A closer look at Istanbul

Asia is derived from the ancient Greek word Anatolia, which means sunrise. Europe is thought to have been derived from the word meaning sunset or land of darkness. -Istanbul The Imperial City

Hallway in the famous Aya Sofia mosque

Hallway in the famous Aya Sofia mosque

I am stranded in the fabulous city at crossroads of Europe and Asia.  A few days ago my rear wheel literally fell apart during some routine maintenance. Bicycle shops in the city are plentiful but finding a reliable rims and spokes, that aren’t cheap knock offs is impossible. After leaving Istanbul I may not encounter another bicycle shop till China, and wheel troubles in the remote Central Asian deserts could be dire. I made a few long distance phone calls and after a bit of negotiation I found a wheel sponsor, VelocityUSA. These guys are awesome! After telling them about my trip and my problems with finding a reliable wheels they agreed to send me a “Zombie proof” wheel set! A custom build, in a few days I will have two a sealed bearing, 36 spoke hubs laced with stainless steel DT Swiss double butted spokes to robust NoBS touring rims! What a gift!! I am going to be the official test pilot for their new rims, NoBS, and will be submitting testimonials along the journey.  Velocity has a long history of standing by their products and helping cyclists in remote locations. I look forward to giving their wheels some extensive abuse and will keep you all posted!

Abdest fountain outside Fatih Camii for cleaning before prayers

Abdest fountain outside Fatih Camii for cleaning before prayers

Handmade Turkish rug

Handmade Turkish rug

In the last few weeks I have thoroughly explored Istanbul, and I must admit that the city continues to fascinates me. I have visited almost every historic Camii’, (pronounced Jami, Mosque) in and around the city, and each morning I wake up with the desire to see them again. The in-depth history of Constantinople and the Ottoman empire has inspired me to seek out obscure buildings built on ruins of the past.

Roof top Buffet with Semra, Richard and friends. Richard far right, Semra front right

Roof top Buffet with friends. Richard far right, Semra front right

Running away from the Touristed Bazzar

Inside the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami)

I have become quite close with my hosts, Richard, Semra and Ayse, and have begun to feel like they are family.Richard has been in the city more than 12 years and is as enthusiastic as I am in retracing the footsteps of the past. We have shared many great ideas and have had interesting conversations during our walks around the city. Last Sunday, we both (somehow )convinced each other to go to an Armenian Coptic Church service. Inside a large smoky dim-lit Chapel was 6 monks dressed in cloaks chanting. The smoke continued to grow, as one monk diligently swung an ancient looking censer. Almost as if the service were Choreographed the monks changed locations throughout the Chapel, and set up props while the priest changed outfits 3 times (white robe, black cloak and finally to a white robe adorned with gold writing and a huge crown).  After 30 minutes the curtain in front of the Alter was drawn, and the priest vanished behind while the chanting continued. Soon a sacred book and scepter icon, (The icon contained an eye in the center of a triangle a lot like the pyramid on the US dollar) were carried over head, around the Church by the priest while the monks began to circumambulate the Altar.  In the hour and a half service I did not understand a single word but was on the edge of my seat in awe at the strange performance.

One of the many underground Cisterns built and engineered by the Ottomans

One of the many underground Cisterns built and engineered by the Ottomans

Fortress walls from Rumeli Hissara, these this fortress was built to stop ships from supplying Constantinople.

Fortress walls from Rumeli Hissara, these this fortress was built to stop ships from supplying Constantinople.

I can really feel the mix between Europe and Asia here. Many of the districts near the Mosques have neighborhoods inhabited by fundamental Muslims; and it is not uncommon to see most the women in full burka, and the men in Shellvars (traditional Islamic loose pants)and white Taqiyahs (skull caps).  Outside of these religious areas the city becomes is very European with women and men dressed in high fashion name brand clothing, talking on I-phones drinking coffee at Starbucks. These two extremes, the eastern and western culture collide on Bagdat street (the high fashion neighborhood) where one can see women in burka buying Victoria’s secret lingerie and sampling Chanel perfume. On the outskirts of the city, and in many of the poor neighborhoods you can find large Gypsy communities. The Gypsies travel throughout the city, mostly bare foot, playing music for pocket-change. Everyday while riding the ferry from the Asia side of the city to the European I listen to young gypsies playing the accordion and singing traditional songs. There is also a small Kurdish population, that is subject to a lot of political controversy. The Kurds, who look a lot like the Bedouin of Arabia, were originally from the south-east region of Turkey, and work many of the labor intensive jobs in the city. Between these extremes you find the majority of Turks, women wearing colorful headscarves, in western clothing, and Turkish men dressed like any other westerner.

