Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A casual Istanbul day

With the forecast slightly cooler for Wednesday, it was a good time to don trousers early in the morning so I could visit the Blue Mosque - Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

After putting my shoes in the little plastic bag, I was free to wander around the mosque.  As far as the floor goes, it was a little bare inside - this guy had his work cut out for him with such a small vacuum cleaner. Once again, there were hundreds of small lights suspended from dozens of cables. The designs on the ceilings were astoundingly intricate & it was so long I stood staring up that I'm surprised I don't have a worse crick in my neck.

My airbnb (sort of like couch-surfing, but people rent out their spare rooms/houses) host, Erdi, had recommended that I visit the Basilica Cistern - which is underground near Hagia Sophia. A sucker for engineering & history - it instantly appealed.  There are many cisterns under the city dating from Roman times - this one is the best kept & best to visit. Built in the sixth century to store water brought in on an aqueduct (substantial remains of which are near where I was staying) from almost twenty kilometres away, the 336 marble columns hold the roof nine metres up.  With a substantial floor area, the cistern once held almost a hundred millions litres!
Most recently restored & opened to the public in 1987, the cistern is flooded to a depth of about a foot & there are sufficient walkways to walk the length & breadth of the area.  The lighting & background music is really well done to create quite the relaxing atmosphere.  It was of course pleasantly cool down there & nice to escape the bustle outside - the four metre thick brick walls sure do keep the sound out. One of the highlights of Istanbul for me.
The base of a couple of the columns had inverted carvings of Minerva on them

I had a quick walk through the Grand Bazaar before popping out at Istanbul University - which provides a reasonable photos of big flags. Turks love their flag & it's easy to find it flying somewhere or other - another country that makes me wish we had a better NZ national flag that we would more readily fly & use to identify us.

A quick trip home to get into some more suitable clothes for the quickly warming day was soon followed by a walk through back streets to get to the Spice Bazaar & the ferry terminal again.  I took another local ferry across to the Asian side of the city to have a little explore.  There's not a lot over there for the tourist to see, but I always enjoy a good walk around - even better when it's hot & there's a ready excuse to buy ice-creams.

Looking back over the Bosphorus to the Old City from Asian side

Maiden's Tower

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