Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Istanbul day four

This was a big day and we probably did too much. It started for me at 9.37am when I went up to have breakfast. About an hour later I went upstairs again to the roof to have more coffee after my travelling companion emerged from her room.

After eating we went up to Hagia Sophia, which was built in its current incarnation in the 6th century AD. At 11.20am we joined the queue for tickets and 17 minutes later we were in the compound. There are a number of large doors that you can use to get inside the building, which is no longer used either as a mosque or as a church. There are three main spaces inside the shell: two cloisters connected to the nave by doors, with the altar at the end of it. There were hundreds of people in the nave and in the aisles taking photos of the enormous ceiling and the space beneath it. The roof in the middle is hundreds of feet above ground.

We went up toward where the altar used to be. The nave faces slightly south of true east. There are round green granite columns, round red porphyry columns, and white marble columns that are square in shape. Each column is a single piece of rock carved to its final shape. The walls are lined with cut stone in green and pink hues. There is also a separate room formed by a golden grille that is called Sultan Ahmet I’s library. The building represents the power of the empire to construct an edifice to hold thousands of people who would all have been able to breathe oxygen in the space.

Some of the flagstones in the place might be crazed with age and wear but the basic structure is still sound. Outside it was 29 degrees Celcius but it was a good 15 degrees cooler in the interior. At 1.05pm I sat down to rest while my friend went up to the gallery. Then we went to the shop where I bought some fridge magnets and a notebook (51TL) and at 1.40pm we left the compound.

Ten minutes later we sat down in a cafe near the Istanbul Archaeology Museum to have a plate of sweets, a Coke and an orange juice. This came to 42TL, which was a bit steep. At 2.10 we went into the museum and used the toilets, then entered the Tiled Kiosk which is made from marble and limestone. Here there are Islamic objects, mainly ceramic dishes and bottles. After looking through this building we left it at 2.50pm and went into a building closer to the entrance and looked around at the exhibits there. In it are many objects, especially from Mesopotamia, but the curation is not very good. The amount of information available for each item is pretty basic and we thought that they did a better job in Jerusalem.

After looking around this building at 3.35pm we sat down in the cafe on the site and ordered a Coke and a small bottle of Evian water, which came to 31TL. As we were sitting there a woman came up to the counter and the sales clerk asked her where she was from (he had asked me the same thing) and she answered, “From the earth like you.” He was a bit puzzled by this response and told the woman that the information was requested from the system in his POS terminal. She told him then that she was from Belgium and he laughed. We then went to the museum shop and bought some literature (62TL) and left the compound, heading to the main street where the light rail runs.

We stopped in at a restaurant at 4.10pm. I ordered an Efes beer and we also ordered eggplant kebab and some pomegranate juice. The meal came with mezze and bread. The dip was made from black olives. The tab came to 103TL but the meal took ages to arrive. At one point Grace Jones was singing ‘Sweetest Taboo’. The waiter kept putting us off, telling us that eggplant takes a long time to prepare but we sat there for almost an hour before getting up and paying.

We got in a cab down the street at 5.05pm and the driver quoted us 10 Euros to get to our destination, on the other side of the Golden Horn near Taksim Square. He stopped along the way to duck into a shop, I was not sure what for, and left us with the key to his Fiat. Then he came back and we continued on the journey. On the way as he was driving he kept taking the battery out of his Samsung phone and fiddling with the SIM card, which was unnerving. We arrived at our destination, or close to it, and I gave the driver 70TL.

We got out of the cab and asked a group of men walking on the street where the Pera Museum was located. They told us to turn around and go back the way he had come from, and we arrived there at 5.25pm. We paid (20TL each) and walked up the stairs to the second floor, which is where the main permanent exhibit is on display. Here they have a lot of 18th and 19th century European style paintings, some by locals who had studied in Europe and other by Europeans who had travelled to Turkey to make their art. After we had looked around all the floors, in the shop we bought two postcards (10TL) and at 6.25pm left the building, then walked along Mesturiyet Street until we arrived at a print shop. Here, we looked through the items for sale and picked out a few, then paid (120TL for four prints) and left at 7.05pm. The proprietor spoke good English and was very pleasant.

We walked further along the street and then went into a cafe at about 7.10pm, and ordered what was called a “green juice” and a cappuccino (27.5TL). ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ in a cover version was playing at one point on the stereo.

We left the shop and turned back the way we had come and tried to flag down a taxi. The driver wanted 60TL, which we thought was excessive; the proprietor in the print shop had told us it should only cost about 20TL to get from there to Sultanahmet Plaza. A security guard working at a hotel who was standing on the pavement asked us in English where we wanted to go and we told him. Then he made a call on his phone and told us to wait there. A taxi came along about three minutes later on and the driver confirmed that it would cost 30TL to get to our destination, so we got in his Renault and thanked the security guard.

We got to a street near Sultanahmet Plaza at 7.35pm. When we arrived back at our hotel we rested for a while then went out to the Korean restaurant near it, arriving there at about 8.40pm. We ordered kim chee soup, beef with chillies, and mixed veges. I also had a beer. The meal came with complimentary pickles and we also had two bowls of rice. The tab came to 156TL and then we returned to the hotel.

Above: Inside one of the cloisters at Hagia Sophia, looking through one of the enormous doorways toward the nave.

Above: The ceiling of Hagia Sophia is hundreds of feet above the ground.

Above: Tourists inside Hagia Sophia, which means "Holy Wisdom".

Above: The altar in Hagia Sophia with a local cat sitting in front of it. The cat was lame.

Above: One of the square marble columns inside Hagia Sophia.

Above: A cross carved into a column in Hagia Sophia.

Above: In the Istanbul Archaeological Museum there is the Tiled Kiosk, which contains a lot of ceramics like this dish from Canakkale with a ship as the design.

Above: In the museum there is a sculpture garden with lots of carved stone items like these.

Above: Votive statuettes from Arabia, 4th to 1st century BC. 

Above: Representation of the buried for use on a grave, 1st century BC to 1st century AD, from Yemen.

Above: Limestone Egyptian altar, late dynastic period, 712BC to 332BC.

Above: In the Pera Museum, this painting of Karl Fredrik von Breda by Yusuf Agah Efendi, oil on canvas, 1794-1796.

Above: Graffiti in Pera.

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