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Büyük Çamlıca: Istanbul’s Biggest Hill

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As anyone who’s spent time walking around Istanbul will know, it’s a city of hills. Giant, soul-crushing hills which suck the very life from your legs. Although we had been dreading our ascent up the tallest hill in the city, the Büyük Çamlıca, we were also excited to be done with it. After this, it couldn’t get any worse!

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Istanbul is big, but it’s hard to grasp exactly how big until you’ve seen the view from the Büyük Çamlıca. From here, on a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. And what will you see? Istanbul: for miles in every direction. Istanbul stretching out infinitely to the north, the west and the east. And to the south, as well, until it’s mercifully cut short by the Sea of Marmara.

Besides the view, the park has a pleasant tea garden, and is a great place to spend a lazy couple hours. Taxis drive all the way up the hill, so taking in the bird’s eye view of Istanbul doesn’t really require any effort at all. If you’ve got some extra time, and want to see the true extent of this gigantic city, definitely make the trip out to the Büyük Çamlıca.

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May 29, 2013 at 11:18 am Comments (2)

Southwest of the Hippodrome

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The winding streets and cobblestone alleys immediately southwest of the Hippodrome have a radically different atmosphere from the rest of tourist-oriented Sultanahmet. Sloping down swiftly to the Sea of Marmara, this little subsection of the city has a couple beautiful mosques, as well as a pleasing working-class vibe.

Sokollu-Mehmet-Pa%c5%9fa-Camii-Inside

Just a few hundred meters from the chaotic crowds at the Blue Mosque, we found the quiet Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii. Yet another creation of the Ottoman master architect Mimar Sinan, this lovely mosque was built in 1571 for the Grand Vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent. We were frustrated to find the doors locked, but a student in the attached Koran School suggested we just wait until prayer time.

We relaxed at a nearby rooftop cafe until the call to prayer was issued from the mosque’s solitary minaret. Then, hoping that a solemn demeanor would help us blend in, we filed into the Mehmet Paşa along with the worshipers. This was the first Muslim ceremony I’d witnessed, and I found it quite moving. While we silently observed from the rear of the mosque, an Imam led the prayers. In unison, the men would bow, kneel or join in the chanting. [More Pics of the Sokullu Mehmet Paşa | Location]

Right down the street is the Küçük Ayasofya Camii, or the Small Hagia Sofia, so named because of an architectural and chromatic resemblance to Istanbul’s most famous mosque. It was originally built in 527 as a Byzantine church and, from the exterior, looks its age. So the magnificence of the recently-restored interior comes as a surprise. It’s not as colorful as other mosques, but has a wonderful two-story colonnade, and visitors are allowed to explore the upper floors. [More Pics of the Küçük Ayasofya Camii | Location]

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The Greek writing betrays the Küçük Ayasofya’s original use as a Byzantine Church

After finishing up in the Little Hagia Sofia, we poked around the neighborhood. For being so close to Istanbul’s most popular sights, there were few tourists underway on these narrow, uneven streets. Instead, we saw Turks going on about their daily lives — visiting the market, repairing rotted old buildings, and sitting on tiny stools on the sidewalk, drinking tea. [More Pics from the Neighborhood]

To get home, we walked along the Sea of Marmara until reaching the Galata Bridge. This was a longer trek than we had anticipated, but an entertaining one. Views of Asian Istanbul accompanied us the whole way, along with stray cats, fishermen grilling their day’s catch on the wave breakers, and tankers sounding their horns on their way into the Bosphorus. [More Pics from our Walk along the Sea]

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March 27, 2013 at 9:27 am Comments (2)
Byk aml?ca: Istanbul's Biggest Hill As anyone who's spent time walking around Istanbul will know, it's a city of hills. Giant, soul-crushing hills which suck the very life from your legs. Although we had been dreading our ascent up the tallest hill in the city, the Büyük Çamlıca, we were also excited to be done with it. After this, it couldn't get any worse!
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