A Return to Istanbul

Returning to Istanbul, the enchanting city where East meets West, has reignited my fascination with its rich history and vibrant culture. This visit delved deeper into the city’s ancient past and bustling present.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Grand BazaarExploring the Grand Bazaar

A short ten-minute walk from our hotel, and we’ve navigated our way through bustling, narrow streets to reach the Grand Bazaar, known locally as Kapalı Çarşı (meaning covered market – Turkish). Constructed in 1455 following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople during the reign of Sultan Mehmet II, the Bazaar was originally known as bedesten and dedicated to the sale of fabrics and silks. It quickly became a central hub for merchants and traders from across Turkey and beyond to promote trade in the new capital.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Grand BazaarToday, having undergone numerous renovations over time, the Grand Bazaar spans more than 30,000 square meters, making it the largest enclosed bazaar in the world.

Finding our way to one of the four main entrance gates, to be captivated by a kaleidoscope of goods, from traditional pottery and handmade silk carpets from Avanos in Cappadocia to aromatic spices, perfumes, dried fruits, nuts, and a variety of other items.

The choices are endless.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Grand Bazaar

The vibrant daily life, the myriad of colours, scents, and sounds create a sensory overload that is truly captivating. Even for those not inclined to shop, the Bazaar is an experience not to be missed. My friend and I, though, found it impossible to leave empty-handed

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Grand Bazaar

For enthusiasts of haggling, like myself, the Bazaar is a playground. Negotiating for a fair price adds to the joy and engagement of the experience.

We spent the entire morning exploring its labyrinthine alleys, a memorable adventure that ended with us somehow exiting through one of its eighteen smaller entrances. Stepping into the busy side lane, and guided by the sight of the minaret, and knowing we were heading in the right direction.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Grand BazaarDiscovering Eminönü

Emerging from the Bazaar, we found ourselves in the Eminönü district, historically the heart of old Istanbul. Today part of the Fatih district, Eminönü is strategically located on the natural port of the Golden Horn, where Byzantium was founded. By the 12th century, it was a bustling area with merchants from Venice, Amalfi, Genoa, and Pisa.

Eminönü remains a vibrant hub with busy ferry crossings of the Bosphorus Strait and the Marmara Sea that separates the two continents of the Asian and European sides of Istanbul and is the starting point for Bosphorus cruises. We spent time strolling through this historic area, enjoying the afternoon and early evening, before crossing the Atatürk Bridge to Beyoğlu, a district on the European side of Istanbul.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Watching the ferries go by along the Bosphorus Strait

The Atatürk Bridge is both a vehicle and a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Golden Horn and provides a backdrop to the Asian side of Istanbul and the historic sites of the Topkapi Palace, the iconic Agia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - View from Mikla Restaurant

Dining at Mikla Restaurant

Our last night travelling together was spent at the Mikla Restaurant in Beyoğlu, a fine dining establishment with contemporary decor and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Mikla RestaurantThe exquisite food, combined with the breathtaking sunset, made for an unforgettable dining experience. – Highly recommend!

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Mikla Restaurant

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Sunset Mikla Restaurant

The sunset bathed the night sky in a rich tapestry of red, orange and yellow, casting a radiant glow that slowly deepened as the sun dipped below the horizon.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Fisherman on Atatürk Bridge

A Night Stroll on the Atatürk Bridge

Walking back across the Atatürk Bridge, the shimmering lights of passenger ferries sparkled across the water, creating a mesmerising dance of reflections on the Golden Horn. The ferries moved gracefully back and forth, their lights twinkling like stars against the darkening sky.

At this hour of the night, along the bridge’s footpath, many men stood patiently, their fishing lines cast into the water. Their quiet presence added a serene, timeless element to the bustling cityscape, creating a peaceful contrast to the vibrant urban life around them.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Sophia Hagia by Night

A golden yellow glow illuminated the iconic Agia Sophia, highlighting its majestic silhouette against the night sky. The vibrant buzz of city life filled the air, creating a lively atmosphere that seamlessly blended history with the energy of modern Istanbul.

Exploring the Topkapi Palace

The following day, with my friend having departed, I chose to visit the Topkapi Palace. The construction of the palace was ordered by Sultan Mehmed II following his conquest, and served as the Ottoman sultans’ residence for nearly 400 years until the construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace in the mid 19th century. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, the palace is now a museum showcasing Ottoman, Persian, and Islamic architectural styles.

