27 Ocak 2014 Pazartesi

Bird Houses In Istanbul


Bird houses are man’s humble offering to his winged, feathered friends, and one of the oldest and most important expressions of the love of and compassion for animals. The history of houses built for birds like sparrows, finches and swallows goes back a long way. Some of these tiny dwellings, whose numbers proliferated in parallel with the development of classical Ottoman architecture in the 15th century, indicate that they were being built, albeit on a smaller scale, already in the pre-Ottoman period. The purpose of these charming bird houses, which the Turks continued to build up to the 19th century, is to provide refuge to birds, who range freely through the skies but are consequently lonely to the same degree, and to protect them from harsh weather conditions.


There are many different types of bird houses. While the first bird houses tended to be simple, in the 18th century they were transformed into structures of comfort exhibiting a refined aesthetic sense. But aesthetics isn’t everything of course. All bird houses have to meet certain standards, the most important of which is to ensure that birds feel safe inside them. What would be the point, for example, of building a bird house in a place accessible to a cat? Their houses need to be constructed on the sunny side of buildings, in a place that is not exposed to strong winds. One of the most beautiful examples of civilian architecture, bird houses are the centre of attraction on any building. Some have been added following construction, others built in at the start. We encounter them everywhere--on mosques, madrasas, libraries, houses, inns, baths, tombs, bridges, churches, synagogues, and even palaces, in short, in every place that has been touched by human hands.

Bird houses fall into two groups. The first group consists of those built specially into the facade of the building in the form of either a single aperture or several side by side, in other words, structures that do not extend far beyond the facade. Those on the Suleymaniye Mosque, the New Mosque (Yeni Cami) and Buyukcekmece Bridge in Istanbul are examples of this kind. There are also bird houses that project out from the facade of the building, most of which were built in the 18th century. More than houses, these are highly ornamental, elegant dwellings reminiscent of palaces or pavilions. Indeed, some of them even have feeding and water troughs for finches and sparrows, runways for landing and take-off, and even balconies where the birds can venture out and survey their surroundings. Among the loveliest examples of these houses, which are the product of delicate workmanship, are the Yeni Valide, the Ayazma and Selimiye mosques at Uskudar, and the building in the inner courtyard of the Darphane at Topkapi Palace. Other important buildings with bird houses in Istanbul include: the Feyzullah Efendi and Seyyid Hasan Pasha Madrasas, the tomb of Mustafa III, Cukurcesme Han, and the Ahrida Synagogue in Balat. Bricks, tiles, stone and mortar are the building materials of bird houses. Unfortunately those that were made of wood have not survived.

Istanbul is not Turkey’s only landlord catering to birds. From Thrace to Eastern Anatolia, bird houses are to be found in every place touched by human hands. Kirklareli, Tekirdag, Edirne, Bolu, Bursa, Milas, Antalya, Amasya, Kayseri, Ankara, Nevsehir, Sivas, Erzurum, Sanliurfa, Dogubeyazit are just a few of the Turkish cities with bird houses that we can mention here.

Bird houses are a symbol of the value and importance Turks place on animals, especially birds. Several foundations were founded in the Ottoman period for the care and protection of animals. Some of these foundations specialized in feeding birds on cold winter days, caring for and treating sick storks, and providing food and water to animals in general.
Let us conclude with a few lines from Mehmet Zaman Sacliolu’s poem, ‘Bird Houses’;
Bird HousesThe outer walls of houses should be bird houses
That take wing when children laugh.
Even if it’s winter outside,
The summer sun should rise inside the walls
And happiness will also warm the birds.
 Reference: Fusun Akay/Ibrahim Yogurtcu/SKYLIFE

17 Ocak 2014 Cuma

Exploring Istanbul’s Culinary Scene Like A Local

Traditional Turkish simit. Photo courtesy of -Patxi Izkue-

“Tonight I’m going to take you away from the touristy restaurants and show you what and where the locals eat.”

I’m currently on an Istanbul by Night: Turkish Food Tour with my local guide, Yuke Celik. She’s a pretty 26-year-old with a passion for local culture, especially when it comes to traditional Turkish food and drink. After showing me around the main hub of the city, Taksim Square, with its Atatürk Cultural Center, Independence Monument and mix of churches, mosques and temples we stop on Istiklal Street — the most popular place to go for food, shopping and nightlife — to pick up our first morsel for the evening, simit. A popular local street food typically eaten for breakfast or a quick snack on the go, simit is a crispy circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds.

Playing Okey while drinking traditional Turkish tea.

Instead of quickly scarfing it down, however, we head down Bekar Street to visit Oflular Kiraathanesi, one of Istanbul’s many “men only” hangouts. While it’s not forbidden for women to enter — obviously, since Yuke and I are women — they are not really welcome; however, as I am on a local cultural tour the manager gets a kick out of it. The venue is small, with men drinking tea, watching the horse races on television and playing games like backgammon and cards. Yuke and I sit down to a game of “Okey” which is kind of like Rummy as you pick upside down tiles and try to form different color number matches and same color number sequences. As we’re playing and enjoying our simit, the manager brings over small tulip-shaped glasses of Turkish tea. This traditional tea is a black tea drank without milk that is produced on the eastern Black Sea coast. It’s extremely strong, and some people like to add extra hot water or sugar to dilute it. In Turkey, it is customary when your glass is empty to place your spoon inside if you would like more, or upside over the top if you’re finished.

