Daily Archives: 17 December, 2008

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Fifth Day @ Istanbul

Liping and I had pretty ambitious on our itinerary for Day 5 in Istanbul. Not only we wanted to look at the famous Topkapi Palace, we also wanted to make a trip down to the Asian shore of Istanbul, to the town of Uskudar.

So, first thing first.

First Court of Topkapi Palace

Home to Selim the Sot, who drowned in the bath after drinking too much champagne; Ibrahim the Mad, who lost his reason after being locked up for four years in the infamous palace kafes (cages); abd Roxelana, beautiful and malevolent consort of Suleyman the Magnificent, Topkapi would have been the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world’s museums put together.

Imperial Treasury of Topkapi Palace

The best feature of the palace, in my opinion, was the Imperial Treasury. This treasury houses an incredible collection of precious objects made from or decorated with gold, silver, rubies, emeralds, jades, pearls and diamonds, as well as valuable artefacts of Muslim history. It was here where I saw the tooth relic and casted foot print of Prophet Mohammed. It was kinda… spooky, actually. Another highlight was the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, a teardrop-shaped, 86-carat rock surrounded by dozens of smaller stoned, making it the world’s fifth-largest diamond. Named so because it was originally found at a rubbish dump in Egrikapi and purchased by a street peddler for three spoons.

Liping and I spent most of our time here, absorbing the rich history of Ottoman empire and Islam religion. It was incredible… a pity that camera is not allowed in the place.

Views from the Fourth Court of Topkapi Palace

The entire place was divided into four courts (plus a harem)… by the time we reached the third court, Liping and I were so tired that we only gave the fourth court a cursory glance, and we didn’t even visit the harem at all. But Topkapi Palace has got to be the highlight of our visit to Istanbul. If you are heading there, make sure you dedicate an entire day to fully appreciate the rich Ottoman history.

Cats at Topkapi Palace!

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the cats in Istanbul! For some reasons I found cats keep flocking to Liping and I. Once at Chora Church, and another time at Topkapi Palace. This group of cats were literally frolicking on the ground when I approached them. Not only they did not shy away, in fact, they purred, pawed and played contentedly with me as I stroked, tickled and brushed the whole lot of them. It was really, really fun!

Here’s the link to the whole set of photos I took at Topkapi Palace, most with detailed description on some of the best features of this amazing place.

After spending close to four hours here, we headed to Emimonu ferry terminal, had lunch (at McDonald’s, LOL) and took a ferry enroute to Uskudar!

Views from the ferry ride from Emimonu to Uskudar

To get to Uskudar, you’ll have to take a ferry from Emimonu, and the 30-minute ferry ride itself illustrates the contrast between the European shore (Beyoglu) and the Asian shore (Uskudar) of Istanbul. But what really attracted Liping and i was the flock of seagulls trailing our ferry from Emimonu all the way to Uskudar. It was truly a National Geographic moment, haha. If you are interested, click here to view the photos we took of the many sea gulls.

Yeni Valide Camii

Uskudar (pronounced “ooh-skoo-dar”) is the Turkish form of the Byzantine name, Scutari, which dates fro the 12th century. Even today, Uskudar is one of Istanbul’s more conservative suburbs. Home to many migrants from rural Anatolia, the mosques are busier here, the families are larger and the headscarf is more obvious than elsewhere in the city. Like Kadikoy and the Western District, it’s fascinating and totally untouristy place to explore.

Sunset at Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi)

Our trip here was pretty uneventful, since Uskudar doesn’t offer than many interesting sight… but it was a very refreshing experience to indulge yourself among the locals who obviously not used to see two Asian tourists among their midst. The walk along the shores was relaxing and calming… a respite from the hectic Istanbul city.

Here’s the photoset for you to visually visit Uskudar, including some of the landmarks I visited and their background history.

Again, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what I did that night since I didn’t take any photos of my nocturnal adventure… but I have an inkling that it involved things I shouldn’t be blogging about. LOL!