The palace presents a fascinating and unique aspect of Ottoman architecture and court life, from grand entrances and official chambers to serene gardens and personal quarters, reflecting the grandeur and intricacies of the Ottoman Empire. Within the many buildings are vast collections of artifacts, manuscripts, and various pieces of historical significance that offer insights into the intricacies and legacy of the Ottoman Empire.

Lets’ take a walk…

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

Entering through the Imperial Gate, also known as Bâb-ı Hümâyun, I explored the manicured gardens before walking through the palace’s four courtyards, each rich with history. This expansive courtyard once served as a grand ceremonial space and is notable by the grandeur of the Imperial Gate, that once served as the grand entrance to the palace complex, ensuring guests and visitors were charmed by its impressive and imposing entrance.

The First Courtyard, also known as the Court of the Janissaries or Alay Meydanı, is the largest of the four courtyards in Topkapi Palace. Within this courtyard, you’ll see the Hagia Irene, an ancient Byzantine church that stands as a testament to the city’s rich and diverse history. On the left side of the courtyard stands the Imperial Mint, where the empire’s coins were minted. In addition, there are various service buildings and barracks scattered throughout this expansive courtyard that were used by the Janissaries, the elite guard of the Ottoman Empire.

This courtyard’s impressive size and historical significance made for a captivating starting point for exploring the palace.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The Second Courtyard, known as Divan Square or Divan Meydanı, is the second largest courtyard in Topkapi Palace grounds. This area is accessed through the Gate of Salutation (Bâbüsselâm), that served as the grand entrance to the courtyard.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The second courtyard houses the Divan Chamber, also known as the Imperial Council Hall, where council officials convened to discuss matters of the empire and foreign affairs. This chamber was at the heart of administrative operations, official ceremonies, and practical court functions, underscoring the importance of this courtyard in the governance of the Ottoman Empire.

Before entering I stopped to admire the ornate features of the gold gilded entrance in the early afternoon as the sun casts its warm rays, creating a scene of grandeur befitting stately officials.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

Whilst, inside the Divan chamber, I take a moment to marvel at the intricate details adorning the interior, from exquisite carvings to captivating paintings. The gold gilded and ornate central dome adds to the grandeur of this magnificent space.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

One of the most striking features of the Second Courtyard is the Tower of Justice commanding attention with its imposing presence. As the tallest structure within the palace grounds, the tower once served as more than just a vantage point. It also symbolised the sultan’s commitment to justice, embodying the ruler’s commitment to fairness and order.

From the watchtowers strategic vantage point, watchmen and sultans could oversee both the inner palace grounds and the surrounding city and the Bosphorus River.

Yet, despite its prominent position and purpose, no legal proceedings occurred within its walls; instead, the Ottoman legal system was designated to other specific areas for the administration of justice.

The second courtyard also includes the Imperial Stables, where the sultan’s prized horses were held, that showcased the importance of the Ottoman court culture of equestrian activities.

Additionally, on the right side of the courtyard, are the Palace Kitchens, that provided essential operations of daily functioning in the palace. The kitchens distinctive chimneys are visible from a distance, marking the scale and importance of food preparation required to serve the palace’s inhabitants and formal guests.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The Harem of Topkapi Palace extended from the Second Courtyard into the Third Courtyard, with its main entrance located in the Third Courtyard. This entrance marked the start of the private and secluded quarters of the palace, where the sultan’s family and concubines resided. It symbolised the transition from the more public areas of the palace into the Harem, highlighting the hierarchical and controlled access that characterised the Ottoman imperial system.

Deciding to skip the Harem, as there is much more to see and also due to the crowds gathered at the entry, I proceeded to explore the third courtyard.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The Third Courtyard, also known as the Inner Palace or Enderûn Courtyard, is the third largest area within Topkapi Palace, and is accessible through the Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde), where I was met with more beautiful manicured gardens and beds of colourful spring flowers. The Inner Gate of Felicity, was the formal entrance to this section of the palace, welcoming visitors into the heart of the palace’s administrative and ceremonial functions.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

Walking through the Gate of Felicity, you are greeted by the imposing presence of the Audience Chamber, also known as the Chamber of Petitions (Arz Odası). This exquisite square kiosk, originally designed in the 15th century, endured a destructive fire in 1856. Extensive renovations were subsequently undertaken during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I, restoring its grandeur with a roof adorned by hanging eaves, and supported by 22 majestic columns. Here the Sultan would meet and conduct formal audiences with foreign dignitaries and high-ranking officials to discuss business of the state.

