Full Day (BYZANTINE & OTTOMAN ISTANBUL)
Upon disembarkation early on from the ship, escorted by your professional guide you will first drive past the city walls of old Constantinopolis from the sea walls on the Golden Horn to the gate of Adrianopolis.
We shall first drive along the old city skirting the sea walls that used to protect her against the naval forces that attacked her and at the point where the sea walls are joined with the land walls we will turn north and drive by the Castle of Seven Towers.
This was a protective structure that defended the Byzantine gateway, but later during the Ottoman period Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror also added some towers. Most of the walls of the city as we see them today date back to the reign of Emperor Theodosius II(408-450 AD). We will continue north and pass by some of the gates of the ancient city, namely the Belgrade Gate, the Silivri Gate, and of course the Topkapi Gate where during the Turkish conquest of the city the famous Janissary corps entered the City from and finally the Adrianopolis Gate through which we will re-enter the city again.
The next point of visit will be the Church of St. Saviour in Chora or now known as the Kariye museum. This museum contains some superb mosaics and frescoes of the Byzantine period and probably nothing equals this treasure of Byzantine art. The name of the church literally means the Church of St.Saviour in-the-country, meaning that he church was actually outside the city walls which during the expansion of the city walls by Theodosius it was included in the city limits. The origin of the church is said to go all the way back to the 6th century but the building as we see it today has its beginnings at 1077 when it was commissioned by Maria Doukaina, the mother of Emperor Alexeius I Comnenus. However this building did not last long and was later built again. The last structural touches to the building were commissioned by Theodore Metochites who was both a Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Treasury under Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (1315-1321). The treasures that this little building houses are really remarkable, the mosaics so rich and exquisite that it is difficult to imagine them to be from the 11th and 14th centuries. This church was turned into a mosque in the 16h century but the mosaics and frescoes were not destroyed. Starting in 1948 by Paul A.Underwood of the Byzantine Institute of Dumbarton Oaks and after 11 years of work the Church of St.Saviour at Chora was turned into one of the greatest monuments of Byzantine art.
We will drive into the old city and arrive at the Sultan Ahmet Square, which was the centre of both Constantinopolis and old Istanbul. We will be visiting the following within the vicinity of the Sultan Ahmet Square:
a) The Hippodrome in the centre of the square with the Egyptian Obelisk brought from Egypt in the 4th century AD, the Serpentine Column brought from Delphi, the Column of Constantine and the fountain of Kaiser Wilhelm the Second.
b) After we visit the Hippodrome, we will visit the Underground Cistern / Basilica Cisterns. Recently cleaned and restored for visits, this immense water reservoir measuring 140m x 70m was commissioned in 532 AD, again during the time of Justinian. One of several in the ancient city, it certainly is the best preserved. Supported by 326 columns the cistern was used as a water storage tank supplied by a system of aqueducts to be used in emergency conditions like siege or draught. Today, beautifully restored with a walkway and with the Bach concertos in the background, it is as haunting as awe inspiring.
The short distance from the Cistern to the Topkapı Palace Museum will be covered on foot and upon entering the Palace grounds first the visitors will sit down to lunch, after which the tour of the Palace will take place.
With the conquest of the city by the Turks in 1453 a suitable location was searched for a palace site that would be the imperial seat of the Ottoman dynasty and the present location was found to be the best. The construction was commenced, and by 1457 initial buildings were completed. The style and the plan of the palace are not to be assumed as a European palace designed and built by the same architect. It covers an immense area with basically a triple courtyard system, the centre of which was only for the reigning Sultan and his closest aides.
Today used as an extraordinary museum, with its spacious gardens and different pavilions, housing priceless collections, it is a living testimony of the Ottoman grandeur from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It has the following sections;
a) Chinese and Japanese porcelain collection, largest in the world outside China*,
b) European silver and porcelains,
c) Turkish glassworks,
d) The Treasury, a description of which is impossible*
e) Miniatures and calligraphy
f) The Holy Relics,
g) The palace textiles and costumes,
h) The armoury, and
i) The Harem.
In addition to the sections above there are other units such as the Gate of the White Eunuchs, the Audience Hall, the Kiosk of Baghdad and Revan, the Library of Ahmet III, the Viziers' Council Hall, etc.
At the end of the visit to the Topkapi Place the last point of visit will be the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque), one of the most beautiful examples of Ottoman architectural genius and deriving its nick-name "The Blue Mosque" as a result of the exquisite 16th century tiles from Iznik (Nicea of old) which have the predominant colour blue. Built in the 17th century the mosque is the zenith of Ottoman architectural creativity and aesthetic appreciation. The building, as one approaches it, seems to rise effortlessly and this effect is achieved by the use of quarter and half domes, which finally combine on four sides to support the central dome. Engineering wise it is a very clever method of distributing weight of the central dome onto the foundations. The mosque was completed and dedicated in 1616.
At the end of the visit the guests will be given a chance to indulge in a form of international activity but with truly oriental practices and products.
Istanbul is truly a shoppers paradise where you can indulge yourselves with gusto and go home with some very valuable bargains or with some well placed investments. Certainly there are some articles that are traditional in Turkey and those constitute the best buys, such as jewelry, since gold has always been considered as a store of value and for the last 25 years as a hedge against the very high inflation in Turkey - as opposed to paper instruments. Another good buy would be the traditional Turkish Carpet, which also is a form of wealth-display-with-taste and with some very practical use. For those who are interested, the leather garments industry is considered one of the best in the world both in terms of quality and the creativity of their designs since Turkey has become one of the major centres of production for well known designers. If textiles are considered, in terms of textiles and/or clothing, Turkey is a major force in the European markets and is even more powerful after the Customs Union with the European Union. To some the purchase of a piece of art would be the best buy ever in a country which they visited and for those Turkey also offers some very remarkable works of art, paintings, sculpture or others.
Prices are on request and include
Private Guiding, Private Vehicle, All Entrance Fees to all the Sites and Museums, Full Course Lunch and the 18 % VAT. No Tips included for the guide and the driver.