Exploring Our Environs in Istanbul

 Haydarpaşa Railway Station

David was on holiday this past week, so we decided to explore our environs, which also gave me a chance to practise my new passion, photography. One of the places we visited was Haydarpaşa Railway Station. Every time we take a ferry we pass this magnificent building, but we have never taken a closer look until now.

A train, waiting to depart for stations in the east.

The Haydarpaşa Railway Station was designed by German architects on the initiative of Kaiser Wilhelm II, as a gift for the Emperor; although it was really part of Germany's plan to dominate the trade routes between West and East. The first trains left Haydarpasa Station on August 19, 1908, and enabled a link between Berlin and Baghdad. The railway was used extensively to move troops during WWI, until it was bombed in 1917.

The ornate booking hall, richly decorated.

The building, built in the neoclassical-style, is very grand with its circular turrets and Baroque decorations. The inside is also very ornate, and beautifully decorated with floral motifs. The station is built on the edge of the Bosphorus, just behind the Haydarpaşa ferry port. Between the two, there is a magnificent old steam engine, recalling the good old days of rail travel, when passengers from the Orient Express crossed the Bosphorus to travel on to Baghdad.

The old steam engine outside the station.

The promenade on Burgazada.

Boats in harbour on Kaniliada

On another day we crossed over to Kaniliada, one of the Princes' Islands, as this was one island David had yet to visit. We were a little confused as to which island was which, so we ended up on Burgazada first, then had to transfer back again to Kaniliada. Once there we set off to explore. Kaniliada is much smaller and quieter than the other Princes' Islands, especially now that the summer houses are empty of their seasonal residents.

A tree-lined avenue on Kaniliada

We walked along tree-lined avenues, seeing very few people. It was very peaceful. As we climbed higher, all we could hear was birdsong and the rustling of leaves in the sea breeze. Then we came across a church. We discovered that it was the Armenian Orthodox Church of St Gregory the Enlightener. It is a beautiful building that looks as if it has been recently restored, and serves the large Armenian community on the island.

The Armenian Orthodox Church of St Gregory, the Enlightener.

During the week, we also explored Kadiköy and Moda, and visited the Santralistanbul Museum, but these will have to wait for another post!

We often pass this balloon in Kadiköy.
One fine day I want to go up in it to take photos.

Every time I travel on a ferry, I try to take pictures of seagulls in flight. 
They are very hard to capture, but I have one at last!


Photography Club Trip to Beyazit, Istanbul, Turkey

Our group met outside the Istanbul University, which stands on the site of the original wooden palace belonging to Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror.

Our Photography Club trip this week was to the Cebeci Han, an area of copper workshops, dating from the 18th Century. Commercial areas in the older areas of Istanbul usually have the name "han" (inn), which is derived from the Persian word for "house". The hans were places to stay along the trade routes that were popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They usually consist of a courtyard, surrounded by two to three stories of individual rooms.

A woman selling birdseed in the square in between 
the Istanbul University and the Bayazit Mosque.

Each han bears the name of the merchandise sold there. Cebeci Han means Armour Inn, where, presumably armour was originally made, although now it is the han where copper products are fashioned and sold. We must have been an extraordinary sight as our group of expat women peered into workshops, and surveyed the area, cameras at the ready, snapping away. Mostly people were very tolerant of us, although there was one man, asleep in his workshop, who was very angry when he awoke to find a whole lot of foreign women hovering around his doorway taking pictures.

Over-sized copper-ware for sale on one of the upper balconies.

 There was also the obligatory carpet shop. 
If you fancy a carpet I can get you a good price!

Nizam Çolak's antique shop, in the Cebeci Han, is well known in Istanbul.

The Cebeci Han is right next to the Grand Bazaar, and we had to run the gauntlet of the ever-persistent stallholders to get to our next destination, the roof of the ancient Büyük Valide Han (literally the Big Mother Han). This han dates back to 1651, and was commissioned by Kösem Sultan, the mother of both Sultan Murat IV, and Sultan İbrahim, his successor. Although the han is fairly deserted and neglected, we did see some workshops operating. Their specialty appear to be hookah pipes.