The Enderûn library or the Library of Sultan Ahmed III, is the building that can be seen alongside the Audience Chamber. The Enderûn library is an historical repository of manuscripts and books that reflects the scholarly pursuits and intellectual life of the Ottoman elite.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

In the third courtyard, you’ll also find the Conqueror’s Pavilion, also known as the Conqueror’s Kiosk (Fatih Köşkü), which houses the Imperial Treasury and stands as one of the oldest buildings within the palace grounds, dating back to its initial construction in 1460.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi PalaceThe portico arcade lined with white columns, embellished with gold trim greets you with a striking black and white inlaid pebble design as you walk along. Whilst inside the treasury you’ll find a remarkable collection of precious stones, inlaid jewellery, artworks and numerous heirlooms that span the Ottoman Empire’s extensive history and dynasty.

Wandering through the third courtyard and appreciating the joy of the day and the opportunity to experience the marvels and wonders of the grandeur that is the Topkapi Palace, before continuing through to the fourth courtyard.

The Fourth Courtyard, also known as the Imperial Sofa or Sofa-i Hümâyûn, is the smallest, and by no means less significant nor impressive, however is the most intimate space within Topkapi Palace. This courtyard features a beautifully meticulously manicured Tulip Garden, that provides a serene retreat amidst the palace’s grandeur.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The fourth courtyard boasts a number of important buildings, including Kiosk pavilions commemorating significant Ottoman victories. The Mecidiye Kiosk, also known as the Grand Kiosk (Büyük Köşk) stands out with its stark white exterior, and is the final significant addition to the palace. Built between 1839 and 1861 during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I, the kiosk was named “Mecidiye” in his honour.

Its location is also noted for its picturesque location offering panoramic views of the Bosphorus.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

Just a short stroll from the Mecidiye Kiosk is the Konyali restaurant, known for its upscale dining experience and stunning panoramic views spanning the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus. From here, guests can also enjoy closer perspectives of the ancient city walls that line the coastline alongside the tram route.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The Sofa Kiosk, also known as the Terrace Pavilion, was constructed during the reign of Sultan Mehmed IV between 1676 and 1683.  It stands as the only wooden building in the fourth courtyard of the palace. This pavilion features two rooms on either side of a central stairway, offering views of the tulip garden. One room was designated for prayer, while the other served as a refreshment room. Throughout history, these rooms were also used for observing sporting events in the lower garden and hosting short-term guests.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

I then found my way to the ornately tiled and marble pillar entrance of the Circumcision Room (Sunnet Odası). The circumcision room was added to the palace fourth courtyard grounds in 1640 by Sultan Ibrahim I and holds historical significance as the site where young princes underwent their ceremonial rites of passage and, was specifically designated for the circumcision ceremonies of the sultan’s sons and other royal children.

Traditionally, circumcision in Islamic culture marks the transition from boyhood to manhood and is considered a significant event in a young boy’s life. In the Ottoman Empire, the ceremony was a grand affair, symbolising the young prince’s readiness to assume responsibilities and duties within the royal family and the empire.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The architecture of the Circumcision Room features intricate Ottoman designs, with rich decorations including colourful tiles, intricate carvings, and ornate furnishings, with the rooms interior ceiling decorated with more fine blue floral tiles. The chamber’s layout is adorned with natural light from the many windows with each having a small fountain. The decor meticulously designed and intended to create a dignified and majestic atmosphere befitting the significance of the occasion.

Today, the room serves as a testament to the cultural and historical heritage of the Ottoman Empire, preserving the traditions and customs associated with royal life and ceremonies, and reflecting the opulence and grandeur of the Ottoman court.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

The Revan Kiosk, or Revan Köşkü, is a smaller pavilion within the fourth courtyard, and yet is truly one of the most remarkable pavilions and is enhanced by its elaborate protective eaves and four prominent skylights that illuminate the 16th century richly floral decorated interior central dome.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

This elegant structure was built in 1636 during the reign of Sultan Murad IV to commemorate his victory in the capture of the city of Yerevan (Revan in Turkish) in 1635. The kiosk stands as a symbol of the Ottoman Empire’s grandeur and the sultan’s military achievements.

Architecturally, the Revan Kiosk exemplifies classical Ottoman design, incorporating elements of Persian and Islamic influences. Its compact and symmetrical structure is adorned with intricate tile work, showcasing the rich artistry of the period. The exterior features colourful Iznik tiles, known for their vibrant blues and greens, depicting floral and geometric patterns. With its entrance marked by an ornate portico supported by slender marble columns, leading into the main chamber.