Because I’m trying to save room for the following food and drink stops I somehow manage to not finish my simit; however, when I go to throw the remaining bread in the trash Yuke stops me.
“Nobody here wastes food,” she explains. “There are so many stray cats. Not to mention since we opened the Syrian border the streets have hungry beggars. You can leave it on a paper bag on the street corner and someone will eat it.”

This idea blows my mind. I’m from New York City where the streets are feel of homeless people; yet, everyone wastes food all the time. Imagine if we adopted this mentality?

After I’ve found a scrawny cat in need of some nourishment to feed the rest of my simit to, we continue our epicurious journey into local culture. Although Istiklal Street is full of both tourists and locals, many visitors refrain from veering off the l.4-kilometer (0.6-mile) avenue and down the narrow side streets full of local restaurants, bars and bakeries. These alleyways are full of locals sitting outside on low tables and chairs, sipping tea and coffee, smoking shisha, listening to saz music and gabbing loudly. Despite the fact it’s close to the tourist street, it feels like a totally different world.

rubbish meat
This meat certainly doesn’t taste like rubbish

“Here’s our next stop,” says Yuke, bringing us in front of a restaurant on Hasnun Galup Street. While the bottom floor is a simple white room with tables and portraits of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of Turkey, the upstairs is an open-air rooftop patio where you can see meats being grilled “fireplace-style” on open coals using skewers. The restaurant uses only the parts of the meat that are tender without muscle, like the lower back of the cow, and is called Cop Sis (rubbish meat) because it is served in tiny pieces. To enjoy the delicacy Turkish style, you put a tortilla-like bread flat in the palm of your hand and spoon in some meat; tomato; hot pepper; spices like chili, cumin and thyme; parsley with onion and sumac; a mix of smashed tomatoes, onions and spices called esme; and a mix of smashed baked eggplant with chili and olives called patlican esme. We pair the finger-food meal with Raki, a strong anise-flavored alcohol which you add water to to create a milky licorice tasting libation.

Fresh melon gets topped with tangy goat cheese.

Next it’s time for a traditional mezze (small plate) many Americans may find unusual, fresh melon topped with goat cheese, tomato and cucumber.  Which features outdoor and indoor seating as well as Boheme crystal chandeliers to match its laid-back attitude and old time feel (the restaurant has been open since 1963). The goat cheese is thicker and tangier than what I’m used to back home, but in a good way, and contrasts with the melon for a well-balanced flavor. Suddenly, the waiter brings over glasses of Efes Pilsen beer.

“Şerefe!” shouts Yuke, clinking my glass. “It means ‘to your honor’ or ‘cheers’ in Turkish.”

Once we’re finished, Yuke smiles mischievously. “For the next meal do you want me to tell you what this interesting dish is before you eat it or after?”

The glint in her eye makes me a little uneasy. “Ummm, after.”

intestine sandwich
Would you have guessed this sandwich contained cow intestines? Delicious!

We head to Şampiyon Kokoreç (Zühtüpaşa Mh.  34724 Kadıköy), a restaurant that’s been open since 1962 and serves the aptly named kokorec, a popular Turkish street food.

I’m handed a sandwich full of tiny chopped up pieces of meat, spices and peppers, taking a bite before I can think twice. I try to pinpoint what the mix of spice and tang could be. It almost reminds me of shellfish, although it’s clearly red meat as it looks almost like a taco with thicker bread.

“Is it balls?” I ask, trying to think of something crazy.

Yuke laughs. “No, close but a little more tame…Intestines.”

As I’ve eaten innerds that actually looked like long intestines throughout my time spent in South America, I can honestly say this is a step up. It’s delicious, and I finish every last bite (and even use the traditional Lion Cicegi Kolonyasi, a mix of lemon and alcohol, to clean my hands at the end). Interestingly, the chefs who make this dish sing and make music as they’re cooking, chanting about how the European Union won’t accept them because they eat such a strange delicacy.

Although I’m feeling invincible and like I can handle anything our next meal turns my stomach a bit, although I’m happy to have sampled it: Tripe Soup. Tripe is a rubbery cow stomach lining, and while the taste can be enjoyable it’s the smell that really gets me. It’s typical to add garlic, vinegar and chili to offset the smell and overpowering taste, and according to Yuke is common to eat when you’re drunk because nobody will know you’ve been drinking since it’s odor is stronger than that of alcohol.

turkish coffee
A good Turkish coffee should have many bubbles.

We end the night with a pick me up  an indoor/outdoor venue known for its strong Turkish coffee and fragrant shisha. Apparently, a good Turkish coffee has a lot of bubbles and is flavored with cardamon. It plays an important part in Turkish culture, especially when it comes to marriage proposals. When a man is proposing to a woman he will go to her house to ask for her hand in marriage, and she will prepare coffee for him and the rest of her family. As she prepares the coffee people will check it for the right amount of bubbles to see if she is a good housewife. Moreover, there are fortune tellers around Istanbul — look for the “Fal” sign outside — who can read your future by looking at the images depicted at the bottom of a cup of coffee after turning it upside down on a plate.

ice cream
Goat milk ice cream being twirled at Dondurma in Istanbul.

