There's Always Something New in Istanbul

The tulip carpet in Sultanahmet

It was lovely to host old friends, Margaret and Harry, in Istanbul recently. They were with us for such a short time, but we managed to race around and savour many of the iconic sights of this extraordinary city.

The first amazing sight was the tulip carpet, right outside the Hagia Sophia. 543,000 tulips were organised to replicate an Ottoman design. How fortunate we were there at that moment, as the carpet can only be seen for a short time during the annual tulip festival. This year, the carpet was only on view from April 18 to May 3.

Our next lucky break came when we visited the Topkapi Palace and found newly opened sections in the Harem. By the entrance, there are stairs leading down to the dormitory which housed the "Halberdiers with Tresses". These were guards, carrying halberds (axes mounted on the end of large spears). The "tresses" were two long curls hanging down either side of the face.

Two Halberdiers relaxing smoking their pipes in the Halberdiers' dormitory...

...and tending the barbecue?

Other newly opened sections in the Harem, are the Imperial Hall and Music Room.

Margaret taking photos of the beautiful Imperial Hall

The large-domed Imperial Hall in the Harem, is where ceremonies and receptions were held

Even the floors are exquisitely laid out in the Harem

Here, Harry stopped to check out his guide book, there is so much
to assimilate as you walk around this historic building

This was our view, as we looked out from the terraces of the Topkapi Palace

The newly restored kitchens also have extra added areas.

I previously complained that the kitchens didn't show how they cooked in Ottoman times.
Someone must have been listening!

...and here are cooking utensils.

This all goes to show, that no matter how much you think you know a place, it is worth going back to see if anything else has been changed since your last visit.

Of course, we did the Bosphorus cruise...

...all the way to Yoros Castle at Anadolu Kavagi

...and met up with friends on Buyukada, one of the Princes Islands.

I love taking friends around this wonderful city of Istanbul, There is always something new to discover.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Hidiv Kasri, Bekos, Istanbul

Enjoying Hidiv Kasri

This famous Istanbul landmark, with its unusual main tower jutting above the tree line, 
was designed by the  Italian architect Delfo Seminati in 1903.

Beautifully laid out flower beds among the trees

It's tulip time in Istanbul so we headed for Hidiv Kasri, with Maggie as our guide, to admire the gardens there.  Hidiv Kasri, (or the Khedive's Villa) was formerly the residence of the Ottoman Governor of Egypt, and is a beautifully preserved remnant of Ottoman hiştory. Today, this Art Nouveau Villa serves as a public garden where you can enjoy the shady groves, and well-kept flower gardens, with their sweeping view of the Bosphorus.

We wandered along the pathways, straying off to photograph the tulips...

...which meandered among the trees

We also toured the villa. Here is the sumptuous dining room...

...and elegant bedroom...

...with its antique bath and shower...

...and its walls decorated in painted tiles.

After our tour, we were treated to a fabulous buffet lunch, courtesy of Maggie. Unfortunately, the food was so delicious, that I forgot to stop and take a photo before tucking in, but I can assure you that everyone thoroughly enjoyed her hospitality. Thank you, Maggie!

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Eyup Sultan Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

The Eyup Sultan Mosque is a place of pilgrimage

The Eyup Sultan Mosque is in the upper reaches of the Golden Horn, and has been described as "the holiest shrine in Istanbul". It is said to contain the remains of Eyüp-el-Ensari, the standard bearer of the prophet Mohammed, and is a place of pilgrimage.

People come to pray at the shrine

While serving as commander of the Arab forces during the siege of Constantinople, 668 to 669, Eyüp was killed, and buried on the outskirts of the city. Mehmet the Conqueror built a mosque at the site of Eyüp's grave five years after the conquest, and it became the place where an Ottoman prince would be dressed with the Sword of Osman, signifying his ascension as monarch of the Ottoman Empire.

The view from Pierre Loti

We took the cable car up to the famous Pierre Loti Cafe for lunch, so we could enjoy the amazing view. The well-known poet and author was enraptured by Istanbul, and he often came here to gaze out over the Golden Horn.

The day had started out dull and gloomy, fortunately the sun shone,
just as we were starting lunch

Gabriele balanced on a ledge to take a picture

The mosque is surrounded by  vast cemetery in which many imperial princes and other Ottoman grandees are buried, because of its sacred and historical importance. Later, anyone with the money for a gravesite wanted to be buried here, in order to be close to Eyüp-el-Ensari, and ensure a guaranteed place in the hereafter. Part of the cemetery can be seen behind Gabriele.

Naturally, with so many visitors to the area, there is a large market. 
We couldn't resist checking it out before we caught the ferry home.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!