The picturesque setting of the smaller kiosk with elaborate outer protecting eves and four prominent skylights surround the 16th century richly floral decorated interior central dome. With the interior walls lined with exquisite tiles and a ceiling featuring intricate wooden carvings and gilded decorations and, a marble fountain situated at the center of the kiosk that provides a soothing ambiance with the sound of flowing water, adding to the kiosk’s serene and majestic atmosphere. The building was traditionally used for a 40 day religious retreat and for marking the end of the fasting period of Ramadan. It stands as one of the last examples of classical palace architecture, and showcasing the elegance and refinement of the Ottoman Empire period.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Gülhane Park

There is still much to see, however realising the time, I decided against returning to the third courtyard to visit the Harem. Instead, I exited the palace grounds via the lower entrance near the Gülhane tram stop and walked back to the hotel through Gülhane Park, once part of the palace gardens until 1912. The name “Gülhane” translates to “Rose Palace.” Dating back to the 1800s; today Gülhane Park is the oldest public park in Istanbul and the largest public park in the historical center of the city.

Gülhane Park is also home to two notable museums: the Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar Literature Museum Library and the Istanbul Museum of the History of Science & Technology in Islam. These institutions add cultural and educational dimensions to the park, offering insights into the rich literary and scientific heritage of Istanbul.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Gülhane ParkBridges, fountains, and numerous park benches can be found throughout the well-maintained natural parkland. The serene environment offers a perfect escape from the bustling city, with lush greenery and meticulously landscaped gardens providing a peaceful respite.

Walking through the park, one also sees various sculptures and historical monuments, including the 18-meter high marble Column of the Goths.

This Roman column, erected during the late 3rd century, honours the victory against the Goths and stands as a testament to the ancient history interwoven with the natural beauty of the park.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Gülhane Park

As I near the Gülhane park front entrance, I notice an inner palace building that forms part of the Topkapi Palace grounds and adjoining walls.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Gülhane Park

Before leaving Gülhane Park, I stop to admire the open book fountain etched in red roses, with a welcome message inscripted in Turkish and English, that reads – Welcome to the flower and rose garden ‘Gülhane’ which has been serving as an outer garden of Topkapi Palace for centuries.

A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul - Gülhane Park

A captivating and enriching day spent exploring and learning about the Ottoman Empire’s past in this historically significant city where East meets West has left me in awe.

Istanbul, with its blend of historic charm and modern vibrancy, continues to captivate. Whether wandering through the Grand Bazaar or strolling in Gülhane Park, every corner unveils a new chapter in its ancient tale. This city, where the echoes of history guide your journey, remains an unforgettable destination. Let its rich tapestry of history guide you through this mesmerising city, and captivating country, where every corner uncovers a new layer of an ancient land.

It’s time for something to eat before returning to my accommodation to pack for tomorrow’s departure. As I wait in the Istanbul Atatürk Airport lounge to board my flight to New Zealand, I reflect on the amazing time I’ve had in Turkey.

Astrocartography – Where Location Matters

At the initiation of a friend who had travelled to Crete to meet with me, our shared interest in visiting the battlefields of Gallipoli drew us to Turkey. We arrived in Istanbul to spend two weeks exploring and experiencing what Turkey had to offer. We engaged with a travel provider at the recommendation of our hotel in Istanbul, discussing the locations and experiences we were interested in seeing.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had a strong Pluto Local Space Line Orb 0°56′ intersecting with a Saturn/Neptune Paran Line (Orb 1°12′) and a Neptune Local Space Line. Together, these astrocartography lines created a sense of peace and spiritual renewal (from Neptune) and learning lessons (from Saturn). And, transformative Pluto brought a number of unexpected upheavals.

As someone who embraces the search for new meaning and goes with the flow, Istanbul provided me with an ephemeral quality, enhancing my life and giving me a renewed sense of purpose. Despite likely dishonest miscommunication with the travel service provider, resulting in being left for hours in a non-eventful location and needing to wait until midnight to board a bus, we managed to book a basic room for six or seven hours to rest before an overnight bus journey to our next destination. Upon returning to Istanbul’s domestic airport from Cappadocia, we were met by the wrong shuttle service provider and driven in the opposite direction out of the city. Eventually, we contacted the travel service provider, who communicated with the driver to drop us off at an entry point connected to an onramp of one of the major motorways leading into the city, all of which took place late at night.

