Coming forward with its unique historical accumulation and splendid natural beauties, as well as successfully undersigning several international events in recent years, Istanbul has been selected as the “2010 European Culture Capital.”
ISTANBUL: EUROPEAN CITY OF CULTURE 2010
Preparing for the Culture Capital title with the efforts of the Metropolitan Municipality, the Istanbul Governorship, and the 2010 European Culture Capital Coordination Board, the city has been transformed into a city of tourism with conventions, fairs, cultural events, art, and sports activities. Racing with the world’s renowned capital cities in these fields, Istanbul has leaped to the 17th position, up from 49, in tourist conventions in the last couple of years. Hosting 43 important conventions this year, the city aims to be among the top 10.
Renewing its infrastructure in conceivably all fields, Istanbul has been applauded loud for its successful hosting of international organizations, such as the Champions League Football Final Match, Formula 1, Moto GP, and the Red Bull Air Race. Being expected to host several global sports, cultural events, and convention until 2010, the city will host the UEFA Final Cup, World Water Forum, IMF World Bank Congress in 2009, the European Culture Capital, World Basketball Championship and METREX (European Metropolitan Regions and Fields Network) Grand Congress. The greatest goal for Istanbul, which plans to host the World Salon Athletism Championship in 2012, is to host the Olympics in 2020.
- Basilica Cistern
In the Depths of History
One of the magnificent ancient buildings of İstanbul is the Basilica Cistern located in the southwest of Hagia Sofia. Constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), this big underground water reservoir is called as “Yerebatan Cistern” among the public because of the underground marble columns. As there used to be a basilica in the place of the cistern, it is also called Basilica Cistern.
The cistern is 140 m long, and 70 m wide, and covers a rectangular area as a giant structure. Accessible with 52-step staircase, the Cistern shelters 336 columns, each of which is 9 m high. Erected at 4.80 m intervals from one another the columns are composed of 12 rows, each has 28 columns. The case-bay of the cistern is conveyed by the columns through arches. Majority of the columns, most of which is understood to have been compiled from the ancient structures and sculpted of various kinds of marbles, is composed of a single part and one of it is composed of two parts. The head of these columns bear different features in parts. 98 of them reflect the Corinthian style and part of them reflect the Dorian style. The cistern has 4.80 m high brick walls, and the floor is covered by bricks, and plastered by a thick layer of brick dust mortar for water tightness. Covering 9,800 sqm area in total, the cistern has an estimated water storage capacity of 100,000 tons.
This mysterious venue is an integral part of the Istanbul itineraries and has been visited -among others- by the US former President Bill Clinton, Wim Kok the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Lamberto Dini, Former Minister of foreign Affairs of Italy, Göran Persson, Former Prime Minister of Sweden and Thomas Klestil, Former prime Minister of Austria until today.
Currently operated by Kültür A.Ş. (Culture Co.), one of the affiliates of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Basilica Cistern functions as a museum and is the home for many national and international events
- Topkapı Palace
Topkapı Palace was not only the residence of the Ottoman sultans, but also the administrative and educational centre of the state. Initially constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, and expanded upon and altered many times throughout its long history, the palace served as the home of the Ottoman sultans and their court until the middle of the 19th century. In the early 1850s, the palace became inadequate to the requirements of state ceremonies and protocol, and so the sultans moved to Dolmabahçe Palace, located on the Bosphorus.
Despite this move, the royal treasure, the Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammad, and the imperial archives continued to be preserved at Topkapı, and-since the palace was the ancestral residence of the Ottoman dynasty as well as the place where the Holy Relics were preserved-Topkapı continued to play host to certain state ceremonies. Following the abolishment of the Ottoman monarchy in 1922, Topkapı Palace was converted into a museum on April 3rd 1924, on the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
- Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia, one of the historical architectural wonders that still remains standing today, has an important place in the art world with its architecture, grandness, size and functionality.