We wandered through the Grand Bazaar.

The best thing about this han is its roof access. We climbed up crumbling staircases, through gloomy passages and ancient doorways to reach the roof. From there the panoramic view was spectacular, and we spent a happy time taking photos and admiring the scenery.

We climbed up crumbling staircases, and negotiated dark passages.

The panoramic view from the roof was amazing,
and well worth the climb!

All too soon it was time to go, and we didn't have time to explore the Kalcılar, or "Silver" Han. This will have to be reserved for another trip. I thoroughly enjoyed this expedition, even though most of my photos were rubbish. Never mind, it's back to the drawing board and lots more practice with camera settings. I'm sure to get the hang of it eventually!


My busy life in Istanbul

Far from taking things easy in my dotage, my life has become a whirl of activity lately, if this last week is anything to go by! On Monday, I was to have joined an IWI (International Women of Istanbul) group going to Büyükada, one of the Princes' Islands, especially to see their new museum. Unfortunately, this trip was cancelled due to lack of interest, so I was able to play tennis instead. I mentioned my aborted trip to Angela, who lives on the island, and she suggested that I visit anyway, and meet her for lunch, on Wednesday.

On Tuesday we had our twice monthly IWI coffee morning, followed by lunch, where Judith and Siobhan expressed their interest in my planned trip, and Angela invited them along too. On the way home from lunch, I met my neighbour, Yasemin, who was about to walk along the sea front, so I quickly changed into sports mode and joined her. We walked for half an hour, then exercised in one of the exercise parks there, before walking the return half-hour home.

These long steps lead up to the road in front of the Splendid Hotel, where our phaeton was waiting. 

On Wednesday, Judith, Siobhan and I took the ferry to Büyükada and met Angela at the docks. It was interesting being with someone who had local knowledge. Angela led us to some steps of which I was unaware, despite several visits to this small island. At the top of the steps a phaeton was waiting, ready to take us to the museum. Extraordinarily, the museum is quite far from the ferry port, so a phaeton is essential. It is not surprising that they have very few visitors to the museum, out of the thousands that regularly visit the island.

One of the very early phaetons outside the museum.

The museum is quite small and still in the developmental stage, but was interesting nevertheless. It tells of the history of the islands and how they got their name, together with lists of the flora and fauna found on them, and some ancient artifacts that have been discovered. We only had half-an-hour to peruse the exhibits, as the phaeton driver wouldn't wait any longer. We had to agree to his terms as there was no other way back!

I was really taken by this magnificent staircase in Angela's home. The paintings on the walls are by Angela herself.

The phaeton dropped us off at Angela's beautiful house, where we sipped pre-lunch spritzers on her verandah, while watching her gardener, with some trepidation, as he pruned the top-most branches of a tree. We were rather concerned when we heard an almighty crash as he fell out of the tree, but were reassured when he extricated himself and waved to show he was all right. Angela then treated us to a wonderful lunch, before we set off for the ferry to return to the mainland.

Angela's gardener in the top of the tree, before he fell out!

Thursday was another tennis morning, followed by a trip to the street market in Erenköy with Yasemin. Tired after tennis, I insisted we took a taxi there, although we did walk back all the way home. As it is quite far, next time I am also taking a taxi back again! While we were at the market, I told Yasemin about my trip to Büyükada, and she also wanted to go, so we arranged to visit the island the next day, Friday.

Yasemin phoned her cousin to wish him a happy birthday, 
on our way to the island.

That is how I found myself on the island again on Friday. I decided not to tell Angela as I decided that she had probably had enough of me by then, as she had seen me on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday already! Yasemin and I had a lovely day. After visiting the museum, we walked around the town, had lunch in one of the many restaurants, and shopped.

We saw this man mending horses' bridles.

I had a great week, but today is Saturday and I have taken the day off, especially as next week is beginning to look just as hectic! Oh well, we only live once, so we had better make the most of it. Although I am secretly hoping we get more than one shot at life, it's such fun once you get the hang of it!!!

We saw this phaeton decorated for a wedding...

...and bicycles for hire.

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I couldn't resist this one!