As the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul is a magical place with many stories to tell. It is every traveller’s dream to explore this splendid ancient city and discover traces of one of the greatest historical empires in the world.
相傳只有伊斯蘭教聖城麥加的清真寺才能蓋六根尖塔，但是此清真寺卻同樣擁有六個尖塔令。據悉是藍色清真寺在興建時，艾哈邁德一世跟建築師下了一道要有“ 黃金”的命令，沒想到建築師卻誤聽為“ 六根”的意思，結果藍色清真寺就逾矩以六根尖塔的特色而聞名於世。
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, also referred to as Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is the most significant religious building in Turkey. Regarded as one of the most beautiful structures in Turkey, the mosque was completed in 1616 with a design resembling the nearby Hagia Sophia.
The mosque has six minarets, a feature unique to the mosque of Ka’aba in the holy city of Mecca. Rumors had it that when Sultan Ahmed ordered for the mosque’s construction, the architect misheard his request of “altın minareler” (golden minarets) of “altı minareler” (six minarets). The six minarets have now become an important characteristic of the structure.
The interior is equally splendid. The walls and dome are all decorated with over 20,000 pieces of colourful Iznik tiles. It looks particularly majestic when sunlight passes through the 250 stained glass windows. Muslims must undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime subject to affordability and physical wellness. The Blue Mosque is a very common starting point of that journey, and is hence a venue of great importance in Islam.
而位於藍色清真寺及聖索菲亞大教堂之間的“地下水宮殿”，實際上則是一座位於地底深處的水塘，它建於公元527 至565 年，總佔地約9,800 平方米，儲水量高達10 萬噸，據說當時動用了7,000 名奴隸才完成如此龐大工程。主要建造目的是為了保證宮廷用水供給，另一方面為了防止城市因遭到圍城戰時，無法由外面輸入食水。無論是蓄水池的天花或數百支石柱，皆由不同大理石經細緻雕刻而成，規模龐大而奢華。如今除了成為旅遊勝地外，這座水宮殿也曾是電影《007 大破天幕殺機》和《特務迷城》的取景地，更成了不少重量級國家領導人外交時的必到之處。一直走到其西北方位盡頭，就會看見“ 美杜莎頭像之柱”，美杜莎是希臘神話中著名的蛇髮女妖，每條頭髮都是毒蛇，直視她雙眼的人都會被石化。在水宮的一側，兩個巨大的石柱下面壓著女妖的頭像，一個朝下，另一個則側臉向下。究竟為何如此放置，就不得而知了。
Despite its name, Basilica Cistern is not a church. The underground structure between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia is a water chamber built between AD527 to AD565. As many as 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the 9,800 sq. m. space, which can hold up to 100,000 tonnes of water. It served mainly as a reservoir for royal use, but also ensured water supply in the city in times of war. The ceiling and hundreds of columns inside were made with marble, carefully carved by hand. The structure is more than a tourist destination and has received many country heads and diplomats. Films “Skyfall” and “The Accidental Spy” both featured scenes at the cistern. The particularly intriguing part in the chamber are two columns with Medusa head bases, one placed sideways and the other upside down. In Greek mythology, Medusa is a monster with living venomous snakes in place of hair and those gazed upon her face would be turned to stone. Little was known about why the bases were placed that way.
View From Above
It could be difficult to fully appreciate a site when it is full of people. In that case, a helicopter trip can be a good option for a view just for yourself. The private trip begins at Raffle Hotel and goes over the most iconic buildings in Istanbul, such as the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, Anadolu Castle, etc. After seeing how historical buildings blend harmoniously into the modern metropolitan city, a perfect photo opportunity emerges as the helicopter goes over Bosporus—the strait separating Europe and Asia. It is definitely a unique and luxurious visual enjoyment that even locals may not even have experienced.
北塞浦路斯 Northern Cyprus
遊覽過伊斯坦堡後，若想感受一下與世隔絕的清靜，不妨到北塞浦路斯走一趟。在這個經歷了多年內戰的歐洲“孤兒”，其實有不少文化名勝和“特殊”景點。其中最“ 特殊”的肯定包括有“鬼城”之稱的法馬古斯塔。法馬古斯塔具有優良的地理位置，在中世紀時期是重要的貿易港，也是海上絲綢之路必經地，如今仍留著不少歌德式建築古蹟。不過這不是此處最引人入勝的地方，在古城區外，有著“ 鬼城”瓦羅莎，這裡曾經是一個度假勝地，現在卻因1974年塞浦路斯一場軍事政變而淪為一座鬼城。由於土耳其軍隊設置了路障，遊客只能遠遠地站在鐵絲網外一睹瓦羅莎的的神秘色彩。
Ghost Town Varosha
For a different kind of tranquillity, one may cross the border to Northern Cyprus. Following years of civil war, the de-facto state seems to have been forgotten by many. However, there are many cultural sites and special spots worth a visit there. One of them is the city of Famagusta. It used to be an important trading port in the Middle Ages for its superb geographical location. As part of the Maritime Silk Road, the city is scattered with Gothic architecture. However, the most intriguing site in the city is the abandoned quarter Varosha. This former resort town was fenced off and deserted following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Now one can only catch a glimpse of Varosha outside the barricades set up by the Turkish army.
北塞浦路斯 Northern Cyprus
Northern Cyprus may not be as renowned as Germany and France when it comes to Gothic architecture, but there is surely no lack of it. Apart from the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Famagusta, Bellapais Abbey at Kyrenia Mountains is also an iconic Gothic building in Northern Cyprus. Built in the 12th to 13th century, it features a fortified gate, tower and drawbridge for protection. Following numerous wars and a lack of maintenance over time, the monastery is now a ruin, bringing a melancholic feel to the surroundings.
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