On the way home we walk again down bustling Istiklal Street, which for 10:30pm at night on a Sunday night is extremely happening, full of party-goers, packed restaurants, clubs and shops that stay open until 3am. I spot an energetic ice cream maker using a metal stick to pound on the dessert before pulling the frozen cream up and twirling it like a pizza. The small shop was called Dondurma and serves a special type of ice cream crafted with goats milk cheese for an extra creamy and tangy dessert. If you’re ever in Istanbul and having a craving for sweets, I recommend you sample this treat as well as Turkish Delights from the nearby Ali Muhıddin Hacı Bekir, which has been in business since 1777 and sells a variety of flavors of the gelatin candies made with sugar, honey, fruit and nuts.

After taking this delicious tour through Istanbul you’ll not only feel satisfied, but will have truly experienced Istanbul’s culinary culture like a local.

Travel Tip: When looking for a great place to eat in Istanbul check to see if there is a picture of a white lily outside the door. This means the eatery has been highly rated. Moreover, there are an array of delicious and budget-friendly street foods to sample that you’ll see everywhere, some of which include simit, doner, corn on the cob, mussels, kofte, pide and kestane.

Posted by Epicure & Culture on September 10, 2013 at 11:25

15 Ocak 2014 Çarşamba

Turkish Woodcarving And Wood Artwork

Seljuk Turks excelled in the working of stone and wood. The most important of the woodworking techniques was called kundekari where pieces of shaped wood are interlocked through rabbeting and mortising, without the use of any nails or glue. Before shaping, the wood was carefully treated so that it would not dry out and shrink later on. Individual pieces were cut and carved into octagons, diamonds, stars etc. according to the design intended. The composition was than framed and backed. Another Seljuk woodworking technique, popular in doors, shutters, reading desks and sarcophagi, was sunk relief where the motifs were carved into the plane of the surface. The reverse of the technique in which the motif stands out of the plane was used in calligraphic friezes and decorative borders. Latticing and openwork was developed to a high art, producing lace-like traceries in wood. Beveling, a technique favored in earlier Central Asian Turkish Art was used not as often.

Walnut, apple, pear, cedar, oak, ebony and rosewood were the most popular raw materials, depending on the technique to be employed. Anatolian Seljuk wood workmanship produced its most mature examples in both quantity and quality by combining the styles and techniques brought by the Turks to Anatolia with local styles of decoration in a new synthesis. A rich decorative style is observed in this period, consisting of floral and geometric designs, inscriptions and, albeit fewer in number, figural images as well. In Anatolian Seljuk wood workmanship, carving is the technique most appropriate to, and most frequently employed for, the decorative style in which thuluth inscriptions and palmette and half-palmette motifs are often used amid rumî branches and tendrils. Decorations incorporating geometric patterns also occupy an important place in Seljuk wood workmanship. The ‘kündekâri’ technique is used especially on large surfaces such as doors, shutters, pulpits and wood panelling. Pieces of wood cut in lozenge, star or octagonal shapes are joined together inside regularly hollowed out strips of wood in an interlocking pattern.
Seljuk style old wooden door
The art of woodworking, which is observed both in architecture and on decorative objects, produced some of its most beautiful examples in the Ottoman period. We see it in architecture in columns and beams; as decorative elements on doors and shutters, pulpits, mosque niches, ceiling ornaments, and balcony railings; on furniture such as lecterns, Koran stands, turban stands, trousseau chests and tables, and as accessories. The professional organization of wood workers, the foundations of which were laid by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in Edirne in the 15th century and completed by the end of the century during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II in the establishment of the Privy Architects’ Hearth in Topkapi Palace, were influential in determining the artistic style of Ottoman wood workmanship. When we consider that Mimar Sinan, who was trained by the Hearth, which was responsible for carrying out and overseeing all construction activity in the Empire, first learned carpentry here before architecture and that Mehmed Aga and Dalgiç Ahmed ÿavus also learned mother-of-pearl inlay here, the importance given to wood workmanship in Ottoman art is readily appreciated. In terms of style and technique, the loveliest and most magnificent examples of wood workmanship are seen in the 16th and 17th centuries. A rich combination emerges with the addition of ‘hatayi’ and other naturalistic floral motifs to the ongoing Seljuk tradition of intricate vegetal decorations consisting of rumi-palmettes and curving branches.

Mother of pearl small table set
The technique of lacquering is conspicuous in Ottoman wood workmanship of the 17th and 18th centuries. This technique, numerous examples of which are encountered in Edirne especially, is for this reason also known as ‘Edirnekâri’. The application of this technique, which, besides wood, was also employed on cardboard and leather, is difficult and painstaking work. When all the irregularities have been smoothed out of the material to be used, a layer of varnish is first applied to prevent the surface from absorbing the paints. After drying, the decoration is applied in gold leaf or paint of various colors. When the paints have dried, the surface is again varnished; this procedure is repeated several times. The Rococo style, which arose as a style of architectural decoration in the palaces of France in the mid-19th century, also exhibits its influence in Ottoman wood workmanship, as in every branch of Ottoman art, as ‘Turkish Rococo’. On small-scale handicrafts, the classical Ottoman decorative motifs give way to floral bouquets, represented naturalistically in a vase, acanthus leaves, C- and S-curving branches, ribbons and bows.

Unable to withstand the ravages of time, most objects made of wood have failed to survive to our day. Nevertheless, you may still see some of the finest examples of wood workmanship from the 8th up to the end of the 19th century in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art.
Reference: Gonul Tekeli, Ali Konyali/SKYLIFE

13 Ocak 2014 Pazartesi

Museum Pass

The gates of history are wide open with the Museum Pass İstanbul.

