HYDERABAD : Classy, intimate, quiet destination weddings are “in”. Loud, flashy, ostentatious weddings are out. Saw Virushka’s graceful wedding in Italy?How subtle and elegant it was! People watched in awe as Anushka blushed in a soft pink and some sighed over the garland of ‘fresh from the garden’ roses adorning her neck. So simple yet sophisticated, isn’t it? The ambience was something to die for. If you are scouting for the best ‘destination wedding’ venues, Istanbul tops the list: the unique city with its seven hills, the beautiful Bosphorus by its side, it is one of the world’s greatest cities known for its magnificent historical monuments and scenic beauty boasting an amazing cultural and architectural heritage – one of the most sought-after tourist destinations with myriad attractions. The wedding guests will be forever grateful for the opportunity to visit a fabulous place and the wedding will stay memorable for all. Is that hitting two birds with one stone?
Istanbul is the only city in the world that’s half in Asia and half in Europe. Again, one can see both the cultures in one city. Amazingly fascinating! Here are some ‘must see’ (and experience) attractions for the wedding guests.
What was once the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans (15th Century) has now become a much- visited museum in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace was home to generations of sultans and their wives who were closeted in the famous harem. The First and Second Courtyards, Palace Kitchens and Porcelain Collection, the Imperial Council Building, Imperial Treasury, Arms Collection, Gate of Felicity, Third Courtyard, Audience Chamber, Miniature and Portrait Gallery and with a bevy of interesting attractions, the Topkapi is a massive institution in art and architecture. Lush green courtyards, delicate kiosks, and the breathtaking views of the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn are absolutely irresistible.
The Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya is a historical architectural wonder that still remains standing today, holding an important place in the art world with its architecture, grandness, size and functionality. It was built as an Orthodox cathedral in 537 CE and converted to a mosque under the Ottoman rule after 1453. Now it is the second most visited museum in Turkey and attracts over 3 million tourists every year. Another interesting fact about Hagia Sophia is that it was the largest church in the world for about 900 years until the Seville Cathedral of Spain was completed in 1520. The extraordinary spaciousness of this famous church-turned-mosque-turned museum is very imposing. Downstairs the building is largely empty; the best of the glittering mosaics are found in the galleries upstairs.
Once frequented by vazirs and sultans, Istanbul’s hamams now serve tourists and nostalgic locals in search of a steamy scrub surrounded by marble walls and lofty domes. Whether it’s a plain wash or a deluxe treatment by a tellak (masseur), you’ll find what you’re looking for in Istanbul’s best Turkish baths. Some of them are architectural masterpieces built by the legendary court architects like Mimar Sinan, while some hamams date back half a millennium. Large areas of marble, the sound of running water echoing around stupendous domes, and a massage fit for a sultan, one can be lost in the bliss only to emerge fully rejuvenated.
The Grand Bazaar
As a fitting finale to the Istanbul visit, shopping in the Grand Bazaar can be a most fulfilling experience: in operation since 1461, it is one of the oldest and largest shielded markets in the world. This shopper’s paradise has over 5,000 shops and 60 streets, which attract over 300,000 visitors daily. It is quite possible to get wonderstruck at the magnitude and the diversity of the place. While some may lose their way, some may even refuse to go back home. Well, that is Istanbul for you. Irresistibly attractive!!
(The author is a documentary filmmaker and travel writer; she blogs at vijayaprataptravelandbeyond.com)
The Blue Mosque
In Istanbul, the largest and the most populous city in Turkey, one can find a mosque in every corner: the city has a total of 3,113 mosques, the maximum in Turkey. The Blue Mosque is known so because of the blue tiles on the interior walls. It was built between 1609-1616 AD, during the rule of Ahmed I. Just like many other mosques, it houses a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice. An active mosque with regular prayers going on, it is a great tourist attraction in Istanbul. With six minarets, this mosque is unique, made of fine Iznik tiles.
Istanbul is a great city to see two continents at the same time. The Bosphorus River Cruises (both day and night) give the chance to sail between two continents and see the beauty of Asian and European shore at the same time. The Bosphorus has 620 waterfront houses called ‘Yali’ built during the Ottoman period along the strait’s European and Asian shorelines. Bosphorus forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia and separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey and it is the world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation. Cruises come with various attractions and a wide choice.