Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2017-02-14 13:40 Blue Mosque Being an ardent fan of James Bond movies, it was my desire to visit Istanbul, where a number of his movies were shot. When an opportunity came my way to visit the city located both in Asia and Europe, I grabbed it with both hands. On arrival in the city, I checked into my hotel and proceeded straight to see Topkapi Palace. Being the residence of Ottoman Sultans for four centuries, this palace is now a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace complex has a tiered structure with four courtyards, each having many structures surrounding it. The imperial Divan (court), where the ministers held meetings, the tower of justice, and the imperial treasury, are in the first two courtyards. The third courtyard has residences of the king, queens and others. It also has an audience chamber, a square building, where the king used to receive visitors. Sword of Nadirshah on display Audience Chamber, Topkapi Palace Entrance to Topkapi Palace The fourth courtyard comprises of the circumcision room, fountains and a number of lovely gardens. The complex has many museums and the star attraction is the star-studded knife of Nadir Shah. But the big attraction for many tourists is the pavilion of Holy Mantle, which contains the gown and the sword used by Prophet Mohammed. A tooth and a strand of hair of the Prophet are also displayed here. Adjacent to Topkapi palace is Hagia Sophia. Originally built as a church in 1537 AD, this church was converted as a mosque during the Muslim rule. In 1935, the building was converted as a museum. This building is famous for its Byzantine architecture, marble pillars, dome, and its minarets. Two larger marble purification urns (carved out of a single marble) and the rich mosaic decorations attract visitors. Close by is the spectacular Sultan Ahmet Mosque or the Blue Mosque - the symbol of Istanbul. Built between 1609 and 1616, this mosque has five main domes, eight secondary domes and six minarets. Approximately ten thousand persons can pray in the mosque at a time. The walls have quotations from the Quran. The Hippodrome of Constantinople, a sporting arena, is nearby. This was built in 324AD when Istanbul was known as Byzantine. It was renovated to accommodate one lakh spectators. It has a race track which made me remember the movie ‘Ben-Hur’. There are two monuments, the obelisk and the serpent column. After the Hippodrome, we went to the Basilica Cistern, which was a water storage facility in ancient times. The cistern’s roof is supported by 336 marble columns, each with a different sculpture. One of the marble columns is called Medusa Column. Medusa was a Greek monster whose head had venomous snakes instead of hair. According to legend, whatever one wishes for in front of this column will come true. The next day, we went to Suleymania Hamam, a public bathing place built in 1557. It has separate bathing chambers for men and women. Hamams, or Turkish baths are aplenty in Istanbul. Later, we took a ride on the famous Bosphorus Strait. The cruise sails to the stretch of water dividing the continents of Asia and Europe and the Black Sea. We saw the famous Rumleli Fortress and many baroque Ottoman residences from the boat. Later, we stopped to see Dolmabahce Palace. Bosphorous bridge Dolma Bache Palace Galata Gombuz The palace was the administrative centre of Ottoman Empire for a long time. Built during 1843-1856 by the 31st Sultan of Turkey in an area of 12 acres, this palace has 285 rooms and 46 halls and is well known for its use of marble and its chandeliers. One chandelier weighing 4.5tons was gifted by Queen Victoria. The carpets in this palace are world famous. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the ruler of Turkey, spent his last days here and his death bed is an attraction. This palace is more magnificent than Topkapi Palace and its gardens are very beautiful. Later, we sailed to an island on the sea with a tower called Galata Gumbuz. Originally named as Tower of Christ, this 220ft high tower gives a panoramic view of Istanbul city. Grand Bazaar Products on display at Grand Bazaar After completing the cruise, we visited the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Located inside the city, this old market place is known as the first shopping mall of the world. Built in 1455, this market attracts four lakh visitors every day and has been used to shoot many movies. We purchased the famous sweet of Istanbul, Turkish delight, and enjoyed it with a hot cup of Turkish coffee. Later in the night, we witnessed the Dance of Dervishes, an enthralling and captivating Sufi dance and concluded our trip. Notwithstanding its recent troubles, Istanbul has magic, romance and mystery and hence is a very popular destination. Medusa Pillar Author: Dr. D V Guruprasad (Former DGP) is presently the Chief Executive of the Gokula Education Foundation (Medical) which works in the field of education and health care.