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Published: October 29th 2011
Our hotel in Istanbul
and our home away from home, our tour bus.
Today we see Istanbul. As most of you know, Istanbul has a varied history. We focus on the Byzantium era then as it changed to Constantinople.
We go to the Imperial part of the city and visit the Hagia Sophia, which means Holy Wisdom. Although originally a church built in 532-537 CE, it is now a museum. When the Ottomans took the city in the 16th century, they covered most of the Christian symbols with plaster. A lot of work has been done to remove some of that plaster and restore original art.
The best preserved mosaic is from the 10th century, showing the Roman Emperor Justinian presenting the church to Mary with Constantine looking on. It is in the back of the exit hall so they placed a mirror over the exit to make sure people see it before they leave.
The base of the basilica is rock so it has not been damaged by earthquakes, but has been affected by fire 3 times. However, several mosaics and reliefs survived. Hagia Sophia was the peak of Roman architecture and became a model for Muslim churches.
One thing I didn't realize is that the dome is not
exactly circular. Also, the columns on one side of the basilica are from the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, which was one of the wonders of the ancient world.
From Hagia Sophia, we walked across the street to view the best preserved section of the Roman cistern. The cistern runs underneath the city, built in 532 CE to protect the city from a siege cutting off water supply. It's 90% original, has 336 columns to supporting the level above and the walls are 12 feet thick to effectively handle the level of water. In the 16th century it was used as a prison. When the Christians came in the removed most of the pagan symbols, but as is often the case, newly converted people are still superstitious of previous beliefs, so they kept a couple of column heads of Medusa but placed them at the bottom of the column, one sideways and one upside down. That way they covered themselves both ways.
We then went to the Grand Bazaar, built in 1461. They say there are 4000 shops but really there are only about 15 different types of stores. They rest are just repeats. Stores sell jewelry, textiles
and pottery, with 14 entry gates, so you can easily get lost in there and never be found. It was like the street in Houston, Harwin with all the Chinese Knockoffs, on steroids. It is crazy in there! E and I didn't stay long and went to find a cafe for lunch.
Finally, we went to the Spice Market. Not a great draw for us since everyone knows I don't cook, but interesting to see all the various spices and dried fruit.
Oh, and if you didn't know Ernest and I love cats!
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