The power of Pluto required me to be prepared for transformation when traveling along this line. Pluto’s, powerful placement in my relocated birth chart, had a profound effect on my life while traveling in parts of Turkey.  Being someone who generally welcomes change, these upheavals tested my inner resolve and required me to maintain my conduct with the utmost integrity and learn the art of discrimination. All ended well, and I will always be grateful for the enriching and rewarding experiences that Turkey provided, as well as the lessons that helped me evolve and avoid falling back into previous outworn behavioural patterns.

I have since returned to Ephesus, Turkey for a second visit, travelling in a small group on the second occasion. This enabled me to again fully appreciate and immerse myself in the magic and marvel of Ephesus’ ancient history.

Experiencing a new country is an enriching sensory adventure that awakens and stimulates both the external and internal landscapes. Experiencing the gifts offers varied sensory experiences and reflective opportunities, fostering a deeper connection with oneself through the exploration of new environments. Exploring new environments is one of life’s most inspiring mysteries, offering new lessons and insights and helping us recognise and assimilate the lessons waiting to be learned. Astrocartography and relocation astrology (Where Location Matters) is a fascinating branch of astrology that visually maps the positions of planets at the exact time of your birth onto a world map. This technique offers profound insights into how different locations around the world can influence your personal experiences, growth, and development.

Let’s embark on a cosmic adventure together as we explore and awaken the wondrous realms of astrology, a timeless tradition that has captivated and enchanted humanity for centuries. Let your fascination with the stars and celestial bodies guide you through a transformative journey of self-discovery and a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Start a journey of self-discovery with ‘the Journey’ Orientation, a fourteen-day guide to and insight into astrology. Register today to begin your exploration of the cosmos and uncover the profound wisdom it holds for your life. Additionally, express your interest in ‘the Journey’ Astrology & Astrocartography Membership by joining the waitlist. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of a community dedicated to personal growth and celestial guidance. Sign up now and take the first step towards a more enlightened and fulfilled existence. Be sure to listen to the latest episode on the Podcast: Astrocartography with Marilyn – Where Location Matters for further insights into the influence of location on your life’s journey.

This blog is one of six written sharing my travels in Turkey and one of many that I have written sharing the personal journeys that have enriched my life and broadened my knowledge and understanding of the richness and diversity of our shared world.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope that I bring some inspiration (if needed) to visit this amazing and magical part of the world. Leave a comment and let me know, and visit A Soul Awakening to subscribe and receive new blog posts as they become available.

Signature Marilyn




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A Soul Awakening | A Return to Istanbul

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  • Maddie

    Love how beautifully you described this place, it makes it seem out of a dream. Immediately added to my list 🙂

  • Tess

    Istanbul seems like such an amazing city, thanks for sharing your experience! will definitely be referring to this once I’m finally able to visit 🙂

  • Jen

    Such an interesting piece.

    And lovely photos as well.

    Really enjoyed learning a little bit about Istanbul.

    Thank you!

  • Sonia

    The idea of visiting the battlefields of Gallipoli sounds quite interesting. Did you drive down from Istanbul?

    • Marilyn

      No Sonia, my friend and I caught buses and flights to travel around Turkey.

  • Shweta

    This blog brought back such wonderful memories, Istanbul is one of my favourite cities. I really enjoyed the visit to Topkapi palace, the harem was astonishing.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    We still have Istanbul on our travel wish list. How great to return for a second visit and see it again. It looks like there is such a variety of things to see and do. And some great reasons to head out after dark! Such beautiful architecture to draw us from spot to spot.

  • Under Flowery Sky

    I would love to return to Instanbul, great collection of colours and scenic. Amazing sunset too…

  • Hannah

    Istanbul looks like such an enchanting city! I’d love to visit one day. Thank you for sharing so many fascinating historical insights. I felt like I was strolling through the bustling streets with you!

  • Cosette

    Istanbul is still on my to visit list, the Topkapi Palace looks and sounds so interesting to visit. The sunset is really fabulous and the food looks delicious.

  • Millette

    Was in Istanbul a decade ago and have been dreaming of a return visit there especially with all the things that have changed in the city so hoping I get to re-experience all that you just shared! Did you end up going inside the Hagia Sofia too?

  • Kelly

    I would love to go to Istanbul. It looks so colourful and exciting.

  • Meghan

    I feel like returning to Istanbul is a great idea! You’ve beautifully described the city so well! I went to Istanbul back in 2015 and I feel like it’s time for a return soon after reading this…

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