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Rumeli Kavağı and Sariyer

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The two northernmost towns on the European Bosphorus are Sariyer and Rumeli Kavağı. Sariyer is more developed and wealthy, trapped between a dense forest and the water, while Rumeli Kavağı is a quiet seaside village with a convivial atmosphere.

Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer
A Pier in Rumeli Kavağı

Rumeli Kavağı is easy to visit as part of the city-run Bosphorus Tour. The long ferry ride up the strait pauses for three full hours at Anadolu Kavağı, allowing you plenty of time to catch a local boat across the strait to Rumeli Kavağı. This picturesque little town is intimately connected to the sea, with boats, fishermen and fish restaurants dominating life and commerce, and is almost completely skipped by tourists.

The boat also stops here on its way back to Eminönü, so if you want, you can re-board. We, though, decided to instead walk two kilometers down the Bosphorus to Sariyer. This is a bustling neighborhood which, despite being so far from the city center, is well served by public transportation and has become a popular place for retired Istanbullus to settle down.

Locations on our Istanbul Map: Rumeli Kavağı | Sariyer

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Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer
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Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Pier
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Fish Restaurant
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Fish Restaurant
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Fish Restaurant
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Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Fish Restaurant
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Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Rent A Boat
Rumeli Kavagi and Sariyer Rent A Boat
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July 5, 2013 at 9:04 am Comments (0)

The Fethiye Museum

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Located in the neighborhood of Çarşamba, just up the road from the Yavuz Selim Camii, the Fethiye Museum preserves some of the best Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul. It’s small and difficult to reach, so most tourists skip right over it in favor of the similar and better-known Chora Museum.

Fethiye Museum Istanbul

The Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos (All-Blessed Mother of God) was built sometime in the 11th century by Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Ducas. By the time of the Ottoman conquest, the Pammakaristos had become one of Constantinople’s most important Orthodox churches and, sensitive to the feelings of their new Greek citizens, the Ottomans initially left it alone. They even made it the temporary seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. But in 1592, to celebrate of the Ottoman annexation of Georgia and Azerbaijan, the church was finally converted into the Fethiye Mosque.

During renovations in the 1950s, beautiful 14th-century mosaics were uncovered in the parekklesion, or side chapel, and these became the focus of a museum which opened in 2006. Under the dome, visitors can admire a depiction of Christ Pantokrator ringed by twelve prophets from the Old Testament. There’s also a large mosaic panel of Jesus’s baptism, and representations of various Biblical saints, including a deesis with Mary and John the Baptist.

The Fethiye Museum is a like a delicious Byzantine Mosaic hors d’oeuvre, before the more filling main course served up at the nearby Chora Museum. The mosaics in the Fethiye aren’t as expansive as those of the Chora, but the experience of visiting is more pleasant. We were the only ones inside the church on the Thursday afternoon we chose for our trip, and able to explore in peace.

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Related Post: The Grand Palace Mosaic Museum in Istanbul

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May 22, 2013 at 8:39 am Comment (1)

The Historic Arcades of İstiklal Caddesi

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I’m beginning to think that we could have dedicated 91 days to just Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district. In fact, a blog devoted entirely to the city’s main shopping street isn’t inconceivable. İstiklal Caddesi For 91 Days. The number of bars, restaurants, shops, theaters and galleries along “Independence Street” is overwhelming. We spent an entire day exploring just its historic arcades. What follows are short descriptions of our favorites, with links to their exact locations.

Flower-Flower-Passage

The most famous of İstiklal’s arcades is the Çiçek Pasajı, or the Flower Passage. This is one of the prettiest locations in Beyoğlu, and among the most popular with tourists. As such, its prior function as a home for florists has long since vanished, and the passage is now monopolized by expensive restaurants. [Location | More Pics]

Atlas-Pasaji-Bar

The Atlas Pasajı dates from 1871 and centers around a cinema of the same name, where we attended a screening during the Istanbul Film Festival. Apart from the excellent theater, the arcade is a good place to shop for affordable alternative clothing. [Location | More Pics]

Avrupra-Passage.

The Avrupa Pasajı (Europe Passage) is ornamented by classical statues and topped with a round roof that allows in plenty of light. Most of the stores here today focus on jewelry and upscale souvenirs. This arcade runs parallel to İstiklal Caddesi and is a little difficult to pinpoint without assistance. [Location | More Pics]

Hazzopulo-Best-Tea-Istanbul

Perhaps our favorite spot of the day was in the courtyard found at the back of the narrow Hazzopulo Pasajı, which was packed with students drinking tea and playing backgammon. As soon as we emerged into this very cool corner of the city, we felt ourselves leveling up. Drinking tea in Hazzopulo advances you from Istanbul Level 3 (beginner) to Level 4 (novice). [Location | More Pics]

Aslihan-Books

The hardest arcade to find was the Aslıhan Pasajı, but it was worth the effort. This long, narrow, multi-floor passage is dedicated entirely to second-hand books and comics. I enjoy comics, and especially browsing through stacks of old, used copies. I’ve noticed that, in Istanbul, the most popular comic by far is Conan the Barbarian. Do Turks have a thing for Conan? [Location | More Pics]

Suriye-Vintage-Cloth

Found at the southern end of İstiklal Caddesi, the Cité de Syrie was built in 1908. Hidden within this arcade’s basement is an incredible second-hand clothing and costume store called By Retro. Otherwise, besides a single sofa sitting alone in the hallway, this beautiful arcade is almost entirely empty. [Location | More Pics]

Other arcades we visited on İstiklal Caddesi were more forgettable, but still fun to hunt down. Rumeli has a great cafe called Mona Lisa, decorated with posters of old film stars. Aleppo is home to another cool theater, and Aznavur feels very dated and has shops selling handmade trinkets. Pasaj Markiz was our least favorite of the day; behind a lovely facade, it’s occupied entirely by a Sears-like department store called “Darty”.

