Saturday, 29 June 2013


Deep beneath Sultanhamet, there is a curious site. Well below ground, the byzintine cisterns built by Emperor Justinia still exist. They had actually been forgotten about for ages and re-discovered. Locals who had houses would talk of using buckets on ropes to pull up fresh water from a hole in their basement, and sometimes even fish! They were re-discovered and opened as a tourist attraction, fish and all.

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It was lovely, damp and dark down there. A good escape from the heat of midday.

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There are two pillars with huge carved medusa visages.

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They are mysterious in origin, which basically makes it an ideal tourist trap when you claim things like that. "We have no idea how these got here" and "it's a mystery who put these here and why". Sold!


Friday, 28 June 2013

An all sorts sort of day

A walk through the Edirnekapı neighborhood to get to the Chora church, which just happened to be perched upon a hill.


The neighborhood was pretty run down. I don't know if I'd be walking around here late at night, but it seemed to be quiet during the day.


We stumbled into a few small churches: St. Stephen's Bulgarian:


and a tiny church of St. Mary's. We had to ring a buzzer and have a guardian show us around St Marys, as I don't think they get a lot of visitors.


Both were tiny and kind of hard to find as they were behind high walls, but worth seeking out.


The whole walk up the hill and we didn't see too many tourist, but once we got to the Chora church, it was back to status quo.

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The interior of the church is completely plastered with mosaics and frescos of bible scenes, most of which have been beautifully restored. It's fairly off the beaten track and worth seeking out. You will be a bit dizzy and sore from craning your neck skywards for such a long period of time. Or be clever and bring a mirror so you won't have to!


Afterwards, a really lovely lunch next door at a place that specialized in old ottoman recipes, and then a walk along the old city walls to the Golden Horn ferry. The area around the wall was pretty run-down, with people living in squats and abandoned lots. I didn't linger.

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We headed back to Fatih to the Spice Bazaar. First, we couldn't resist stopping for a lovely meat-infused pide.


And then to stock up on what is reported to be the best Turkish delight in the city.


I'm not a huge fan of the candy to begin with, but I must admit that these were pretty good. They were very fresh-fruit tasting, where you could actually tell that something was strawberry or apricot, and not just food coloring and sugar water flavored.

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We wandered the 17th century vaulted ceilings of the Spice Bazaar. Sensory overload! While a great many stalls are devoted to tchokies and designer knockoffs, there are still a great deal of food and spices being dealt. It's pretty inexpensive, so I used the opportunity to stock up on sumac, urfa pepper and nigella seeds.


And then off to Sultanahmet to see the enormous Blue Mosque up close. This is the kind of the cherry on the ice cream cake of mosques in this city. It's enormous, with redwood-tree sized pillars supporting the soaring domes.

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tour de Mosques

Tour de Three of them anyway. There are almost 3,000 of them in Istanbul. In comparison, Rome, which I think has a whole lot of churches, has merely 900. Or is comparing churches to Mosques an apples to oranges kind of thing? WED_1146 WED_1127

I was really happy that they allow you to go into the mosques here. As long as you are decently dressed- if not, they would make you wear a robe of shame. Even the men. If you were showing your knees, they'd put you in a sarong.


They don't let you choose either, so not only do you have to wear a "scarf of shame", and you might end up wearing contrasting prints. The horror!

There were some enormous Mosques in this town and the interiors were gorgeous.

Süleymaniye Mosque

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The views from here in the afternoon light were spectacular.

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Right off the Spice Bazaar is the smaller Rüstem Pasha Mosque. It is completely plastered with exquisite Iznik tiles- hand painted lovelies that I had come to covet this trip.


Once again, my future garden is in want of some decor.


All the repeating motifs of flowers and fruit and nature. I loved them. By the way, they are very expensive. While you can get factory made printed ones at any shop in Turkey for a few bucks, the handpainted, handglazed ones will run you about $50-$75 UDS per tile, or more if it's a big, intricate design. Let's not even talk about the antique ones. Most of these tiles in the Mosque were hundreds of years old, and they still looked vibrant and new.


The Louvre in Paris just opened up a huge Islamic art wing. They are claiming to have quite the Iznik collection. I don't know if I should be running off to see them or weeping in jealousy.

Tucked into all the mosaics of the plants and flowers and there was one tile that showed Istanbul back in the day:


Then, a trip down the street to the New Mosque, which was actually quite was built, destroyed and rebuilt a few times before it was finally completed in 1665. So new, it's old again.

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