Istanbul Neighborhoods – Kuzguncuk

Kuzguncuk is a neighborhood in Istanbul on the Asian side of the Bosphorus at the eastern foot of the 1st Bosphorus bridge. It’s directly across the from Ortakoy on the European side and adjacent to Beylerbeyi, home of the Beylerbeyi Palace.

The neighborhood ambles down a leafy valley opening onto the Bosphorus Straight, which separates Istanbul into European and Asian sides. With cobbled streets,  Ottoman houses, and small family owned and operated shops lining the lanes, the atmosphere recalls 19th century Istanbul. An active neighborhood association works to restore and maintain the traditional character of Kuzguncuk, threatened by more profit-oriented urban development.

Historically Kuzguncuk has been peacefully multicultural, with Jews, Christian Armenians and Greeks, and Muslim Turks living and worshipping side by side for centuries. On the Bosphorus shore, a synagogue, church and mosque make friendly neighbors.

Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century settled here and put down roots, but since the establishment of the State of Israel in the mid-20th century, that population has decreased significantly. Two 19th-century synagogues still stand in the neighborhood and there’s a Jewish cemetery, with graves dating to the 15th century.

Istanbul’s oldest Armenian church is here and two Greek Orthodox churches, one of which, Hagios Panteleimon, was first established in the 6th century.

Locally, Kuzguncuk is known for fish restaurants, Bosphorus views and the laid-back charm of simpler days. İcadiye Avenue is the neighborhood’s main street, with galleries, every-day shops, cafes and a community garden. Spend a few hours just wandering. Mingle with friendly shop keepers. Linger over a meal, quite likely organic and grown in a nearby garden.

Beylerbeyi Palace in the next neighborhood makes a good companion to a Kuzguncuk visit.

10 Must-See Sites in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia is a 6th-century Christian basilica, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, now a museum. If the word awesome still had meaning, I would use it to describe the Hagia Sophia, temple of Holy Wisdom. It set the standard for Byzantine architecture, though it was 1,000 years before another cathedral surpassed its size. From the outside, it’s a red-orange mountain that seems to anchor the city to the Bosphorus shore. It’s not particularly beautiful but the air of greatness can’t be missed. On the inside, it’s vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive dome practically floats above the wide-open space below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble.

 

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Istanbul

The Sultanahmet Mosque is just down the way from Hagia Sophia. Together they are like bookends to the Hippodrome (Roman entertainment center). The Sultanahmet Mosque is commonly called the Blue Mosque after the 20,000 hand-painted tiles on the interior walls. It pairs well with the Hagia Sophia, not only in proximity but also as a complementary experience. While Hagia Sophia draws the attention upward, the Blue Mosque induces inward reflection. Hagia Sophia makes me go Wow! Blue Mosque makes me go ahhh. Inside the Hagia Sophia, I feel small. Inside the Blue Mosque, I feel peace. There’s a lot happening on the walls, with all the painted tiles, but the atmosphere is light and serene. Continue reading

Istanbul Highlights #1

istanbul_highlights1

The highlights of Istanbul for a first-time visitor are:

The Hagia Sophia is a 6th-century Christian basilica, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, now a museum. If the word awesome still had meaning, I would use it to describe the Hagia Sophia, temple of Holy Wisdom. It set the standard for Byzantine architecture, though it was 1,000 years before another cathedral surpassed its size. From the outside, it’s a red-orange mountain that seems to anchor the city to the Bosphorus shore. It’s not particularly beautiful but the air of greatness can’t be missed. On the inside, it’s vast, immense, vast and vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive, superlative dome practically floats above the wide-open enormity below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble. Continue reading

NAME THAT CITY

This city literally bridges Europe and Asia, East and West. It’s known for its dramatic setting, spilling down rolling hills to water’s edge, the skyline punctuated with monumental Byzantine and Ottoman buildings. In amongst the hills and monuments, in everyday lanes of shops and homes, the people of this city dwell peacefully alongside many thousands of stray cats. The cats of any given neighborhood are loved and cared for collectively. Walking the streets, you’ll see plenty of cats, as well as water and food dishes and baskets and boxes made cozy with blankets. Cats wander freely in and out of businesses and residences, curl up on benches, snooze in shop windows, and approach passersby for pats and scratches. An old story tells that a cat saved the Prophet Muhammad from a snake, so cat fancy has deep roots in this Muslim city.

These cats are becoming famous far beyond their city. They have had their own Facebook page for years and now there is a beautiful documentary about the cats, the people who care for them and the stunning city they share.

 

Can you name that city? 
See below for answers.

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