 With this card, you will be able to visit the historical and cultural treasures of İstanbul, the capital city of three empires, whose history dates back over more than 9 thousand years, free of charge and without having to queue. The Museum Pass İstanbul costs 85 TL and is valid for 72 hours, beginning with your first museum visit.

The card can only be used at each museum once.
The advantages offered to holders of the card aren’t just limited to this; attractive discounts await at the city’s elite private museums, together with arts and entertainments venues, museum shops and GES Shops. 

Museum Pass Points
Chora Museum, Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapı Palace Museum and *Harem Apartments, İstanbul Archaeological Museums, İstanbul Mosaic Museum, **Museum of Turkish and İslamic Arts, Galata Mevlevi House Museum, Yıldız Palace Museum, Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam.

For more info please visit  http://www.muze.gov.tr/museum_pass

12 Ocak 2014 Pazar

Intresting Facts About Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar is the oldest and largest historical bazaar in the world with 4000 shops covering 61 streets.It’s the oldest and largest covered bazaar in the World.
Istanbul is the only city in the world which is both in Europe and Asia geographicaly.

The four bronze horses decorating the San Marco Cathedral in Venice were taken from Istanbul (Constantinople at that time) by the crusaders in the 13th century.
Tea has become a national drink only recently. Before that it was Turkish coffee but when it became expensive and tea leaves could be grown in the Black Sea region, tea took its place. Coffee cannot be produced in Turkey because of the unfavourable climate for its production.
Istanbul was the European Cultural capital in 2010. Two years later it became the world’s fifth-most-popular tourist destination.

Hagia Sophia was the largest church in the world for about 900 years until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. It was also one of the 20 finalists for the New 7 Wonders of the World.
A global city, Istanbul is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan economies in the world and accounts for more than a quarter of Turkey’s GDP.
And of course it’s common knowledge that Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents but still worth mentioning. The historic centre lies on the European side of the city. The Bosphorus Strait divides the city (and implicitly the two continents) and is the link between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
 The Blue Mosque is the only mosque in the city with six minarets. Legend has it that when it was built, it had one minaret more than the Grand Mosque in Mecca (four was the common maximum at that time) and this was considered disrespectful in the Muslim world. In order to solve the issue, one more minaret had to be added to the Grand Mosque.

Istanbul has the third oldest subway in the world. It was built in 1875 after the ones in London and in New York in 1863 and 1868, respectively. It is 573 meters long and it is located in the Beyoglu district.
1500'S, there were 1400 public toilets in Istanbul while in the rest of Europe there were none.
Istanbul has been the capital of some of the biggest empires: Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman. – Istanbul is one of the biggest cities in the world, with around 14 million population, which is more than 122 countries around the world. However, it’s not Turkey’s capital. Ankara has been the capital since Turkey was proclaimed a republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.
Maiden's Tower also known in the ancient Greek and medieval Byzantine periods as Leander's Tower (Tower of Leandros), sits on a small islet located in the Bosphorus strait off the coast of Uskudar in Istanbul, Turkey. Used as a lighthouse for centuries, the interior of the tower has been transformed into a popular café and restaurant, with an excellent view of the former Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman capital. Private boats make trips to the tower several times a day.  The tower was featured in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. The tower was a point on the CBS reality game show The Amazing Race 7.

The pride of the Topkapi Palace Museum and its most valuable single exhibit is the 86-carat pear-shaped Spoonmaker Diamond, also known as the Kasikci. Surrounded by a double-row of 49 Old Mine cut diamonds and well spotlighted, it hangs in a glass case on the wall of one of the rooms of the Treasury. In 1774 a French officer named Pikot bought the diamond from the Maharajah of Madras in India and then took it to France. Somehow thieves got wind of the gem and robbed Pikot. Sometime later a large diamond about the size of the stone taken from Pikot, appeared at an auction, and the notorious Casanova made a bid for it. The diamond thus became known for a time as the Casanova Lottery Diamond. It was finally bought by Napoleon's mother, Letizia Ramolino, who later sold her jewels to help her son escape from Elba in 1815. An officer of Tepedelenli Ali Pasha bought the great diamond for 150,000 pieces of gold and put it in Tepedelenli's Treasury. When he was killed in the revolt against Sultan Mahmut II, his entire treasury came to the Palace of Turkey. It is probable that the stone now called the Kasikci, is the long lost Pikot (aka Spoonmaker's) Diamond. Source: "Diamonds Eternal" by Victor Argenzio. Printed by the David McKay Company Inc., New York. 1974.

Adolf Hitler worked in the constuction of Haydarpaşa Railhead as a younger worker.
Istanbul, Turkey opened its first coffeehouse in 1554. The Turks brought coffee to Austria when their army surrounded Vienna in 1683, laying siege to the city.
The last time the sea in the Bosphorus froze was in 1954 when people were able to cross from one side of the strait to the other walking on the huge pieces of ice.
The Golden Horn is entirely in Europe. It leads into the Bosphorus, which is the water that divides the two continents and which joins the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, which in turn leads into the Mediterranean. This is one reason Istanbul has always been of great strategic importance.

This cosmopolitan city is stretched out on 7 hills, partially in Europe with the other half in Asia, being separated by a beautiful body of water called the Bosphorus that stretches from the Marmara Sea in the south to the Black Sea in the north. When the Bosphorus bridge was completed it was the fourth biggest suspension bridge in the world. The first bridge over the Bosphorus was completed in three years and opened in 1973. The second one was completed in 1988.

