so it’s another place you can’t miss.
Yerebatan Sarnici – I’ve already explained why I love so much this cistern (I was there 3 times), however the beautiful atmosphere you can breath in the red light between the 336 marble columns is unforgettable.
The Gran Bazaar – an incredible mixture of colors, scents, languages, tastes will leave you breathless, and after the first minutes you will love the way they have to call you here and there and to haggle offering you an apple tea!
Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Mosque – I recently discovered this Mosque, and in spite of my love for the Sultanhamet Mosque, I must say that this one is less crowded, fit to understand the real muslim customs, and it has magnificent Iznik tiles. Here I could see the real Adhan, the islamic call to prayer recited by a muezzin (in Istanbul and in other big cities the Adhan is principally tape-recorded)

Out of Sultanahmet:
– walking on the Galata Bridge up till the Galata Tower, proceeding along Istiklal Cad. having a look at the fish market (Balik Pazar) and the flower market (Cicek Pasaji).

Hope you enjoy your 3 days in Istanbul! 😉

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The Yerebatan sarnıcı in Istanbul

The Yerebatan sarnıcı in Istanbul

This is what I found going down in the The Yerebatan sarnıcı (or Basilica Cistern) in Istanbul, just in front of the Hagia Sophia. I’m sorry for the quality of this image, it’s the best I could with that darkness…I love photography but I’m not a professionist! Anyway, I think it gives you the impression of what is the Yerebatan sarnıcı in Istanbul: it’s the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of  Istanbul, built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. After paying the ticket, you’ll discover an underground chamber of 143 by 65 m (470 ft x 210 ft), capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The most incredible things is the forest of 336 marble columns each 9 metres (30 ft) high, arranged in 12 rows and with Ionic and Corinthian capitals. A fabulous red light spreads in the chamber giving the impression of being shrouded in mystery… In the northwest corner of the cistern crowds of tourists cram together to take picture of the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa. It’s a great sight, and I recommended the Yerebatan sarnıcı to each friend of mine going to Istanbul, each time with the same result: they are astonished at the majesty of Istanbul!

Yerebatan sarnıcı
Yerebatan Caddesi 13,
Sultanhamet, Istanbul

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The Sakip Babanci Museum in Istanbul

The Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul

Last time I went to Istanbul I was with my father, and I had the chance to go with him at an exhibition. It was something concerning transilvanian textiles, I don’t remember. But what caught my eye is the location: the Sakip Sabanci Museum, on a hill in Istanbul‘s Emirgan Park, overlooking the Bosphorus, was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the Italian architectural style, and it’s not just a simple museum in Istanbul. Today it is the modern Sabanci Univerisy’s Museum, equipped with the most advanced museum technology, and a lot of important exhibitions came here: “Picasso in Istanbul“, “An Ottoman Collection in Portugal” from the Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation (which I recommend to everybody, it’s wonderful!), or the “Genghis Khan” exhibition. So, if you want to experience world cultures, just head for the Sakip Sabanci Museum, when you always find incredible surprise!

Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Sakıp Sabancı Cad. No:42
Emirgan 34467 İstanbul
Telephone : +90 212 277 22 00
Fax : +90 212 229 49 14

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In the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

In the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace of Istanbul is one of the most interesting place to visit, maybe the first one between the many Istanbul attractions. A complete visit may takes the whole day if you’re eager to see the entire compound, but as Istanbul has a lot of monuments and attractions to see, I suggest you to feel the ottoman fascination of the Topkapi Palace in half a day. The most beautiful and interesting place in the Topkapi is the Harem, where you can feel the history, touch and breath the Ottoman Empire, pretending to be the Sultan of Istanbul in his rooms or a concubin in the courtyard. Visit also the Baghdad Pavillion and the Library of Ahmed III.

For further information visit  Istanbul City Guide

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