Roof top view of Karikoy (north western Istanbul)

Roof top view of Karikoy (north-western Istanbul)

Orthodox Mosaic, Aya Sofia Mosque

Orthodox Mosaic, Ancient Church Chora

Fresco, found on ceiling in Chora

Fresco, found on ceiling in Chora

The beauty in Chora continues

The beauty in Chora continues

Inside Aya Sophia Camii

Inside Aya Sophia Mosque

The historic section of the city is located on the peninsula west of the Bosphorus (European side) in the districts of Eminonu and Sultan Ahmet. This is where the Byzantium and Ottoman palaces were built along with many of the more decorated churches and mosques. After the fall of Constantinople, the Muslim Ottoman empire renamed the city Istanbul and converted all the Orthodox churches to Mosques. Many of the Christian mosaics and frescoes were left undisturbed and can still be viewed in many of the mosques today. Strangely enough most of the damage to these religious works of art was incurred by the Roman Catholic Crusaders in the early part of the 13th century, during the great schism between Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. This schism eventually led to the decline of Christianity in the east and to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Crossing the legendary Bosphorus river, I am staying on the Asia side of Istanbul (East of the river). Every day I take the ferry the historic western half of the city

Crossing the legendary Bosphorus river, I am staying on the Asia side of Istanbul (East of the river). Every day I take the ferry the historic western half of the city

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Galata bridge at sunset. The Byzantium Emperor tried to deter the invading Ottoman army by putting a chain across the river at this point. The ambitious Ottoman’s carried their ships over land, and around the chain very near the location where I took this photo

I will be on the road again soon, but until then I am thoroughly enjoying my time in the city.  With a population over 10 million this is by far the largest city I have visited since departing California over a year ago. Summer is here! It is already over 30 degrees here and from what I hear close to 50 degrees in Central Asia. This next leg of the journey is going to be the biggest adventure of my life!

Standard Ottoman Mosque Courtyard

Standard Ottoman Mosque Courtyard

Sulyeman Mosque

Sulyeman Mosque

Ornate walls in the Topkapi palace, used by all Ottoman Sultans

Ornate walls in the Topkapi palace, used by all Ottoman Sultans

Ceiling inside Ortakoy Mosque

Ceiling inside Ortakoy Mosque

 

 

14 thoughts on “A closer look at Istanbul

  1. all this beauty through your eyes…thanks. always thinking of you. Grat news:: I’ll be grandmother. Big hug from me and Nino

  2. Hi from home, I’ll I can say is WOW!!!!! Keep them coming we love it.. I can’t believe what you have accomplished, your father would be totally blown away and so proud of you . As you know he was one of my best friends and brother his heart was as pure as gold. And I miss and love him. We can’t wait to see you back home. What can we do to help. Where are you heading from there?
    Love you,
    Joe & Karin Lisardo

    • Hey Joe and Karin,

      Good to hear from you guys! Things have been going very well and I am thoroughly enjoying my travels. As far as coming back “home” that may be a while from now, there is just too much in the world to see and experience. In the mean time a small donation to the paypal account would be a big help! I hope this message finds you in good spirits!
      Much Love
      Julian

  3. hello from alaska,
    we have thought of you lots recently as we just had our first set of touring cyclists- 2 belgians and a swede.
    the wheels sound fantastic. please post a photo.
    hugs from janet and robert

    • Hey Janet!
      Good to hear from you! Will post a picture when I finally get the wheels, they have arrived but it looks like I am going to have to bribe the customs officials! Things are done a bit different in Turkey! Hope all is well! -Julian

  4. Juuuuuuuuulian…. so glad to see all of these awesome photos and the beautiful journey you’re making. Can’t wait to see you again when you get back. Your dad was an awesome man and I’m sure he is loving the journey you two are on.

    • Good to hear from you man! Definitely been a while, I think the last time we talked was when you and Vanessa called me when I was cycling through Texas! That was close to a year ago. Things are going well over here, and the culture continues to teach, challenge and fascinate me. Please give my regards to the Afroca crew next time you see them! Much love man!
      Julian

  5. Dear Julian, so glad to see you are well and having good experiences. I enjoy your approach to touring.
    Helle

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