Istanbul is a city where East meets west. It is the only city in the world that is situated on two continents. This makes it the nearest European city to Asia and the nearest Asian city to Europe.

Once the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, the city is home to landmarks of astounding beauty such as Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar.
Since 1990s there is a great tendency in the Western media and guide book writers that proponents of a secular Turkish state are elite, military or intellectuals. Nothing can be further from the truth. These people have not been here long enough or have not been in enough contact with the Turkish people.

Turkish society have become a class society after 30 years of neoliberal economic policies. You have the bankers, people working or doing business with multinational corporations, people tied to the state and to the governing party "du jour". And all of them tied to Wall Street. Lots of debts and lots of glamour is built since 2001. If you see in guidebooks or internet sites phrases such as "Istanbul has become hip", "In", that's why. Istanbul has always been beautiful, it is not a recent happening!
 Nisantasi is a small time Soho, in case you want to try posh shops in Istanbul with streets decorated with fancy cobbles stones and lamp posts. That's the part of city center for high income people.
Bosphorus is where ordinary people go there fishing for food next to multimillion dollar sea side villas known as yalis.
Although the major Mevlevihane (whirling dervish home) is in Konya, there is one in Galata as well. Every other week, on second and fourth fridays of every month there is a sema show (whirling dervish show).
Needless to say the most important historical figure who has lived in Istanbul is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who has passed away in Dolmabahce Palace, a summer residence of the president at the time. Among other famous people who have spend time in Turkey or Ottoman Empire are Kaiser Wilhelm, Franz Liszt, Florence Nightingale, Gustave Flaubert, Agatha Cristie and Pierre Loti.
Some remains of the Great Palace of Byzantine are under Sultanahmet. In fact there are some small tunnels closed to public access but were filmed in documentaries. Remains from the Palace are mosaics in Mosaic Museum.
Tea is a fairly recent national drink. It was Turkish coffee which was the national addiction but after coffee became expensive and it was possible to plant tea leaves in the Black Sea region, tea became the national drink. Turkey does not have production of coffee as it does not have a favorable climate for coffee production.
Our grandfathers and grandmothers living on the Asian side of Istanbul used to say 'I am going to Istanbul today' before leaving home for an hour trip to the European side of Istanbul marking the contrast between the two sides of the city. They did go to the European side mostly for compulsory reasons like, a hospital visit, business or shopping and after returning home would say things like my head is spinning.
Sultan Ahmet was a big failure as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire yet his name is way more popular than other great sultans such as Fatih Sultan Mehmet who conquered Istanbul or Suleyman the Magnificient who expanded the territories of the empire to its peak. The reason is Sultan Ahmet had ordered the building of Sultanahmet Mosque which rivaled St. Sophia and gave its name to the neighborhood. So once more a person of power and wealth has made his name eternal through patronage of arts. 
 Looking at modern Uskudar, it is hard to imagine the battle to unite Roman Empire was done in Uskudar and upon victory Roman Emperor Constantin moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Istanbul.
Istanbul is dubbed by Turkish poets and Turkish people alike, the City of Seven Hills, like Rome. Interestingly Istanbul was the capital of the Roman Empire after Rome. The city offers gorgeous views from not only from these hills but also from seaside locations.
The ferry boat you see in the picture above and simit, a Turkish specialty food, oven cooked dough with sesame seeds, along with tea is the ultimate Istanbul to Turkish people.
Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel "Murder on the Orient Express" at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.
There are 333 cemetaries in Istanbul (as of 2011); 268 of them are for Muslims and 65 for non-Muslim.
First traffic accident occured in 1912 at Sisli district, when the driver of the Italian Embassy hit a pedestrian and tried to run away from the scene.
Sapphire skyscraper at Levent district is the tallest (261 meters - 856 feet) building between Dubai - Frankfurt on the world map. Second tallest building in Istanbul is Is Kule owned by Is Bank, 181 meters (594 feet) high.
Biggest light house of Turkey is in Sile district on the Black Sea coast. It's 19 meters (62 feet) high and 1,1 meters (3,6 feet) wide.
Istanbul was the most crowded city of the world in 1502, then London took this title in 1840.
It has been a noted inspiration for authors from Paul Theroux and Ernest Hemingway to Orhan Pamuk and Abdülhak Sinasi Hisar
Originally named the Tower of Christ, the Galata Tower was built in 1348 at the apex of fortified walls and was used to house prisoners of war, later became an observatory, but now offers a 360-degree viewing gallery of the city.
Istanbul is surrounded by sea, with the Bosphorus cutting right through it. And yet, snow is common in the city, with the annual average being 18 inches.
You might think that tulips originate from the Netherlands. However, the first tulips bulbs were sent from the Ottoman Empire to Vienna in 1554 and they were distributed further to Augsburg, Antwerp and Amsterdam. Afterwards they grew in popularity in the Netherlands as they proved to be able to tolerate the harsher weather conditions.

9 Ocak 2014 Perşembe

How To Spot and Avoid Common Istanbul Tourist Scams?


Pickpocketing is only one of the few Istanbul tourist scams you can experience.Istanbul, just like every world city, has to cope with its typical tourist scams. Although most Turks are unbelievably honest and would go the extra mile to help you rather than rip you off, in a city with well over 12 million inhabitants, you’ll always find a few people with different intentions. This shouldn’t scare you, on the contrary. Compared to other world cities, Istanbul has fewer tourist traps, and thanks to this post you will be able to spot and avoid these scams easily.

