Turkey at Crossroads
At The Crossroads 在十字路口上
Turkey’s unique position, geographically and historically, has turned it into one of the most fascinating, enlightening and relevant countries to visit
Thanks to Turkey’s location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the region’s significant geostrategic importance has resulted in a country of fascinating history and heritage, life and culture. On the back of a history of a 10,000 year-old civilization, and a tumultuous political and religious past, modern Turkey is a democratic and secular constitutional republic, well integrated with the West but fiercely loyal to its Asian roots, and very much relevant today as it was in ancient times.
Cultural Capital 文化之都
At 550 years old, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world. “Remember, the Carsikapi Gate”, our guide Can (pronounced Jaan) reiterated before our group split up to explore the market. We were supposed to meet at that specific gate after two hours of shopping. Some members of the group were lost for an hour the day earlier when we visited the much smaller Spice Bazaar and he just wanted to make sure it did not happen again. However, the maze-like Grand Bazaar is made up of more than 58 covered streets and over 4,000 shops selling mostly identical goods such as jewellery, lanterns, pottery, incense, carpets, leather products and Turkish delights, it is almost impossible not to get lost in it. If you are not unconsciously walking around in circles, you will be caught up in the dynamic array of sights, sounds and smells that make up a microcosm of Turkish culture. Thankfully, friendly shop owners, who are more than happy to share with you their way of life and who always seem to have a cup of apple tea at hand, make navigating the Grand Bazaar delightful more than daunting.
Previously known as Constantinople, capital of Eastern Roman Empire, then capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul has always been a hotbed of cultural diversity. In its heyday, this grand dame of a city that straddles the continents of Europe and Asia, drew traders from all across the globe. Today, as Turkey’s cultural capital, Istanbul proudly flaunts the country’s rich and colourful history through its streets, markets, churches, mosques and palaces.
Originally constructed as a church in 532-537 AD by orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Aya Sofia was—and still is—considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. When the Ottoman Turks took over the city, Aya Sofia was converted into a mosque under the instructions of Sultan Mehmed II. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed and many of the mosaics were plastered over. Islamic features such as the four minarets were added. Now as a museum, it is a place for all. Though no longer a site of worship, Aya Sofia still evokes a sacred reverence. Turkish families and tourists alike stand in awe of the massive gold mosaic dome, its vastness highlighted by the streams of sunlight piercing through the stained glass windows. In respectful hushed tone, they wander about admiring the mosaics that have been successfully uncovered and restored.
Aya Sofia-阿亞蘇菲亞這棟建築原本是Byzantine-拜佔庭皇帝下令在公元532-537年建造的教堂，至今還是拜佔庭時代的建築表率。在奧斯曼族的土耳其人接管這座城市之後，Aya Sofia-阿亞蘇菲亞也在Mehmed II-莫哈默德二世蘇丹王的指示之下改裝成清真寺。那些鐘，神壇，聖像和祭祀用具都被移走，許多馬賽克石磚也被石灰泥鋪蓋，再添加伊斯蘭教的象徵物如四支尖塔，如今已經成為一座博物院，Aya Sofia-阿亞蘇菲亞仍舊散發出讓人尊重的神聖氣勢。土耳其人的家庭和遊客都會在這座鋪滿黃金馬賽克石磚的大型圓頂前瞠目結舌地看著陽光穿過彩色玻璃窗照耀出它的龐大結構，他們都會用尊敬的態度竊竊私語地談論和讚賞那些成功被修復的馬賽克石磚。
To rival Aya Sofia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built, from 1609 to 1616, just adjacent to the former. The mosque incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighbouring Aya Sofia with traditional Islamic architecture; its interior is adorned with the famous blue Iznik tiles, earning it the moniker, Blue Mosque.
Another example of magnificent architecture, the grandiose Topkapi Palace was the primary residence and venue for state occasions and royal entertainment of the Ottoman Sultans before they started favouring the newer palaces along the Bosphorus. The complex palace compound consists of four courtyards, housing dormitories, kitchens, baths and mosques; as well as the impressive Harem, its 400 rooms were where the Sultan’s extended family took residence.
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Source > The Travel Times Newsletter 旅遊時光報
Translated by > BlogHost
Word Count > approx. 640 words in English