Saturday, July 30, 2016

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Sultanahmet in Turkey


After visiting Hippodrome (from my previous post), we head to the main attraction areas of Sultanahmet square and come across the signboard of Basilica Cistern. Basilica Cistern is situated across the street of Hagia Sophia at Sultanahmet in Istanbul. 

Basilica Cistern is the largest ancient cistern which provides water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill and Topkapi Palace. Basilica Cistern lies under the city of Istanbul in Turkey. It was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

We require to walk 52-steps staircase to the basement from the ticket entrance since Basilica Cistern is situated underground. Once we get to the underground of the Basilica Cistern, we notice the ground is wet due to water splashing from the top. On top of that, it is very dark thus, it's not recommended for seniors who have problems with walking to Basilica Cistern. 

Visitors are strongly advised to put on a pair of shoes with good grips to prevent slippery. Running and jumping around are strictly prohibited in Basilica Cistern. Basilica Cistern is dark with limited lighting thus, you need to ensure your own safety as well as the safety of the others in your surrounding to prevent accidents.   

Basilica Cistern opens every day from 9am to 5:30pm. You require to use between an hour to two hours visiting Basilica Cistern. There is an entrance fee of 20TL (Turkish Lira) per person. You can visit Basilica Cistern Website  for more details.

Heading to The Basilica Cistern which is located opposite the street of Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Heading to The Basilica Cistern which is located opposite the street of Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Basilica Cistern was built to provide water for the city of Istanbul during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century CE in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Basilica Cistern was built to provide water for the city of Istanbul during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century CE in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia is an important monment during Byzantine (as a church) and for Ottoman Empires (later a mosque) and now is a museum at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia is an important monment during Byzantine (as a church) and for Ottoman Empires (later a mosque) and now is a museum at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey
Beautiful Tulips at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey during Spring
Beautiful Tulips at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey during Spring

The Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet Camii has become a popular tourist attraction because of blue wall tiles surrounding in the building at Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
The Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet Camii has become a popular tourist attraction because of blue wall tiles surrounding in the building at Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Healthy street dog (who is well-taken care by the government and local NGO) enjoys the nap in front of Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Healthy street dog (who is well-taken care by the government and local NGO) enjoys the nap in front of Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Typical homes and hotels in Sultanahmet area as they are small within the narrow streets in Istanbul, Turkey
Typical homes and hotels in Sultanahmet area as they are small on the narrow and hilly streets in Istanbul, Turkey

Imagine how cramped the spaces between the houses in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Imagine how cramped the spaces between the houses in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
One of the most popular local food called Kebab in Turkey which is wrapped with lettuce and meat with the bread
One of the most popular local food called Kebab in Turkey which is wrapped with lettuce and meat with the bread

The local Turkish prefer to drink Turkish Tea as Turkish Coffee is too pricey served in a tiny cup in Turkey
The local Turkish prefer to drink Turkish Tea as Turkish Coffee is too pricey served in a tiny cup in Turkey
 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Istanbul: Hippodrome Sultanahmet nearby to Blue Mosque and St. Sophia in Turkey


Hippodrome of Constantinople was built as a horse racing track (Chariot race) during Byzantine Empire. The word hippdrome comes from Greek. Hippos means horse and drome means (path or way). However, Hippodrome was ruined down when the Ottoman Turks took over the city in 1453 and turned it into the Capital of Ottoman Empire. 

Hippodrome has transformed into a beautiful park in Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey. You are able to see some fragments of the original structure which are  surviving at Hippodrome until today. There are Walled Obelisk, Serpent Column, Obelisk of Thutmose III and German Fountain. Hippodrome is a short walking distance from Blue Mosque and St Sophia which are located in Sultanahmet area. It is highly recommended to stay at a hotel in Sultanahmet area since all the historical sites are situated there such as Blue Mosque, St Sophia, Hippodrome and Topkapi Palace too. 

All you need to do is to enjoy strolling at the Hippodrome park in Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey. Vehicles aren't allowed in Sultanahmet area. Thus, you need to walk a lot to visit all the historical sites there. 

Do NOT get frightened when seeing street dogs at Sultanahmet. The locals told me that these street dogs are well fed and have been vaccinated, which are funded by the government and the local NGO there. The street dogs are normally fed in the evenings so, they normally sleep in the daytime. Although Turkey is a Muslim country, the locals prove they are animal lovers including dogs too.