The Setting

Before I dive into the details of each different Istanbul tourist scam, keep the following in mind:
  • most of these rip-offs occur in Istanbul’s very touristic, crowded and/or busy places, e.g. Sultanhamet Square, Istiklal Caddesi, Cumhurriyet Caddesi, Taksim Square and its surrounding streets.
  • their preferred targets are tourists travelling alone (Let’s Have a Drink) or in very small groups
  • if you suspect a scam coming up and don’t accept their invitation right from the start, they will never get rude or insult you, and just move on

Let’s Have a Drink

Goal — Get you to enter one of their bars with overpriced drinks and underdressed women. The result is always the same: you end up with a huge bill, often into hundreds of Euros.
Target — Single white men
Set-up — A well-dressed man, fluent in English, approaches you and tries to start a conversation. If you’re a smoker he’ll ask you for a lighter (and if you pay close attention, you may even notice him throwing away a burning sigarette seconds earlier). If you’re not, then he may just walk up to you. And even if you’re sitting alone at a terrace table, he may sit down at the table next to you and start a conversation this way.
Regardless of his approach, the conversation will always lead in the same direction: whether you would like to join him for some after work drinks in a great place (of a friend of his) that he knows.
How to Avoid — Never take advice from complete strangers about establishments worth trying out. You’ll find a nice selection of the best cafés, bars and nightclubs on this site. Just tell him you’re waiting/meeting with two or three other friends and are not interested. Right from the start decline his invitation and move on. Don’t promise ‘tomorrow’, because he may keep on trying his chance for days to come.

Non-mobile and probably legitimate shoe shine spot in Istanbul.Shoe Shine

Goal — Talk you into getting a shoe shine (for free) and overcharge you afterwards.
Target — Singles, couples, small families or groups
Set-up — They have mainly two tricks up their sleeve to get them to polish your shoes. Either they walk past you and drop their brush on one of your shoes, or they walk in front of you and drop their brush hoping you would pick it up and hand it to him. The result for both cases is the same: to apologize or as a token of gratitude, they start shining your shoes. While you think it’s for free, he’ll demand you to pay much more than the price of a regular shoe shine. If you start arguing, more of his ‘colleagues’ will show up to back him up.
How to Avoid — Don’t pick up the brush and just keep on walking. In case the brush fell on your shoe, tell him that it’s ok and move on. Having said this, there are plenty of legitimate shoe shines in Istanbul doing a great job. They normally don’t move around and ask between 5 and 10 TL. Agree on the price beforehand — for both shoes! (another trick)

Carpet or Leather Shop

Goal — Get you to buy goods in shops he works for, and where you with near certainty won’t get the best bargain.
Target — Anybody wandering around in Sultanahmet and the Grand Bazaar
Set-up — A very friendly guy, fluent in several languages, will ask if you are lost and need some help in locating some of the sightseeing spots and/or Grand Bazaar shops. And as he ‘guides’ you, he’ll pass some of his shops and remember he had to drop something off. He will of course invite you in to meet his family member(s).
Before you know it, you’ll be drinking tea, listening to how only they still make quality leather or carpets, and why you should buy something there. If you manage to keep your wallets closed, he promises to take you to the place you were actually looking for … and the whole procedure starts again.
How to Avoid — When people offer to guide you around, be aware. Instead, if you’re really lost, you take the initiative by asking someone.

Don't give pick pocketers a chance and carry your back-pack in the front.Pickpocketing

Goal — Steal your wallet or other valuables.
Target — Careless tourists.
Set-up — None! Any crowded steert or place will do.
How to Avoid — Just like any Turk, keep your wallet in the front pockets of your pants, wear your handbags within eyesight and carry back-packs on the front of your body. Make sure all the zippers are properly closed. Also, never leave bags or other valuables such as mobile phones, iPods, etc. unattended on (terrace) tables or easy to grab for bypassers.

Taxi Scams

Goal — Overcharge you for the ride.
Target — Anybody
Set-up — Traffic jams, short cuts, etc.

6 Ocak 2014 Pazartesi

Incredible Istanbul

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4 Ocak 2014 Cumartesi

Who Are The Turks?

                            Turkish Peoples and Countries on World             
The simplest questions can be the most difficult to answer. The Turks are obviously a people separate from other peoples, but a people can be defined in many ways -- language, religion, cultural traits, citizenship, loyalty to a ruling house or many other feelings of kinship. The Turks of today are citizens of the Turkish Republic. The name Turk is also used to describe the people in Turkey who share the distinctive Turkish culture, especially the Turkish language, which all Turkish citizens do not share, no more than all Americans speak English. Or a Turk can also mean a member of the great linguistic and cultural family of the Turks, a family that stretches from China to Europe, bound together by language and history. The best way to define the Turks may be to consider which people make up the Turks of Turkey and how they defined themselves politically, first as subjects of the Ottoman Empire, then as citizens of the Turkish Republic.

The original speakers of the Turkish language lived in Central Asia. They roamed as nomads over a vast region that today lies in Siberia, Western China, and Kazakhstan and other ex-Republics of the U.S.S.R. They were known at an early time to both the Chinese and the Middle Eastern Persians and Arabs, but they first appeared in the Middle East in large numbers, as nomadic soldiers, in the tenth century. Finding the Middle East more pleasant than the cold steppes of Central Asia, they remained.

