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Thursday, 11-Aug-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Dolmabahçe Palace,and memories of Ataturk

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Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosphorus shore in Istanbul is a fitting symbol of the magnificence and decadence of the 19th-century Ottoman Empire.

It's just as a sultan's palace should be: huge and sumptuous, with 285 rooms, 43 large salons, a 4000 kg (4-1/2-ton) Bohemian glass chandelier, and a Bosphorus-shore façade nearly a quarter mile (1/2 km) long. It's the grandest of Ottoman imperial palaces (closed Monday & Thursday; stay 2-3 hrs; guided tour required).

The cheapest, most comfortable way to get there is by the Zeytinburnu-Findikli-(Besiktas) tram which runs from Sultanahmet Square down to Eminönü, across the Golden Horn to Karaköy (Galata), then north almost to the palace.

You can walk from Taksim Square downhill to Dolmabahçe (it's about a mile, or 1.6 km), but the walk back uphill is tiring, so you may want to take a taxi.

The palace was designed by Ottoman Armenian architects Karabet and Nikogos Balian for Sultan Abdulmecit (1839-61). When it was finished in 1856, the imperial family moved out of medieval Topkapi Palace to live in European-style opulence.

Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), founder of the Turkish Republic, died here on November 10, 1938 during a visit to the city
Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), Turkey's national hero, was a military commander of genius and a statesman with few equals.

If you visit Turkey you'll want to know at least the basics about Atatürk because his image is everywhere and his influence is still alive generations after his death (in 1938).

What did he do? He took a defeated, demoralized, poverty-stricken medieval theocratic monarchy and reshaped it into a vibrant, progressive, democratic secular republic. In other words, he turned black into white almost single-handedly.

A boy named Mustafa was born into the family of a minor official in Ottoman Salonika (Thessaloniki) in 1881. Excelling at mathematics in school, his teacher gave him the nickname Kemal (Excellent). He went on to attend the Ottoman military staff college (Harbiye) in Istanbul.

He joined other "Young Turks" to reform Turkey's government and society in the last years of the 19th century. Unfortunately, it was his far less talented colleagues who took power from the sultan and led the empire into a disastrous alliance with the German Empire during World War I.

During the Gallipoli campaign (1915-1916), Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal was instrumental in stopping the advance of the Allied forces intent on seizing Istanbul. He commanded from the front lines with incredible courage, and was hailed as a war hero.

After the war, the Allies tried to seize most of Turkey's territory and resources, leaving little for the Turks. Kemal fled from occupied Istanbul to Anatolia and rallied the population in defense of their homeland. He summoned representatives, organized a republican government and army and, while serving as head of goverment also commanded the army against several powerful invading forces. By 1923 the republican armies had driven all the invaders out, and the new government in Ankara was secure--if poverty-stricken.

Granted the surname Atatürk ("Father of the Turks") by a grateful parliament, Kemal made peace--and even established friendly relations--with Turkey's erstwhile enemies. Before his untimely death in 1938, he spearheaded his country's economic recovery and laid the foundations for Turkey's neutrality in World War II.

It may well be said that without Atatürk, there would be no modern Turkish Republic, well ahead of its Islamic neighbors in democratic, social, cultural and commercial progress.

His principles, still revered by most Turks, include:

• Democracy

• Secularism

• Equality for women

• Freedom of Religion

• Free public co-educational schools

• "Peace at Home, Peace in the World"

• No dreams of territorial expansion (despite the Ottoman Empire's former greatness)

Atatürk's memory and legacy are revered and protected by law. Nobody in Turkey jokes about Atatürk. During your visit, refrain from any light-hearted or disrespectful references to the national hero.

Monday, 8-Aug-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
My dog deliverd just today

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i am so happy and this kind mother is happy too.
just a few moments ago i took these photos.....
she is 5 years old i have it since she was only 2 months
she has 5 pupies now

Sunday, 7-Aug-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

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Home of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, Topkapi ("Palace of the Cannon Gate") was the seraglio, the heart of the vast Ottoman Empire, ruled by the monarch who lived in Topkapi's hundreds of rooms with hundreds of concubines, children, and white and black servants.

Because Topkapi is No. 1 on everyone's list of Istanbul sights, get there when it opens (usually 9 am; closed Tuesday) and go straight to the Harem, which can only be seen by guided tour, and the tours fill up early.

After the Harem tour you can stroll the palace's spacious grounds and four courtyards at your leisure.

Don't miss the Treasury in the 3rd courtyard, with its incredible gems, gold, and works of art.

(For a bittersweet romantic scene that actually happened at Topkapi, see my Bright Sun, Strong Tea excerpt entitled "Tears at Topkapi.")

When you're done at Topkapi, head for Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), right next door, and the Blue Mosque, next door to Ayasofya on the Byzantine Hippodrome.

Saturday, 6-Aug-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Blue Mosque

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What's so blue about the Blue Mosque? Not much.

Istanbul's imperial Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I (Sultan Ahmet Camii) is called the Blue Mosque because of its interior tiles, mostly on the upper level and difficult to see unless you're right up there with them.

