Turkish Mosaic Tiles (Çini) of the Topkapı Palace

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Situated on top of the most visible hill of Istanbul, Topkapı Palace is one of the symbols of the city. It was built in 1461 by the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II, who conquered Constantinople and named it “Istanbul” in 1453. For more than four centuries the Topkapı Palace was administrative center of the Ottoman Empire as well as private house of the Ottoman imperial family. The palace was home to twenty two different Ottoman sultans and their families; as a consequence, the palatial complex expanded throughout its history with additional structures. Since 1924, the Topkapı Palace is functioning as a museum and it is the most visited museum in Turkey. Although the palace expanded sultan by sultan and family by family, there was one decorative element that remained unchanged and everyone followed: Turkish mosaic tiles (çini) decorating the walls. Our knowledge regarding the Turkish mosaic tiles of the Topkapı Palace is much less compared to its history and architecture, nevertheless this post attempts to give a background information regarding the Turkish mosaic tiles (çini) of the Topkapı Palace.

Street Food from an Ottoman Istanbul

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Large cities have always been home to mobile vendors selling anything from small toys to dried liver. By the end of the 18th century, newer, larger influxes of migrants brought in many changes for the urban dwellers of Istanbul. Many of these newcomers first found shelter within the markets of the city. As a result, individuals, either migrants or locals, started setting up makeshift cook shops within and around market places. Within 100 years, the number of merchants increased exponentially. The smell of cooking stands, sights of prepared food, and the sounds of mobile vendors singing out their goods were all too familiar. And, for some it was a sign of reputable social standing to be able to “eat out.”

A Brief List of Istanbul Recommendations

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Not only is Istanbul big, but it’s also very old. Even from an early Ottoman period could the city boast high numbers of engaged tourists traveling through. With so many sights to see, foods to eat, and drinks to drink, it’s a wonder why so many Istanbul enthusiasts and locals alike recommend the same activities. Hoping to break this cycle, here are the latest non-touristy or local recommendations from Istanbul Tour Studio.

Grand Admiral Mosques in Istanbul built by Mimar Sinan

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Mimar Sinan (1489-1588) -without doubt- was the most important Ottoman architect. In the sixteenth century he built or supervised hundreds of structures in every corner of the Ottoman Empire including mosque complexes, hamams (Turkish bath), bridges, hospitals, madrasas (religious high school), tombs, and many others. Patrons of these structures were either imperial family members or high-ranking officials such as Grand Vizier, Harem Agha, Shaykh al-Islam (Sunni Islam Religious Leader), and Kaptan-ı Derya (Grand Admiral). Among Sinan’s works in Istanbul, there are two mosque complexes (külliye) commissioned by two different Kaptan-ı Derya (Grand Admiral): Sinan Paşa Mosque and Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque.

Summer Palace of the Byzantine Emperors: Boukoleon Palace

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Boukoleon Palace (Bucoleon Palace) was the summer palace of the Byzantine emperors, which was built along the shores of the Marmara Sea in the south of the Great Palace of Constantinople. It is very probable that it was built during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408 – 450 AD) in the 5th century AD and its monumental façade still stands for more than fifteen centuries.

Istanbul Fish and Their Seasons

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Fishing season is -finally- open in Istanbul as of today, September 1st. As a city surrounded by two seas (Black Sea on the north and Marmara Sea on the south) and one strait (Bosphorus) connecting these two seas, Istanbul is rich in terms of fish and seafood. In addition, starting from Ancient Greek period to today Istanbul has a rich and serious history of fishing and fish consumption. For instance, Byzantion -Ancient Greek colony founded in the seventh century BC on the lands that later became Constantinople, and then Istanbul- was a fishermen village and main income of Byzantion was fish and other sea food. Moreoever, we know from primary sources that during the Middle Ages main nutrition of Istanbulites was fish.

Center of Byzantine Istanbul: Hippodrome of Constantinople

Onufrio Panavinio's drawing of the Hippodrome of Constantinople (c. 1600)

Hippodrome of Constantinople was built for chariot racing, which was the most important sports of the Byzantines. Nevertheless, it was more than a place for chariot races and other sports activities. Located in Sultanahmet/Istanbul, the hippodrome was also home to gladiatorial games, official ceremonies, celebrations, protests, torture to the convicts and so on. The word “hippodrome” comes from the Greek hippos (horse) and dromos (way). Hippodrome functioned all in Roman (203-330 CE), Byzantine (330-1453 CE), and Ottoman (1453-1922) periods.

Throwback Turkish Songs #5 | Erkin Koray & Yeraltı Dörtlüsü – Sana Bir Şeyler Olmuş (1969)

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“Sana Bir Şeyler Olmuş” (Something Has Happened to You) is the cover of Chris Kenner’s “Land of a Thousand Dances” released in 1963 and it is the first live performance of Erkin Koray, broadcasted live at the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) national public broadcaster of Turkey founded in 1960s. Enjoy Erkin Koray’s one of the earliest songs “Sana Bir Şeyler Olmuş” released in 1969.