Istanbul Time & Tradition

Istanbul Time & Tradition


For students of Eastern Civilization, Western Civilization, and general readership

Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul – Three names for the same city suggesting time, tradition and empire. As we walked through this majestic city of art, architecture, cuisine, culture and religion, the streets transformed from a tourist site into a one-of-kind Learning Adventure.

Hagia Sophia | Istanbul, Turkey | CE 537

With 15 million people, ancient castles, grand palaces, and modern museums, Istanbul spans two continents (Europe and Asia) and links two seas (the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea).

This is our story and what impressed us most.

View of the Golden Horn from Galata, Beyoglu, Istanbul | iPhone X panorama

1840 Map of Constantinople – Istanbul, Turkey | SDUK steel plate engraving

Traveling with my wife, Jantanee, we explored the city's architecture, the world-class Istanbul Archaeology Museums, and local bookstores. We learned about prehistory and the Hittite civilization, studied the expansion of Greek trade and culture, touched the ancient walls of the Eastern Roman Empire, and dazzled at the heights of Ottoman palace life, prestige and power.

We hope you enjoy our photos, videos, and the information in the links provided.

iPhone X Memory  Videos

The videos featured here were shot, edited and posted by iPhone X Memories computer-generated editing software.

iPhone X video | Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, Taksim Square

iPhone X video | Bosphorus Cruise, Black Sea

iPhone X video | Topkapi Palace, Archaeology Museums

Below, feature photos were shot with our Panasonic GH5 body and Lumix 12-60 mm lense.

Click on images to enlarge.

Bosphorus and Black Sea

A ship enters the Bosphorus from the Black Sea

Bosphorus fishers | View of Galata and Beyoglu across the strait

Jantanee boarding a Bosphorus taxi to Anadolu Kavagi and the Black Sea

Coastal residences on the Bosphorus

Rumelihisari (Rumelian Castle) | Beginning 1452 with Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (Mehmed II)

Istanbul Archaeological Museums | Beginning 1891

Collectively, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums as an entity was founded in 1891 with the development of the main Archaeological Museum and later the Museum of the Ancient Orient in 1935, followed by the Museum of Islamic Art in 1953 (originally Mehmed II's Tiled Kiosk of 1472, one of the oldest structures in Istanbul).

Entrance ticket for the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

What impressed us most about the museums was the quality and quantity of ancient artifacts on display, with buildings, floors and glass cases packed with statuary, orthostats and cuneiform tablets from Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Syria, representing long lost civilizations – Assyrian, Hittite and Sumerian.

Courtyard of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Painting by Sirinoz 1994 | Based on Schedel 1493 Engraving of Byzantine Istanbul Turkey – Chain across the Golden Horn

King Shalmaneser IV of Assyria | 8th century BCE stele with inscription

The Hittite Treaty of Kadesh | c. 1259 BCE

As a university lecturer of Asian Studies in anthropology, it was certainly a pleasure to see, and photograph, the original c.1259 BCE Treaty of Kadesh -- a.k.a. the Egyptian/Hittite Peace Treaty -- generally considered to be the world’s oldest peace treaty. One of the most important documents in Near Eastern history, the treaty was made following the infamous 1274 BCE Battle of Kadesh between the Hittites of Asia Minor and the Egyptians led by Ramses II. The battle took place near the current day Lebanon-Syria border.

Peace Treaty of Kadesh (Hittite version) 1259 BCE | Museum of the Ancient Orient

Two versions of the treaty survive, one engraved in hieroglyphics at the Temple of Karnak, Egypt, the other found at the ancient Hittite capital city of Hattusa (Bogazkale, Turkey) in 1906, inscribed in cuneiform in the Akkadian language. In respective versions, each party claims victory. Today the treaty serves as a global symbol of conflict resolution, with a copy on permanent exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City.

Topkapi Palace | Beginning CE 1459

Books and YouTube never really prepared us for the size, detail and grandeur of the Topkapi Palace Conservation Area, part of the Sultanahmet Archaeological Park.

As we walked through 500 years of Ottoman history and got lost in intimate parks, gardens, palaces, rooms, corridors and chambers, what impressed us most was the display of wealth and empire, as if everything the Sultans had collected through centuries of conquest and diplomacy was now protected, available and public. It was all there – an extravaganza of exposition.

The Imperial Hall and throne of the Sultan, Topkapi Palace

Constructed by Mehmed II (a.k.a. Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror) beginning 1459 after his infamous siege of Constantinople, the palace became the administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans until 1923 when the Ministry of Culture and Tourism transformed the property into a national museum.

Courtyard of the Favourites | The Harem

Among the most elaborate areas of the palace complex is the Imperial Harem, a labyrinth of 400 private rooms and courtyards designed for the sultan’s mother, wives, concubines and children.

The Golden Road of the Harem

Hagia Sophia | Beginning CE 537

Hagia Sophia, Greek for ‘holy wisdom’, is Turkey's most visited tourist attraction. Conceived in CE 537 by Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I, it remained the world’s largest cathedral and embodiment of Byzantine architecture until 1453 when Constantinople was overpowered by Mehmed II.

From CE 537, the Hagia Sophia was celebrated by Byzantine emperors and Ottoman sultans alike

Through the ages, the Hagia Sophia evolved into an Ottoman imperial mosque, complete with four minarets, until 1935 when the Turkish government secularized the site and opened it to the public as the Ayasofya Museum.

Ayasofya Museum balcony

We found the mosque an eclectic mingling of Christian and Islamic art history, from enormous round symbols of Islamic calligraphy hung high overhead, to the restored mosaics of Holy Roman emperors as contemporaries of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Islamic features include the Mihrab (center) and Minbar (right) | iPhone X panorama

Taksim Square and Istiklal walking street

Located on the European side of Istanbul, Taksim Square, Beyoglu, is the heart of the modern city, where the Istiklal walking street (Istiklal Caddesi or Independence Avenue) intersects with the Istanbul Metro and the 1928 Republic Monument.

1928 Republic Monument at Taksim Square

The monument has been an important location for political protests and represents the founding of the Republic of Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence.

Jantanee rides the Taksim street car | Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue)

During our walks, highlights included traditional lokanta restaurants serving hot pre-cooked Turkish food, the sound of the historic hand-rung bell of the red and white Taksim Tunel  tramway, the touristic draw of the Koska shops selling Turkish sweets, and the historical and archaeological English language sections of bookstores.

Koska Turkish sweets | Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue)

Student resources | Maps of Turkey

Geographical map of Turkey | Click to enlarge

Good reads

Beyoglu, Istanbul, has a number of charming book stores featuring locally-published works. We were impressed by the many titles on archaeology in Asia Minor, ranging from specific sites to great civilizations in the region, such as the Hittites and Luwians.

Here are few good reads, suggestions and author websites.


The Hittites | 2011 Fatih Cimok

Greco-Roman Cities of Aegean Turkey | 2014 Henry Matthews

The Luwian Civilization – Missing Link in the Aegean Bronze Age | 2016 Eberhard Zangger

Greece and Asia Minor documentary film page

Featuring 30 documentary films of interest on ancient Greece, Turkey, and the civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Click to Greece and Asia Minor Documentary Film Page

Special thanks to Daru Sultan Hotel Galata

Hospitality can make or break a hotel, city, or even an entire country. In our case, Seyit and Ugur 'made' our Learning Adventure through their charm, humor and insider travel suggestions.

Seyit (left) and Ugur (right) | Daru Sultan Hotel Galata

Thank you for visiting our Istanbul Learning Adventure page.

We hope you enjoy the photos, videos, and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about Turkey or other Learning Adventures, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin