What to See in Istanbul: Dancing Dervishes and the Deep Blue Sea

The Deep Blue Bosphorus

The Bosphorus Strait is the body of water that divides the continents of Europe and Asia. Historically most great cities are built by a body of water for trade and agricultural purposes. Istanbul is no exception.

DSC_1425The Bosphorus Strait is non-stop busy with ferries and cargo ships, pedestrians and seagulls all flocking to its shores.DSC_1727DSC_1724Locals fishing off the Galata Bridge.DSC_1659Freshly grilled fish.DSC_1664DSC_1415IMG_7729
The shoreline offers a stunning view of the historic buildings cascading over the hillside, with mosques and minarets that cast their shadow across the marigold sky.DSC_1695DSC_1682
This weekend we were invited on a friend’s yacht for a night cruise on the deep blue sea.
New Mosque near the harbor.IMG_7739Yacht cruise along the Bosphorus.IMG_7744Just waiting on my captain’s hat. 😉IMG_7751Roommates. 🙂
The bridge across the Golden Horn was illuminated in twinkling purple and green lights, set nicely below the glowing light of the moon. 😀

IMG_7763IMG_7764My co-workers and I felt royally spoiled on this fancy vessel. We definitely deserved it after these first few weeks. 😀

After overcoming jet lag and enduring a lengthy orientation, spoken mostly in Turkish, the second week was spent commuting 6 or 7 hours each day to work, which left us feeling exhausted. Obviously we were more than eager to finally move into our apartment last Friday, only a 30 minute walk to work. 🙂

This modern duplex has spacious rooms and breathtaking views. Aside from the rooftop terrace, my bedroom has gorgeous crown molding, hardwood floors, a princess chandelier, and my own private balcony. 😀IMG_7702IMG_7708IMG_7719This may be the only, rather disturbing compromise for us foreigners. :/ Gag me with a spoon! IMG_7796The area itself is residential and quiet, with lots of shops and cafes nearby. We even found our new local hangout. 🙂 IMG_7707IMG_7705

After a night out on the fancy yacht, my roommate Cindy and I spent the day sightseeing near Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu, two districts of Istanbul.

We first had to head to the harbor, where we would cross over from Asia to Europe.
Harbor street eats. IMG_7733IMG_7735My hangover breakfast sandwich of multiple meats. Hah. Just what the doctor ordered. 😉IMG_7732To cross over the Bosphorus Strait, we took the Marmaray, which is an underwater metro that transports passengers from Asia to Europe in under 30 minutes, for a mere 60 cents.DSC_1390DSC_1391September is the beginning of pomegranate season, and vendors will squeeze fresh juice for you for a healthy dose of antioxidants. 🙂 DSC_1392DSC_1394DSC_1395DSC_1397Delicious! 🙂DSC_1399

Sightseeing Sultanahmet

Camera-ready! 😀
IMG_7793Now I already visted Sultanahmet last weekend to see the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern, but those sights were just the tip of the iceberg.

Topkapi Palace

DSC_1402This time, I went to the Ottoman Palace of Topkapi.

Sultans from the Ottoman Empire, along with 4,000 other royal family members, staff and servants lived amongst these grounds for over 500 years. From great rulers and triumphant victories, to tragic bloodshed and tumultuous scandals, this sight is jam-packed with history.DSC_1400DSC_1417DSC_1449DSC_1444DSC_1514DSC_1502

Highlights of Topkapi Palace

Stunning blue tile work. DSC_1493DSC_1463DSC_1456DSC_1469DSC_1468Spectacular Bosphorus views from the marble terrace.DSC_1431DSC_1429IMG_7777Intricate dome ceilings.
DSC_1487DSC_1501DSC_1470DSC_1473Gorgeous gold framing and Islamic carvings from the Qaran.DSC_1486

Imperial Treasury
The palace’s treasury chamber houses fine diamond, emerald, ruby, and gold pendants, mirrors, figurines and jewelry.
Among these is an 85 carat diamond, one of the world’s largest and a dagger encrusted in emeralds.
Topkapi dagger
Spoonmaker’s Diamond
During this time, it was not uncommon for the Sultan to have over 300 concubines, and up to four wives.

The harem housing provided these women six floors of lavish living quarters, all with jaw-dropping interior design.

DSC_1465DSC_1459DSC_1471DSC_1478Washing up the old fashioned way. 🙂
DSC_1506After a visit to the palace, we stopped for lunch at Lale Pudding Shop, which offers hearty home cooking, buffet style. They even had vegetarian options, like the lentil and eggplant stew. 🙂

After lunch, we took a tram from Sultanahmet to Beyoğlu.


Upon arrival in Beyoğlu, we felt as if we were transported to a different country. Each district in Istanbul is completely unique from the other.
Whereas Sultanahmet felt very Middle Eastern, the European architecture here transported me back to Rome. 🙂

Narrow cobblestone streets lined with charming cafes and speedy mopedsDSC_1569DSC_1640DSC_1641On the other end, the funicular tram, street art, and overall hipster vibe of Beyoğlu felt like trendy San Francisco as well.DSC_1558DSC_1553DSC_1548DSC_1551Roasted chestnuts.DSC_1549DSC_1520DSC_1526DSC_1531DSC_1529DSC_1527Street art.DSC_1637DSC_1654Snazzy shoes. 😀DSC_1652Galata Tower.DSC_1646While in Beyoğlu, we stopped at an inviting vegan cafe.DSC_1534DSC_1536We tried homemade seitan, a meatless protein source, and the local owner offered us hibiscus tea and vegan brownies with agave syrup. My roommate is a vegetarian nutritionist, so she was in heaven. 🙂DSC_1537DSC_1538

The cafe even has a local group called Community Kitchen, with events and meet-ups for health food nuts. 🙂

Divine Dancing

The Whirling Dervishes

UNESCO recognized “The Mevlevi Sama Ceremony” of Turkey, performed by the Whirling Dervishes, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

DSC_1620DSC_1616DSC_1622The Whirling Dervishes use rituals of prayer, dance and music in order to attain a closeness wıth God.
We saw the performance at the Mehlvahni Cultural Center for around 20 dollars per ticket. It was a sold out show, but we were OK with standing. 🙂DSC_1586Cats gathered in the adjacent cemetery, while we waited.DSC_1628DSC_1579DSC_1576DSC_1575History of the Whirling DervishesDSC_1587
They began the show in their intimate oval dance hall, by explaining the religious significance of the ceremony.
DSC_1588The performance known as Sama, has been present since the 10th century. It is a practice of spirtual spinning, arms fully extended, which ascends the dervish to a euphoric state, next to Allah.DSC_1601DSC_1602

The divine religious dancing left us at ease as we made our way back to the ferry port. 🙂

A calming feeling and the perfect end to our day as we sat on the ferry amongst other Istanbulites, drinking tea and watching the sun set on the Bosphorus horizon.DSC_1709DSC_1701Enjoy your week and until next time. 🙂

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