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More pictures from the Çiçek Pasajı and 1 video

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More pictures from the Atlas Passage

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More pictures from the Avrupa Pasajı

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More pictures from the Hazzopulo Pasajı

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More pictures from the Aslıhan Pasajı

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More pictures from the Cité de Syrie

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Pictures from the Rumeli Passage
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Pictures from the Aznavur Passage
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Aznavur-Waiting-For-Costumer
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May 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm Comments (2)

The Land Walls – Day Two

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At just six kilometers in length, the Walls of Theodosius can be traversed in a few hours, but there are so many sights along the way that we needed two days. Exploring the southern half of the fortifications had been a lot of fun, and our day spent on the northern half would prove to be just as rewarding.

Istanbul-Landwalls

Eager to get started on a big day of walking, we arrived at the Topkapı tram station, and were soon… seated in a lovely tea garden? The Fatih Belediyesi Çay Bahçesi was simply too inviting to pass up. Pressed up against the walls, this tea garden is run by the government and has prices which can’t be beat. Just one lira per cup.

Pumped on caffeine, we could now begin our walk in earnest. On our first day along the walls, we had wandered through some gorgeous cemeteries, and our second day started at a cemetery of a different sort: the new constructions of Sulukule.

For over a thousand years, Sulukule had been home to Istanbul’s Roma community. But in 2005, the neighborhood was targeted for an urban redevelopment project, and thousands of Roma were compelled to sell their property to the state. Those who refused were forcibly evicted. Suspicions immediately arose that the government was attempting to push out “undesirables”, but protests fell upon deaf ears. Modern townhouses sprang up where the dilapidated housing had been, and the old families of Sulukule, unable to afford property prices 10 times the amount they had received from the government, were effectively barred from returning.

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Past Sulukule, we came upon the Mihrimah Camii, which enjoys a prime location upon the highest of Istanbul’s seven hills. Mihrimah was the daughter of Süleyman the Magnificent, and the mosque built in her honor is one of Mimar Sinan’s finest works. The square-shaped interior is bathed in light, thanks to a large number of windows, and the Mihrimah is one of the most beautiful, and beautifully situated, mosques in the city.

Near the mosque, we found the Theodosian Walls’ highest tower, which requires a fair amount of bravery to tackle. The staircase to the top is really more of a crumbling stone ladder, with narrow little steps that can barely accommodate a foot. As we steeled our nerves and began the ascent, a group of Turkish kids gathered at the base of the stairs, and encouraged us on with jeering and laughter. “So cute!” I said to Jürgen. “So cute, I could just kill them!”

The view from the top of the tower was worth the ridicule. We could see from the Sea of Marmara, all away up the Bosphorus and into the Golden Horn, the entirety of the old town laid out spectacularly before us.

After entering the neighborhood of Blachernae, we abandoned the walls and descended to the Golden Horn through twisting alleys and scenes of local life which were almost suspiciously quaint. “Yeah, sure, there just happens to be an elderly man drinking tea in the sun while a group of mischievous rascals play with a pea shooter”, I kept thinking. “Where’s the film team?”

We can’t recommend a walk along the Theodosian Walls enough. The fortifications themselves, the neighborhoods they cut through, and the abundance of nearby sights provided some of the most memorable moments we had in Istanbul.

Location of the Mihrimah Camii

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May 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm Comments (2)

Sunday Morning in Kumkapı

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The neighborhood south of the Grand Bazaar, bordering the Sea of Marmara, goes by the entertaining name of Kumkapı. Although it doesn’t lay claim to any major sights or fabulous mosques, we enjoyed the quiet Sunday morning we spent here. And now, we can finally strike “Attend an Armenian Apostolic Mass” from our bucket lists. Another childhood dream accomplished!

Aile-Shopping-istanbul

Despite the rocky historical relationship between Turkey and its landlocked neighbor to the east, Istanbul has always been home to a sizable population of Armenians; today the number is around 60,000, and many of them live in Kumkapı. Armenians are a strongly Christian people, and part of the reason we chose a Sunday morning to explore the neighborhood was to sit in on mass at the church of Surp Asdvadzadzin.

Armenia is one of the world’s oldest Christian nations; the first country in the world, in fact, to have made Christianity its official state religion. Despite the moderate number of worshipers at the large church, originally built in 1641, we enjoyed the atmosphere: the heavy use of incense, the small choir in front of the altar, and the priest almost yelling at his congregation in a language that sounds a bit like Greek.

After sneaking out of the church, we wandered through a maze of streets packed with fish restaurants. This is one of the most popular evening hangout zones for Istanbullus, who spend their nights eating fish, drinking rakı, listening to music, and having impromptu dance parties around their tables. We swore to return on a Saturday night, because if the mess on Sunday morning is any indication, it must be a good time.

We found a couple other churches in Kumkapı, including the massive Greek Orthodox church of Panaya Elpeda. Built in the 15th century, this looked incredible, but was unfortunately closed to visitors. There was a woman at the gate, but she wasn’t about to consider letting us in. We had to lay on the sweet talk pretty thick, before she would even allow us to snap a quick photo.

Location of the Surp Asdvadzadzin

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April 4, 2013 at 3:16 pm Comments (5)
Rumeli Kava?? and Sariyer The two northernmost towns on the European Bosphorus are Sariyer and Rumeli Kavağı. Sariyer is more developed and wealthy, trapped between a dense forest and the water, while Rumeli Kavağı is a quiet seaside village with a convivial atmosphere.
For 91 Days