Published: October 23rd 2012October 23rd 2012
6th century walls with dried up moats that now are vegetable gardens
Ok - day 3, part 2... I'm hoping this one goes quicker than the last one. So, after the first half of the day on our own, Mom and I met up with everyone else at the hotel to get on a little mini van with Gazi, our tour guide. We took the van to see the old city walls that were built in the 6th century to block out invading armies. There were three levels so that if you got past one level, you would still need to get past another level that was higher and so on. The initial level was guarded by a moat which has since dried up and was being used to grow crops for the government somehow (excuse my mushed brain, I sort of forget the specific details of that...). It was cool though because we got out of the van to see the walls and there were men and women harvesting radishes.
We got back into the van and drove to see the Chora Museum - now the Chora Museum is very much like our friend, the Hagia Sophia, in that it started out as a church, was converted to a mosque during
Stunning Chora Museum Byzantine mosaics
the Ottoman Empire and then in the 20th century was made into a museum. This church/mosque/museum was full of these absolutely beautiful Byzantine mosaics that were NOT destroyed or covered up with plaster when it was turned into a mosque. (If you remember, in the Hagia Sophia, the mosaics were covered up with plaster/possibly destroyed, because there are very few remaining now for us to see.) In fact, out of respect for how intricate and beautiful the mosaics were, they covered them up with curtains instead of destroying them - props to the Ottomans for that one. Anyway, the mosaics depicted scenes of the life of Mary, many common scenes from the New Testament (birth of Christ, John the Baptist, miracles of Christ, etc.) and several of the Christian saints. They very detailed and I definitely think this is a must see if you are in Istanbul. Gazi, our tour guide was very informative, but I was also excited to see that I hadn't totally lost all of that college art history knowledge that was stored deep in the depths somewhere in my brain. Yay!
After the Chora museum, we headed back to the mini van (with a quick
Sultan Mounting Block
Uncle Keith and Aunt Dalia being crowned sultans on the mounting block
stop for Pomegranate Orange juice and some ooo-ing at little kittens) and we headed to what the tour guide called "the most conservative part of Istanbul," which I believe was a section called Eyup. We definitely did see the most women we've seen yet in head covers and ironically, right when we got out of the van to go into another mosque, the prayer call rang out. This prayer call continued as we walked into the courtyard of the mosque and what we saw was actually really interesting. All of these men came into the courtyard to wash their feet at these spigots (I had noticed these before, but hadn't put much thought into why they were there - all the mosques have these outside, I will try to take a picture and post it later) before they went inside to pray. We actually could see into the mosque and everyone was kneeling the same way. Now at this point, I totally felt like I was interrupting something sacred, so I walked further towards the edge of the courtyard so that I could not see into the mosque anymore. It was very interesting, though, I have to admit. Also as
Aunt Karen and her 15 pashminas...
a side note: according to our tour guide, you do not really see many people going towards the mosques during the prayer call in Turkey (which so far has been true with maybe the exception of this mosque), because despite having a high population of Muslims in Turkey, the country is very secularized and in his words "no one is going to care whether or not people go to pray." However, he said in some of the stricter Middle Eastern countries, this would be a much bigger deal if people didn't go to pray.
After the group left the courtyard, we walked into a cemetery area with a mausoleum. The road that the cemetery was on used to be a very important road because that was where the sultans officially became sultans. This was done by the sultan standing on a mounting block to mount a horse - a sultan was not officially a sultan until he had done this act. Pretty interesting. We were also able to see the mosque's kitchen which is used to make meals for the 2,000 poor people in the city a day - what a wonderful thing. After some more walking around, we were all pretty beat and we headed back to the van, but not before we paid a Turkish Lira to use the squatting hole in the floor... that's all I'm going to say on that topic.
For dinner we went to another great restaurant that was in this really adorable area very close to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. I am kicking myself for not bringing my camera out because the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are ABSOLUTELY stunning at night with the lights shinning on them. I am hoping I have another opportunity to capture this (and I'll put it on the blog if I do). The food again was delicious - I haven't eaten one single thing that I did not like here yet, which I think is incredibly impressive and says a lot about how delicious Turkish cuisine is here... mmm. When we got back to our hotel, Aunt Karen, who we have all silently agreed has a shopping addiction, did a fashion show of her many purchases. Rug-wise though, she's only bought seven Turkish carpets, so all-in-all I guess she could have done more damage... (?)
Bedtime for me! Thanks for putting up with two blog posts in one day! Iyi geceler!