Istanbul, divided to the European and Asian parts by the Bosporus, is an incredible eclecticism of eastern and western cultures. The waters of the Bosporus do not separate the two parts of the world but unite them, so on each of the shores of the strait you will find the combination of European sophistication and Ottoman luxury which were immortalized in the beautiful palace complexes, mosques, squares and streets of the city.
Today we will take a trip to Asian Istanbul. Firstly, we will visit the Beylerbeyi Palace. Thec construction of the palace began in 1861 on the order of Sultan Abdul Aziz, and was completed in 1865. Previously there was another wooden palace demolished by fire on the site of Beylerbeyi. Here are some numbers: the length of the palace along the shoreline is 65 meters and the area of land that originally formed the palace grounds was equal to 160,000 m2. But the figures do not convey the whole excitement caused by the palace. Being the summer residence of sultans, Beylerbeyi Palace is one of the most beautiful examples of neo-baroque style. The interior of the palace had once conquered the Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. Everything in the interior starting from the pearl spangled on a mosquito net over the bed to the unusual architecture of the building was unforgettable. Marine motifs, Ottoman floral ornaments harmoniously inscribed in European design, Chinese porcelain, Bohemian crystal intertwined in the same space demonstrating the finest taste in design. Both extravagant and practical addition to the interior are floors of Egyptian cane. The unusual shape and location of windows in the palace make the room look more interesting. Light falls under unusual angles of lighting and interior accessories which can be called true works of art. Decorative paintings on the walls of some rooms can be considered as a forerunners of Art Nouveau, conquered the world. The beautiful garden, several pavilions, famous arched stables reminiscent of a horseshoe, a bronze statue of a horse Ferhan – Sultan’s favorite, unusual tunnel from the palace to the garden – a lot of nuances are make Beylerbeyi Palace unique.
After visiting one of the most beautiful palaces we will head to the Bosporus. There is an island with tower located in the midst of the strait; the emphasized tower is known worldwide as Maiden’s Tower. The island and the tower have a long history full with legends, tales and truth. The Tower was first mentioned in the V century BC during the clashes between Athens and Sparta. It is believed that the tower has served as a point of tax control, guard point and a lighthouse at different times. Later, the Tower has inured as a quarantine isolation ward for patients ill with cholera and detention cell for convicted courtiers. In the second half of the XX century, Kiz Kulesi (Turkish name of the Tower) was one of the cultural centers of Istanbul hosting exhibitions and concerts. Today Maiden’s Tower has a restaurant and observation deck which offers superb views of the Bosporus and the coast with its palaces, mosques and modern houses.
Two names of the Tower – Maiden’s and Leander – are linked to two legends. According to one of them, the most ancient one, the tower was named after the mythological hero – a young man Leander died in the waters of the strait not finding the way to his beloved Hero (priestess of Aphrodite, broke the vow of celibacy) in the dark. The waves threw the body of Leander to the castle and Hero rushed from the tower into the sea in despair.
According to another legend, the tower was once a refuge for the daughter of the Sultan, whose death was predicted at the age of 18. Sultan, striving to protect his beloved daughter from the fatal danger ordered to guard her in an impregnable tower. But on the day of her 18th birthday, she died from a snake bite crawled in a fruit basket.
After a walk along the Bosporus, we’ll get back to shore to the Üsküdar pier. There is a mosque, a beautiful as a woman and named after a beautiful woman – the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque. The mosque and the entire complex were created by a great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. Daughter of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his beloved wife Haseki Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana) sponsored the construction of the mosque.
According to the legend, Mimar Sinan was in love with the beautiful golden-haired and blue-eyed Mihrimah sultan, so the mosques built for her and in her honor were special and of exceptional beauty. It is said that the outline of a mosque in Üsküdar resembles a woman in skirts. Such a comparison is justified: majestic construction combined with graceful minarets, 10-meter dome surrounded by semi-domes and marble-faced 20 sadirvans is simply remarkable. But beauteous Mihrimah was not just an effete daughter of Sultan but also a political figure and Maecenas. Therefore, the mosque is supplemented by madrasah, elementary school, hospital and caravanserai with the hotel. But frankly speaking, not all buildings have survived to this age.
Beautiful Mihrimah sultan whose name in Persian means “the sun and the moon”, lived a busy life, was an advisor for her father and assistant for husband later becoming Valide Sultan at the court of her younger brother. No one should belittle the importance of women in the eastern culture and history.
Üsküdar is one of the most popular areas of Istanbul. Ancient traditions and great views of the district attract those who love to enjoy the scenery of the beloved city. Here, on a hilltop Büyük Çamlıca, is situated a famous Çamlıca observation deck. The magnificent views of the Marmara Sea, the Prince’s Isles, the Bosporus and Golden Horn Bay with picturesque coasts and bridges from the height of 263 m above the sea level are basically fascinating everyone. Bitter medicinal smell of pine, beautiful views, fully equipped recreation area and sounds of the city wafting afar is the perfect end of a walk through Asian Istanbul.