The Turks had converted to Islam while in Central Asia. Although some of the Turks in history had been Christians and Jews, Islam became the religion of the vast majority and remains so today.

The Turkish nomads expanded westward under the leadership of the Seljuk family of sultans. The Seljuks quickly took Iran and Iraq, capturing Baghdad, the capital of the old Abbasid Empire, in 1055. Their forces were unlike what is ordinarily thought of as an army. The first Seljuk troops were nomads who brought all their lives with them -- families, dwellings (tents), animals and belongings. They were at home wherever the pastures were good for their sheep. Relatively soon after their arrival so many Turks had come that the region to the southwest of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, was Turkish. Large groups of Turks were also spread over other regions of Iran and Iraq.

The nomads did not stop once Iran and Iraq were conquered. They were soon raiding into the Byzantine Empire, which lay to the west of Iran, in Anatolia. In 1071, the Byzantine defeat to the Seljuks in a great battle at Manzikert opened Anatolia to Turkish settlement. Over the next two hundred years the nomads kept moving into Anatolia in great numbers. Although the Turks themselves did not use the term, Anatolia had become Turkey. Many other peoples remained there. Greeks, Kurds, Armenians, and others shared the land, and many of them adopted the Turkish language, converted to Islam (forced conversion was almost unknown), and became Turks themselves. Because the Turks had no concept of "race" that would exclude anyone, they accepted those who wished to be Turks as Turks. The Turkish people were thus made up of the descendants of the Turks of Central Asia and those who had become Turks.

Nineteenth and early twentieth century refugees added to the numbers of Turks in Anatolia. In the time of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish population had spread throughout the Balkans. The descendants of these Turks lived for five hundred years in the areas that are today Bulgaria, Greece and other countries of Southeastern Europe. Large numbers of these Turks were either killed or exiled when the countries rebelled against the Ottoman Empire and became independent. Russian invasions of the Ottoman Balkans and the creation of new Balkan states resulted in the expulsion of more than a million Turks. The exiles eventually settled in Anatolia and Eastern Thrace.

The Russians were also responsible for the immigration of more than two million Turks and other Muslims from the Crimea and the Caucasus Region. Both regions were overwhelmingly Muslim in population.

The Crimean Tatars were Turkish-speakers who had lived in the Crimea for centuries. The Caucasians, primarily the peoples known as Circassians, Abkhazians, and Laz, were not Turks, but were Muslim peoples who had lived on their lands since the beginning of history. All the groups were forced to flee their homelands by Russian armies or laws. They too came to what today is the Turkish Republic.

From 1800 to the 1920s more than three million refugees came to what today is Turkey. Many of the immigrants were already Turks in culture and language. Others, such as the Circassians and Abkhazians, kept many of their ethnic traditions, but became Turkish in language and loyalty. The ethnic Turks of modern Turkey thus came from Central Asia many centuries ago. A number are also descendants of peoples whose ancestors were Hittites, Phrygians, or other early peoples of Anatolia. Others descend from the peoples exiled from their homes by Russians and others taken in by the Turks of Turkey.

Peoples are often defined by the unique states to which they belong. This is especially true of the Turks, who were tied to one of the greatest empires of history, then to one of the first successful "developing" countries of the modern world.

Partly because the poetry, art, and other aspects of the Turkish character are little known to the West, Europeans and Americans have usually thought of Turks as soldiers and administrators. While there is much more than this to the Turks, it is true that Turks rank among history's great empire-builders and rulers. Under the Ottomans they conquered vast territories in the Balkans and the Middle East and ruled for six hundred years. The Ottoman Empire was founded at the end of the thirteenth century by a Turkish military leader, Osman, and his son Orhan. They and their successors conquered in Europe, Asia, and Africa. One sultan, Selim I, took all of what today is Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon in one campaign. His son, Suleyman the Magnificent, expanded the empire by taking Iraq and Hungary. When Suleyman died in 1566 the Ottoman Empire stretched from the borders of Poland in the North to Yemen in the South and from near Venice in the West to Iran in the East. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire was the primary homeland of the Turks.

The Ottoman Turkish administrative genius lay in retaining and governing what they had conquered. The survival of any government for six centuries is in itself a testimony to greatness. The Turks proved to be adaptable to new circumstances. They managed to turn their system from a nomadic state whose members were more naturally wanderers than statesmen to a settled empire with laws, land registers, taxation systems, and economic might. Their system was not without troubles, but revolts and sometimes poor politicians could not bring it down. The state was based on tolerance of differences among its subjects. Christians and Jews were allowed to keep their religious practices and their means of gaining a livelihood. This was good for the Ottomans, because satisfied subjects did not rebel. It was also good for the subjects.

Tolerance and administrative ability were not enough for the Empire to last forever. In the 1600s and 1700s the Ottoman central government weakened just as European power immensely increased. The Europeans were translating the benefits of the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the discovery of the Americas into military and economic advantage. Europeans began to dismantle the Empire , taking Ottoman lands for themselves, causing the great exile of Turks and other Muslims mentioned above. Ethnic and religious groups, such as the Bulgarians and Greeks, became affected by European ideas of nationalism. In the nineteenth century they revolted and created their own nation states, once again expelling many of the Turks who lived within their new borders.

