Cohort 9 learns about Istanbul’s history

Members of Cohort 9 visit the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul.

Today, Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9 explored Istanbul’s most popular cultural sites.

“The city has a fascinating history with the inheritance of Byzantine ruins, splendid palaces, ancient mosques and churches, bath-houses, and exotic bazaars,” said Wendy Lowe, Executive MBA program coordinator. “Istanbul is the only city in the world reaching across two continents, with its old city in Europe and modern Istanbul situated in Asia, separated by the Bosphorus Strait. Modern Istanbul exudes trendy bars and nightclubs, western boutiques, office blocks and elegant suburbs. Today, we visited Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome of Constantinople, the Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. We enjoyed touring the ancient artifacts, diamonds, empire clothing, paintings and the picturesque gardens and views of the Bosphorus.”

Hagia Sophia is the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin, and Aysofya or Aya Sofya in Turkish. It is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. Now a museum, Haghia Sophia is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world. We enjoyed touring the ancient artifacts, diamonds, empire clothing, paintings and the picturesque gardens and views of the Bosphorus.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople is the largest of the ancient world and the largest stadium of all times with a design that was based on the Circus Maximus in Rome which had a capacity of 250,000 spectators. Initially built at the time of Septimus Severus, it was later enlarged to surpass in grandeur the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus in Rome at the time of Constantine the Great, who moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople, Istanbul, in 330 AD.  The first chariot races were held here!  Today thousands of tourists crowd the area to get a glimpse of life long ago and further understand its place in history.

The Basilica Cistern, or Underground Cistern, was built by Justinian I after the bloody Nika Revolt in 532. During the Byzantium Period, it was used as a reservoir for water storage for the Great Palace and other buildings in the First Hill. During the Ottoman Period, the water was used for Topkapi Palace and watering the gardens of it. However, the cistern had its brightest days during the Byzantium Age.

Cohort 9 enjoyed a traditional Turkish lunch with lavash bread, Turkish pizzas and shish-ka-bobs at the Restaurant Khorasani, in one of the meandering roads near the Topkapi Palace.  After lunch, students visited the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque.

Students visited the Topkapi Palace grounds today in Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace was first built by Mehmet the Conqueror just after his capture of Constantinople in 1453. His successors lived there for nearly 400 years until they began to take up resident in the Dolmabahce Palace, just across the Golden Horn. This palace is much more enclosed and built around 4 courtyards, vs. the European concept of being more open. Here, the cohort viewed the famous harem and treasury items.

The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I as a rival to Hagia Sophia and designed by architect Mehmet Aga. The mosque began construction in 1609 and took seven years to finish. Sultan Ahmet died only a year after completion of his masterpiece at the age of 27. He is buried outside the mosque with his wife and three sons.

The Welcome Dinner tonight was at Restaurant Kosebasi, in a chic neighborhood of Istanbul. Students delighted in tapas style sharing of cold starters, warm appetizers, and lamb, chicken wings, barbecue ribs all marinated in Turkish spices, along with Kunefe, a traditional oven baked desserts with a molten cheese center, syrup and kaymak.

“Suffice to say that Cohort 9’s trip is off to an adventurous and informative start!” said Lowe. “Despite a few adjusting to the time change, one upset stomach and one sprained ankle, we have bonded together like a solidified unit, and we march on with excitement at what’s next!

“Tomorrow, the business visits begin!”