The Hagia Sophia, the biggest church constructed by the East Roman Empire in Istanbul, has been constructed three times in the same location. When it was first built, it was named Megale Ekklesia (Big Church); however, after the fifth century, it was referred to as the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). The church was the place in which rulers were crowned, and it was also the biggest operational cathedral in the city throughout the Byzantine period.
The first church was constructed by Emperor Konstantios (337-361) in 360. The first church was covered with a wooden roof and expanded vertically (basilica) yet was burned down after the public riot that took place in 404 as a result of the disagreements between Emperor Arkadios’ (395-408) wife empress Eudoksia and Istanbul’s patriarch Ioannes Chrysostomos, who was exiled. The patriarch’s mosaic portrait can still be viewed at the tymphanon wall located in the northern part of the church. No remains have been recovered from the first church; however, the bricks found in the museum storage branded ‘Megale Ekklesia’ are predicted to belong to the first construction.
The second church was reconstructed by Emperor Theodosios II (408-450) in 415. This basilical structure is known to contain five naves and a monumental entrance; it is also covered by a wooden roof.
- Sultanahmet Mosque (The Blue Mosque)
The Blue Mosque, one of Istanbul’s most prominent symbols, immediately astounds every visitor to the city. It is located directly opposite the Hagia Sophia Museum. The mosque takes its name from Sultanahmet Square, and is the most important of the mosques to be built as an endowment to the city during the Ottoman Empire.
Sultanahmet mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I, and built between 1609 and 1616. Its English name, the “Blue Mosque”, stems from the more than twenty thousand blue Iznik tiles that decorate the interior of the structure.
The Blue Mosque is the most typical example of Classic Turkish-Ottoman architecture, and was the first mosque that included six minarets in its original design. Although the Blue Mosque was not designed by the legendary Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, whose unparalleled works are seen throughout other parts of Istanbul, it bears the stamp of his influence.
According to a rumor, the mosque’s architect, Mimar Sedefkâr Mehmet Aga—himself one of Mimar Sinan’s students—expanded on a plan that had earlier been expounded by his master in order to build the mosque.
- The Grand Bazaar
Being the oldest and largest historical bazaar in the world, the Grand Bazaar was built on Sultan Fatih’s order to provide income for the Hagia Sophia. This historical bazaar is located between Nuruosmaniye and Beyazıt Mosques, Cevahir and Sandal bedestens*. It has been a center for shopping ever since.
As the Ottoman Empire grew larger, the Grand Bazaar also kept up with the development of the capital. The bazaar that initially was comprised of two bedestens now occupies an area of about 47 thousand square meters. Although the Grand Bazaar suffered eleven fires and two earthquakes, it still fascinates the visitors with its architecture. It is composed of 61 streets, some of whose names refer to different businesses such as Fesçiler (fez sellers), Kalpakçılar (fur cap sellers), and Aynacılar (mirror sellers). İç Bedesten, which is set on an area of around 1500 square meters, and Sandal Bedesteni, which comprises an area of 1300 square meters, as the half-are somewhat detached parts of the bazaar. Around the bazaar are the inns that are again parts of the bazaar.
Today there are around 4000 shops in the Grand Bazaar. A number of travelers who visited the bazaar in the past portrayed it as a quite, solemn place. Now, it is just the opposite. You can hear the shopkeepers invite people in while you are wandering around the bazaar. You can hear words from many different languages in these friendly greetings. Bargaining is one of the rituals of shopping in the Grand Bazaar. This ritual gives pleasure to both sellers and buyers.
- The Galata Tower
The Tower, was built in 1349 by the Genoesians, as the main tower of the walls, which surround Galata. There are many rumors about how it was built. At the beginning, called the Jesus Tower, it was used as a dungeon and an observatory during the Ottonom period. The building has been restored many times and after a lot of fires and storms, it was finally repaired in 1964, and reopened for use in 1967.
The Galata district, seems like a history book, whose pages are waiting to be more frequently opened, and discovered over and over, every day.