As the Ottoman Empire compressed, the Turks also began to develop a national consciousness. Driven into Anatolia, the Turkish exiles and the Turks of Anatolia began a slow process of thinking of themselves not only as a religious group, Muslim, or the mainstay of an empire, Ottoman, but as the Turkish People. Turkish philosophers and politicians called upon the Turks to think of themselves as a nation.

The ultimate push toward Turkish nationhood came after World War I. Following Ottoman defeat in the war, the Arab and Muslim provinces had been stripped from the Empire. Anatolia, Istanbul, and a small portion of Europe were all that was left to the Turks. Then, in 1919, Anatolia was also invaded. Aided by Britain, France, and Italy, the Greek army landed and took control of Western Anatolia and Eastern Thrace. The European Allies took Istanbul themselves. Many Turks already had been driven from both Europe and Asia into Anatolia, and Anatolia seemed about to be lost also. Drawing on their old military skills, the Turks organized to save what remained. They rallied under the leadership of General Mustafa Kemal, defeated the Greeks, and created a new state, the Turkish Republic, in Anatolia and Eastern Thrace.

The identity of the modern Turks was forged in the Turkish Republic under the tutelage of Mustafa Kemal, who became the first president of the Republic. Once again the Turks proved adaptable to change.
Mustafa Kemal devised political, economic, and social reforms that would bring Turkey into the modern world. Radical change was legislated covering most facets of life. Soon after the founding of the Republic, Turkey became a secular state. Islam remained the religion of most of the people, but the state was not religious. Other changes followed quickly: The veil and the fez were banned and Western styles of clothing appeared. Women were given the vote and elected to parliament. The Turkish language began to be written in Western characters, not the Arabic letters used previously. Laws were based on Western legal codes. Schools followed Western models. In short, Turkey became rapidly Westernized under Mustafa Kemal. As a symbol of change, Mustafa Kemal's government required all Turks to change the habits of centuries and adopt family names, as in the West. Mustafa Kemal himself took Ataturk ("Father Turk") as his surname. An entire culture began to be altered. Nevertheless, study of the history and traditions of the Central Asian Turkish ancestors of the Turks of Turkey was stressed, as well.

Why follow the ways of Europe and America? Ataturk and the Turkish reformers felt that Western ways could not be adopted piecemeal. They believed that copying the industries and economies of the West was not possible unless one also accepted Western schools, business practices, and social customs. It was the whole of the Western culture that allowed Europe to develop economically, Ataturk felt, and he wanted his country to develop, so the country had to Westernize. Accepting the ways of the West meant accepting democracy. Ataturk kept authority in his own hands, but he deliberately schooled the people in the forms and ideas of a democratic society. In the 1950s the Turks created a real democracy which, despite some obstacles, continues to this day.

Westernization is another facet of the Turkish makeup. While some Turks would prefer to go back to old ways, the country as a whole has been committed since the time of Atatfirk in the model of the West. Turkey has been a full member of NATO since 1952 and an ally of Europe and America in the Gulf War with Iraq.

Who are the-Turks? They are the descendants of the nomads from Central Asia and the refugees from the Balkans and the Caucasus, brought together in the Turkish Republic. Most of the Turks are Muslims, following the prayers of Islam in the mosque, but living in a secular state. They are also the inheritors of the governmental traditions of the Ottoman Empire and the democracy of Ataturk and the West.

The citizens of today's Turkey do not come from one ethnic group, no more than do the citizens of the United States. As in the United States, the ancestors of today's Turkish citizens come from many different places and many different cultures. The majority are ethnically Turkish. That is, they speak Turkish at home and feel themselves to be a part of the great ethnic tradition that goes back to Central Asia. Some others are "Turks by adoption." They speak Turkish as their first language, but their ancestors came to Turkey, primarily in the nineteenth century, speaking other languages. Others are Turkish citizens but do not speak Turkish at home. This too is similar to the United States.

Of those who are Turks by adoption, the majority are the descendants of refugees from the Caucasus and the Balkans. The refugees were driven from their homes by Russian and Balkan armies and settled in what today is Turkey. Peoples such as the Circassians and the Laz have kept some of the folk traditions from their old homeland. However, they seldom speak the old languages. They have become part of the Turkish "melting pot."
The largest concentration group of non-Turkish speakers, the Kurds, is centered in Southeastern Anatolia. Other Kurdish-speakers live in Iraq, Iran, and other parts of what was the Soviet Union. Many Kurds now also live in cities all over Turkey, integrated into the general society. Groups of Arabic speakers live in provinces that border Syria. Of late, large groups of Persians have come to Turkey, refugees from the regime in Iran. There are also numerous smaller groups who have come from all over Europe and Asia.

The Jews in Turkey are both distinct and integrated. Today, their primary language is Turkish, but they have a separate language, Judeo-Espanol, which is also used. Most of the Turkish Jews are descended from those who were expelled from Spain in 1492. Although they are economically and politically completely integrated into Turkish life, the Turkish Jews retain a strong sense of ethnic and religious identity.

By no means do all the ethnic Turks originally come from Anatolia and Eastern Thrace, the area of modern Turkey. The ancestors of many, more than two million, were exiles from the Balkans and what today is the Armenian Republic. Other Turks were forced out by the Soviets in the 1950s. Still others came in large numbers in the 1980s when the Bulgarian State first discriminated against them, then allowed them to emigrate to Turkey.
All of these groups make up the citizenry of the Turkish Republic. 

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