Colouful Tulips can be seen all over Hippodrome and Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey
Colouful Tulips can be seen all over Hippodrome and Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey

Colourful Tulips are planted in Hippodrome and Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey
Colourful Tulips are planted in Hippodrome and Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey

Healthy street dogs are well-fed and vaccinated by government and NGOs at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Healthy street dogs are well-fed and vaccinated by government and NGOs at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Walled Obelisk at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Walled Obelisk at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Obelisk of Thutmose III was brought over by Theodosius, the Great from Egypt in 390 and placed it on a marble pedestal until today at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Obelisk of Thutmose III was brought over by Theodosius, the Great from Egypt in 390 and placed it on a marble pedestal until today at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Obelisk of Thutmose III (front) and Walled Obelisk (back) at Hippodrome of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey
Obelisk of Thutmose III (front) and Walled Obelisk (back) at Hippodrome of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey

Serpent Column was to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians which was located in the middle of the Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Serpent Column was to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians which was located in the middle of the Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

German Fountain was built originated from Germany to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor WilhelmII's visit to Istanbul in 1898 at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
German Fountain was built originated from Germany to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor WilhelmII's visit to Istanbul in 1898 at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

German Fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns and dome's interior is covered with golden mosaics at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
German Fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns and dome's interior is covered with golden mosaics at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Fontaine Guillaume (William Wilhelm German Fountain) at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Fontaine Guillaume (William Wilhelm German Fountain) at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Istanbul: Sultanahmet & Taksim Square in Turkey Introduction


Traveling to Turkey wasn't in my top list. I wanted to travel to Russia, Eastern Europe, Spain, Iceland, Vienna or Germany but they were too costly and over my budget. At the end, we decided to travel to Turkey after watching some beautiful shots on documentary shows.

We arrived at one of the biggest and busiest international airport at Istanbul Ataturk Airport. Then, we headed immediately to the Immigration area once we got out from the plane. The queue was as usual very long and slow moving. It wasn't happened due to peak traveling seasons or festive holidays. A friend warned us about the slow processing at the Immigration area before our trip, so we expected it would take between an hour to two hours from the Immigration area to the baggage area right before we could walk out to the Arrival hall of the airport. 

As we walked out the arrival hall, we were welcomed by the private shutter service representative who drove us to our hotel in Sultanahmet which was about 30 minutes ride due to slow crawling traffic on the streets.

Istanbul is well-known for the worst traffic congestion in Turkey and probably, in the world. You can get stuck on the traffic for hours without moving at all during peak hours in the morning and evening, every day. Thus, it's highly advisable to take metro (subway) around Istanbul to avoid being caught in the traffic. 

Although most of the population is Muslim, Turkey is a secular country and everyone has freedom of religion and beliefs. There are minorities practicing in Judaism and Christianity living in Turkey for centuries. As such, Turkey's history of religious tolerance has set an example of living in harmony with different religions to the world.

When you're traveling to Istanbul, it's highly recommended to stay at hotels in two different places in order to experience the lifestyle of these places. All the main attraction sites like, St Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace are located in Sultanahmet and it's not easy to be accessible by vehicles so, you should plan between two to three days hotel stay within Sultanahmet. All these attraction sites are situated near to each other thus, you just need to walk around Sultanahmet. 

Once you have finished visiting the attraction sites in Sultanahmet, you should plan for another two days hotel stay within Taksim Square. If you plan to take a taxi, you can find many taxis waiting by the road side. Most of the taxi drivers do not use taxi meters so, negotiate to the agreed price before getting into the car. The journey takes between 40 minutes to an hour depending on the traffic condition. Taksim Square is situated in the European part of Istanbul which is considered the heart of modern Istanbul city. 

We decided to extend our trip for another two days stay at Taksim Square since our group tour covered Sultanahmet (in Istanbul) and outside of Istanbul like, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Kusadasi and Canakkale. All these areas outside of Istanbul aren't accessible by public transportation thus, you can either to engage a private tour or to join group tour.

The bird's eye view of Istanbul which is the most populous capital city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center
The bird's eye view of Istanbul which is the most populous capital city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center

Metro (subway) is running on the busy streets of Istanbul city in Turkey
Metro (subway) is running on the busy streets of Istanbul city in Turkey

The most convenient and reliable Metro public transportation as Istanbul is well-known for the most congested traffic in Turkey
The most convenient and reliable Metro public transportation as Istanbul is well-known for the most congested traffic in Turkey