I have arrived safely to Istanbul, Turkey for the [Systems Technical University 2014] conference. The conference will feature experts from IBM Power Systems, IBM System x, IBM PureSystems, and IBM System Storage.
Here is the view from my hotel window. Up until the 19th century, this was open countryside. Around 1890, the Bomonti brothers from Switzerland set up a brewery, which was moved to this section of town in 1902, becoming the first Turkish brewery. In 1934, the brewery was nationalized and became the Istanbul Tekel Beer Factory. The Hilton Bomonti hotel where the conference is being held is named after these brothers.
Since this is my first time to Istanbul, and I did not have meetings until later in the afternoon for the conference, I decided to a bit of sightseeing.
(A special thanks to Gail Godbey of [Encounter Tours/Kaletours] who organized this entire tour of sightseeing for me on such short notice!)
The hippodrome was a stadium for horse and chariot racing, but now is just a square with a few obelisks. This one is the Thutmosis Obelisk from Egypt. The word hippodrome comes from the Greek hippos, meaning horse, and dromos, meaning path or way. Hippodromes were common features of Greek cities in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. My tour guide Erol Azor did a great job explaining everything.
My favorite stop of the day was the Blue Mosque, named after the blue tiles used on the dome. It is 43 meters high, making it one of the tallest mosques in the city. There are over 3,000 mosques here in Istanbul. In Turkish, this place is called Sultan Ahmet Camii after the Sultan Ahmet that had it built from 1609-1616. There are six minarets. The legend goes that the Sultan asked for a "gold" minaret, but the word for "gold" in Arabic sounds a lot the number six in Turkish, so that is why there are six of them.
Right next to the Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sofia, which was a Christian church first, then converted to a mosque, and now is a musuem. It was closed on Mondays, so all I could do was take pictures from the outside. Tulips are in full bloom throughout the city this month of April. If you notice, the minaret on the right is different color. Often, new sultans would add a minaret to an existing mosque, using whatever materials were available at the time. Kind of like adding a bedroom to an existing house.
Underneath the ground is the Basilica Cistern which held the drinking water for the city. The water came in on viaduct, and was kept underground. Today, it has a foot of water, and some fish, for people to admire the architecture employed.
Of course, no visit to Istanbul is complete without stopping at the Grand Bazaar. With over 4,000 tiny shops, it is a madhouse of gold and silver jewelry, blue jeans, leather goods, scarves, persian rugs, and antiques. Some places offered me free samples of Turkish delight, which are delicious cubes of flavored gelatin.
My day ended at the Topkapi palace. The word Topkapi is Turkish for "Cannon Gate", as this castle sits overlooking the peninsula and bosphorus strait that separates the Europe side from the Asian side of the city. Like the palace of Versaille in France, or Buckingham palace in England, the Topkapi palace was home to 36 sultans from 1299 to 1922.
You can spend hours here. There are beautiful gardens and various buildings surrounded by five kilometers of castle wall. Inside the buildings are displays of the family jewels, the clothes the sultans wore, their weapons, and religious relics.
It was good to get a flavor of the city, and a sense of the Turkish culture.