Istanbul 2014


This was a 7-day Andante Travels tour, with most of the group from the UK.  I left on the 21st, had a lengthy layover at Heathrow on the 22nd, joined the group flight to Istanbul on the 22nd, and had a hotel room near Heathrow on the 28th, with a flight home on the 29th.

The photos are "geotagged".  This adds GPS data (latitude, longitude, elevation, etc.) to the photo metadata, just as the camera brand and model, date and time, exposure info, etc. are automatically recorded by the camera itself.  Therefore, you can see exactly where each photo was taken, usually to within a few meters.  The “Photos” links below don’t show the geotagged information, but Google’s Picasa web site does an excellent job with geotagged photos, including integration with Google Maps and Google Earth.  Indoor shots sometimes have trouble getting good GPS data; I’m especially doubtful about some of the altitudes showing below sea level.

If you don’t see a map on the Picasa pages, and you do see a yellow box saying “Click here to go back to Picasa Web Albums.”, click “here” as directed!

The photos here are not edited, except for adding the GPS metadata, though some would benefit from some adjustments.  They’re size-reduced for the web, but I’d be happy to send you individual photos or a DVD with the full-resolution photos.  Most of the indoor photos were taken without flash, due to rules or simply respect for others, so they may be blurry, especially at larger sizes.  Most museums either prohibited photos or charged a fee for photography.

The itinerary below is adapted from what Andante provides, with links to the photos added for each day.  Items in [brackets] are my additions.  The various itineraries provided by Andante vary somewhat, and it’s always possible that events get reordered date-wise, added, deleted, etc. due to weather, outside events, etc.  I’ve used the Word document provided since it seems to best match what we did.

Day 0

[Denver to Heathrow.  I have a 6 - 7 hour layover at Heathrow on their Day 1.]

Day 1

Fly to Istanbul, drive to our hotel.  [I started on Day 0, flying to Heathrow.]

Day 2  Photos  Picasa

Byzantine Constantinople: the visit must start with the great basilica of Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya), the church of the Holy Wisdom of God, built by Justinian in the early sixth century. Mehmet the Conqueror, on capturing the city, turned the great church into the city’s imperial mosque, but with the inception of the secular republic the building became a museum. Some of Constantinople’s greatest engineering was concerned with its water supply. The Yerebatan Sarayı, a cavernous and palatial Byzantine underground water cistern, supplied the imperial palaces, until they fell into ruin and it was forgotten. Now, we can walk wooden walkways above the water, and admire the remarkable architecture.

After lunch, we stroll in what was the central spina of the Hippodrome. Its soaring seating accommodated tens of thousands of spectators, or, on occasions, citizens taking noisy part in political meetings. The modern road around the central park area follows the line of the horseracing track, and some of the trophies that ornamented the central spina, most famously a granite obelisk from Egypt, have survived through the centuries. We cannot leave this part of the city without visiting the mosque of Sultan Ahmet, with its high dome and semi-domes, multiple minarets, and beautiful interior richly blue with the finest tiles from imperial tile-makers of Iznik. Restaurant dinner.

Day 3 (Christmas Eve)  Photos  Picasa

Ottoman Istanbul: The Topkapı Palace was the rambling palace complex of the Ottoman sultans until they moved in the nineteenth century to a French-style palace on the Bosphorus water-front. The Topkapı Palace is now a museum, and is a veritable treasure-house of architecture and applied arts, a palace like none that you will have ever seen. Later, there is a visit to the archaeological museum, built by the sultans in the late nineteenth century after the style of European monarchs to house their collection of antiquities from across the Ottoman Empire. Restaurant lunch and dinner.

Day 4 (Christmas Day)  Photos  Picasa

The Bosphorus: we travel by boat up the majestic waterway that separates Europe from Asia, and links the Black Sea ports of Russia and Ukraine to the Mediterranean. There is much to see on either side of the waterway as we make our way to the Sadberk Hanım Museum, a major private collection of archaeology and Turkish works of art and costumes.

Optional evening visit to a traditional Turkish bath, built by a sultan in the middle of the eighteenth century [didn’t happen], and Special Christmas dinner in the evening [at the Four Seasons Hotel].

Day 5  (Boxing Day - Free Day)  Photos  Picasa

Optional free day or morning guided walking tour with your Guide Lecturer. Relax, shop, revisit your favourite Istanbul sites under your own steam. A light lunch will be included as will dinner at the hotel.

Day 6  Photos  Picasa

We spend the morning close to the great walls of the city built by Theodosius II at the end of the fifth century. Just inside the walls is the ruined Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, where some of the last Byzantine emperors preferred to live. Close by is Kariye Camii, formerly the church of St Saviour in Chora. The church’s 14th century Byzantine mosaics, gleaming with gold, and its remarkable frescos, were restored by British specialists with American funding, and the building is now a museum.


Those who wish will be dropped at the great mosque complex, Sulemaniye Camii, built for Suleyman the Magnificent by the greatest of Ottoman architects, Sinan. We can lunch close to the mosque, and then visit parts of the complex before walking home past the tomb of the architect Sinan, and through some of the most bustling and atmospheric parts of Istanbul. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 7

Private coach to Istanbul airport for flights home.  [No touring.]

Day 8

[Catch a noon flight back to Denver.  Glad I took an airport shuttle - cold, snowy, lousy driving, nine-hour time difference - you get the picture.]


Istanbul at Christmas (Dec. 22 - 28, 2014)