I was determined to visit some of the places that were closed on Monday. The weather outside was cloudy and there was a chance of rain. I had the flat to myself as my proprietor was out working on her thesis. It’s nice to have time and space like this to wake up and stretch the muscles from the previous day’s activities. I wanted to try out the transportation system today. Istanbul has one of the oldest ones in the world although its development came in spurts. They use a system that is similar to the Oyster card system that is used in London and the vending machines sell disposable cards preloaded with three trips. You tap in but don’t have to tap out. After breakfast at the local Starbucks I headed underground to the Metro.
The trains are modern and spacious with announcements in both Turkish and English. I wanted to connect with another line but ended up misinterpreting the signage which is actually clear and was forced to find the tram line that I knew was close. At some point during all of this it started raining. I didn’t get out of the house early enough and knew that the line ups would be long now since the rains have come. After orienting myself I found the stop and entered through the gate.
The tram heading in the opposite direction was stationary and it remained stationary for the duration of my waiting there. Eventually I gathered from the guard’s mannerisms that there was no electricity and that the trams would remain stationary for a while. Later on in the day I learned that there was a massive power failure affecting most of the country. Sure enough as I walked towards the Hagia Sophia there were numerous shops that were in the dark. It didn’t take me as long as I thought it would to get there. The length of the queues was long and after seeing what alternatives I had I joined it. It didn’t take too long. I chatted with a couple from the UK that was standing behind me. Standing in line you become a target for all kinds of merchants wanting to sell you things. Since it was raining they were selling umbrellas. Since umbrellas are not one of my favorite things and since the rain wasn’t that bad I resisted the urge to buy one.
The Hagia Sophia is a fascinating building. It was built in less than six years by ten thousand workers and one thousand craftsmen. It is the third structure to stand here after the previous two were burnt to the ground by rioters. It was dedicated on December 27th 537. Initially it was a Christian church until 1453 when it was converted into a mosque following the conquest by the Ottomans. In 1935 it became a museum.
The space inside is vast. Everyone inside had their heads up to the sky marveling at the height of the building. The materials used and their combination created a wonderful mosaic of pattern and color. The marble floor was worn from the close to fifteen hundred years of use. There are continuous restoration works of the mosaic tiles that were plastered over.
After finishing my tour of the Ayasophia I wandered over to the nearby Basilica Cistern which was used in ancient times as a reservoir for the water that was brought in by the aqueduct. Today it is open to the public and it is another fascinating space. The place is much darker than the photo leads to believe creating a dark ambiance and feel.
There are two columns that are supported by Medusas Heads. It is thought that these came from some Roman temple that was pilfered for its stone to be used as building material for its construction. This was a common theme in the old times.
Spring has finally arrived and the next destination for me was the Archeological Museum which is housed on the grounds of the Topkapi Palace. The grounds contain Gülhane Park. These grounds are nicely manicured and contain a multitude of flowers in bloom. The museum itself is undergoing extensive renovations nevertheless I had just enough time to wander through its halls and marvel at the collections. Turkey especially its Asian side has lands that have been occupied by many different civilizations stretching back to pre biblical times. Maybe one day I’ll have a chance to visit some of the places outside of Istanbul but for now I am satisfied to see the works of our ancestors housed here.
There were many pieces of pottery, tools, weights and statues. I took many images of all the different representations and I feel like each represented the individual they depicted in at least some aspect. An interesting thing I learned from one of the displays was about the history of glass. It’s hard to believe that glass has been in use since the second millennium BC! The practice was lost and then rediscovered in the seventh century BC and became more widespread when the Romans developed the blowtube.
One can only take in so much museum time and after this I made my way back to the flat with the idea of having a drink somewhere. I hung out in Taksim Square and absorbed the ambiance of this place.
I never did go out as we spent the evening talking about the day and various other things.