A walking tour around Istanbul’s old town
Old New, Spicy Sweet, Christian Muslim, Byzantine Ottoman. These are just some of the many contrasts of Istanbul that makes it such a fascinating and intriguing city to visit. With Urban Adventures, we took to the back streets and walked around the city learning from Calgar my guide the what’s what on the country’s fascination with the colour blue, the story of turkish delights, amongst many other historical myths and insights.
We’ve all heard of the Grand Bazaar, but the Book Bazaar (Sahaflar Çarşısı) is much more up my street. A place where not only where university students can buy their course books, but also where you can find interesting second-hand and antique books in a variety languages. Situated within a tranquil courtyard and built on the same site as the Chartoprateia, which used to be the book and paper market in the Byzantium era, it’s a calm and relaxing place to hang-out for a couple of hours for anyone that’s a book-worm and loves finding an antique book treasure.
Rüstem Pasha Mosque
I love interior design, but I didn’t expect to find so much inspiration within a mosque. Although the use of ceramics go back centuries, the trend of using tiles inside a mosque was started by a famous architect called Mimar Sinan during the Ottoman period in the 16th century. Below is an example of a decorated Iznik tile found inside the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, built around 1560. Five centuries later, it’s astonishing how they look like they could have been made only yesterday. And why the enthrallment with the colour blue? Well in those days, creating colours were very challenging, and it was in the late 15th and 16th century that the new styles of blue and white together were introduced in decorative tiles.
Apparently, there is a saying that goes something like: “If you eat something sweet, you will talk in a sweet way.” Maybe there is a connection to the many myths surrounding the origins of turkish delights, but one in particular, where a Turkish Sultan believed that the way to a woman’s heart was through her stomach. And for this, armoured himself with many exotic recipes for him to woo his mistresses with.
Today in the streets of Istanbul, Sweet Shops are in abundance sell the sensually perfumed treats, as well as Turkish Baclava and other syrup dripped pastries. For the sugar addicts out there, these shops are are a marvelous treat to bring back home. And even I, who rarely touch sweets, succumbed to small box of fragrant delights.
A big thanks to Calgar and to Urban Adventures. You can book a tour with them through their website www.urbanadventures.com
To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, Four Seasons Hotel, Istanbul Sultanahmet