ISTANBUL, TURKEY – WALKING THROUGH TIME AND 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
- Website: Istanbul Archaeology Museums
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.
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.
- Museum pic: Treaty of Kadesh interpretation signage
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.
- Website: Topkapi Palace Museum
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Search for the many works of Fatih Cimok
Greece and Asia Minor documentary film page
Featuring 30 documentary films of interest on ancient Greece, Turkey, and the civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean.
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.
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.