A Weekend in Istanbul

Catherine and Michael in the Grand Bazaar

We were delighted when our niece, Catherine, and her husband, Michael, came to stay with us in Istanbul, even if for a very short time. Cath had visited Istanbul before, but everything was new to Mikey, so we decided to give him a brief overview of all the delights this city  has to offer.

Our first stop was the Grand Bazaar...

...before going up onto the roof of the Buyuk Valide Han. 

Cath and Mikey, and their bird's-eye view of Istanbul

We continued our walk through the maze of streets leading from the Grand Bazaar down to the Spice Bazaar, and on across the Galata Bridge before heading home.

Hmm... so many Turkish Delights to choose from in the Spice Market

Day two was pretty exhausting, taking in the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque, mainly because in all three we were fighting to get through the hoards of tourists, and endless queues!

Cath photographing the Hagia Sophia

There's a great view down the Bosphorus, from the Topkapi Palace.

The final day was much calmer, as we sailed down the Bosphorus, all the way to the last stop, Anadolu Kavagi.

We imagined what it must be like, living on the edge of the Bosphorus

Mikey relaxes on the ferry

The ferry station at Anadolu Kavagi

Here, I opted to save our premium seats by the water's edge, and enjoy a glass of wine, while Cath and Mikey hiked up the steep hill to Yorus Castle, built by the Byzantines, then restored and reinforced by the Genoese, in 1350.

Lunch in a restaurant beside the Bosphorus

After a relaxed lunch, we returned home for our last night together, before they left again for England. It was such a short visit, but David and I had fun, and I hope Cath and Mikey did too. We are looking forward to their next visit.

Here is the video I made of their visit

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Hidden Hans of Istanbul

I found a fascinating book about Istanbul, called "Istanbul's Bazaar Quarter - Backstreet Walking Tours", by Ann Marie Mershon and Edda Renker Weissenbacher. The book explores the hidden Hans around the area of the Grand Bazaar. The Hans were small caravansaries within the city walls, where travellers and merchants could safely spend the night, along with their pack animals.

Typically, a Han is an open courtyard, surrounded by rooms on two or three levels. The upper floors were usually for lodgings, or for workrooms, while the ground floor was used for stabling, or for storing merchandise. Today, the rooms are used as shops, or for artisans practicing a wide variety of crafts.

There are 4 different walks outlined in the book, and I intend to explore all of them eventually. My first walk was the one behind the Grand Bazaar. Although we passed all the Hans mentioned in this particular walk, we didn't go into all of them, because of time restraints.

The entrance steps to the Zincirli Han. It is difficult to believe that the noise
and bustle of the Grand Bazaar is only a few steps away from this peaceful oasis!

We began at the Zincirli Han, which is inside the Grand Bazaar itself. This picturesque Han dates back to the end of the 18th century, and is often overlooked by the hoards of tourists passing by, scouring for bargains.

Notice the ancient stones in the  Zincirli Han's courtyard

The Ottoman fountain in the middle of the Zincirli Han,
which is still in use today.


 The Kizlar Agasi Han, or Eunuch's Han.
Note the original fountain to the left, and the Sultan's seal above.

Another interesting Han is the Kizlar Agasi Han, or Eunuch's Han. This was built by Sultan Mahmut I's chief
eunuch, who also built a mosque near the Topkai Palace. The rent paid by travellers staying there, would
probably have been his retirement pension. Each Han tends to have its own specialty, and this one's is in
melting gold, and producing ribbons and wires of it, ready to make into jewellery.

This, the Hidiv Han, is interesting because it was built by Ali Pasa, the Viceroy of Egypt,
and later donated to the Red Crescent, who now receive all the income from rents.

The outer courtyard of the Sağir Han

We were intrigued as to why one of the Hans was called the Sağir Han, as the word "sağir" means "deaf" in
Turkish. It wasn't difficult to understand, however, once we reached the top of the outside staircase, and heard the clatter of the machines spinning thread onto reels. The noise really was deafening!

The noisy workshop in the Sağir Han

One of the quieter workshops in the Sağir Han.
This man is an expert dyer. He dyes buttons to match fabrics exactly

The entrance to the Buyuk Valide Han

But my favourite Han is the Buyuk Valide Han. It is One of the most popular Hans to visit, mainly because of the amazing view from its roof.

View of the Galata Bridge and the Yeni Camii, from the roof
of the Buyuk Valide Han

The view from the other side of the Yeni Camii.
You can see all the way down to the Bosphorus Bridge.

Before getting access to the roof, you have to find the caretaker with the keys

The word "valide" means "mother", and refers to the mother of both Sultan Murat IV, and his successor Sultan Ibrahim, who commissioned the building of the Han. On entering, the Han looks dark and forbidding, but everyone we encountered was welcoming, and were happy to show us their workshops.

One workshop specialises in these beautiful, hand-made lamps

It is fun to visit the workshops and see the many craftsmen at work

If ever you are in Istanbul, take time to explore my blog first, so you can visit those parts of the city most other tourists don't get to see!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Night Photography Workshop, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia at sunset

Our photography club in Istanbul is very proactive in organising all sorts of activities for us. This was a night photography workshop with Cenk from Fototrek, Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque, from its courtyard

Our first session was in the classroom, where we learned how to set our cameras for the different images we were going to create. The next two sessions were out in the field, firstly in Sultanahmet, and then on and around the Galata Bridge.

Arches of the Blue Mosque

In Sultanahmet, we set up our tripods and waited for the "golden hour" to take images of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

A minaret of the Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia, seen through the entrance to the Blue Mosque

Then we moved into the courtyard of the Blue Mosque to complete the evening.

The Galata Bridge, just before sunset

In our third session, our first task was to photograph the Galata Bridge, just as the sun was beginning to set, before moving on to capture light trails next to the Yeni Camii (New Mosque), plus all the views from the Eminonu side of the bridge.

Suleymaniye and Rustam Pasa Mosques in the evening light

Yeni Camii, New Mosque, with car light trails at sunset

The Galata Tower, with light trails from boats on the Golden Horn

Fish Sandwich boats at night

Finally, we crossed back to Karakoy so we could capture the views from there.

View of the Yeni Camii, New Mosque, from across the water

Galata Bridge, lit up at night

Thank you, Cenk, that photography workshop was great fun.

by Elizabeth Coughlan

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