Forget the blue tiles! The mosque (built 1603-17) is the masterwork of Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Aga. It's built on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium, on the southeastern side of the Hippodrome.

With its six minarets and a great cascade of domes, the mosque is a worthy sibling to Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) just a few minutes' stroll to the north.

The Blue Mosque has fascinating secrets revealed in my travel memoir, Bright Sun, Strong Tea, and on the Magic of the Blue Mosque page.

This is one of Istanbul's premier sights, and you're welcome to visit at most times of day, for free (donations gratefully received).

But it's also a working mosque, so it's closed to non-worshippers for a half hour or so during the five daily prayers, and may be closed for a longer time midday on Friday, the Muslim holy day.

The architect of Istanbul's Blue Mosque, Sedefkâr Mehmet Aga, paid tribute to his colleagues Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, architects of neighboring Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), who designed their masterwork a thousand years before Mehmet Aga was born.

As you proceed deep into Ayasofya, the domes seem to billow upward into space, creating their own "heavens." In the Blue Mosque, Mehmet Aga has duplicated the effect on the exterior of the building: as you approach from the front and ascend the stairs toward the courtyard, the domes billow upward until, entering the courtyard, the full grandeur of the exterior is revealed.

Sultanahmet's two great timeless monuments, side by side....

The images below allow you to see some of the effect, but there's nothing like being right there. When you go, be sure to enter the Blue Mosque's enclosure from the west (Hippodrome) side. Walk slowly, looking ahead, and watch the drama of the domes--and the architect's genius--being revealed for you.

Friday, 5-Aug-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Hagia Sophia

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Drafty, sombre, aged, dank, lofty, glorious. In summer cool as marble, in winter cold as snow.

On a hot Istanbul afternoon, Hagia Sophia is an oasis of cool silence broken only by the spiel and patter of the multilingual guides. Their flocks of curious Europeans, Americans, Japanese and Greeks feel what the guides by this time ignore: awe. It is the awe not of religion, for Hagia Sophia is neither church nor mosque any longer. The awe is of age, of history, and of miraculous architecture.

Hagia Sophia is an experience in space and time, and the architects' magic still works after more than fourteen centuries.

Here, for the first time, the basilica's classic rectangle was widened to a square and topped with an immense flattened dome. So ambitious were the architects, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, that the dome had to be made from special hollowed bricks shaped from a particularly light clay found only on the island of Rhodes.

The huge pillars which support the dome are effectively hidden in the north and south walls of the nave.

After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, this design influenced the basic plan of the greatest, most splendid Ottoman Turkish mosques.

Stroll into Hagia Sophia's shady garden and you feel only that you are approaching an improbable, famous, old, ungainly pile of Byzantine masonry, huge and squat, guarded by four dissimilar and incongruous minarets. Its harmonious original form is now dissonant with extra buttresses at north and south.

At the end of the path you turn to the right and approach the entrance, and everything changes. Through the severe but stately rectangle of the first door you see a second door, and a third, and then a great space beyond. Enter at the measured pace of a religious procession, and Hagia Sophia reveals her secrets, one by one.

In the dim light deep within is a glimmer of gold. Your eyes adjust to the darkness and you recognize the apse blazing with a glorious gold mosaic of Madonna and Child. A few more steps, and the vision is clear and beautiful.

Look up now: above the great innermost door once reserved for the emperor another mosaic appears, a figure in rich array with hand raised in benediction. Approach, and the face becomes visible: it is Christ Pantocrator, Ruler of All, the lifelike face full of power and majesty.

Another step, and the distant apse has been dwarfed by the huge dome above it. No! It is only a semi-dome, with a circle of windows swimming into view high above. A few steps more and you stand at the Imperial Door, and finally the last secret is revealed as the enormous gilded dome soars above the vast inner space of the nave, the small windows at its base lifting it with colored light.

On the 26th of December, A.D. 537, Emperor Justinian the Great stood in the Imperial Door, gazed at the cathedral which he had built, and exclaimed, "Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work. Oh Solomon! I have outdone thee!"

At this same spot on May 29, 1453, almost a thousand years later, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, fresh from the final battle for Constantinople, stood in this doorway and ordered the great church to be cleansed, repaired, beautified, and converted to a mosque.

Another five centuries, and it was proclaimed a museum by Kemal Atatürk (1934) and opened to all.

Repairs are under way yet again, but scaffolding is temporary, the great church eternal.

I try to imagine how it must have looked with its hundreds of tiny oil lamps aflame, the drone of Orthodox chant and the scrape of measured steps rising to heaven on clouds of incense. I picture legions of the Muslim faithful in ritual prayer, their genuflexions in perfect unison, their voices rising and echoing in the perfect acoustics.

Outside is modern Istanbul, hot and busy with buses and postcard hawkers, with children playing in a fountain and businessmen talking on mobile phones.

In Hagia Sophia, ghosts of the great empires seek refuge in the cool, sombre air, and I am there with them.

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