Friday, 20 July 2018.
We are leaving Istanbul for a few days and heading south west towards the Syrian border. Well, we’re not actually anywhere near it I just wanted to say it somewhere in my blog. We’re actually going to Cappadocia and then flying to Izmir and Kusadasi before a short road trip the Denzili for our return flight to Istanbul. But more about all that later.
Our guide for these last few days has been Delik and there’s nothing like having a local to show you around and she’s managed to get a good balance of history, local highlights and food into our days. This morning it’s off to the tomb of Süleyman the Magnificent, the Chora church, Pierre Loti Hill, a quick cruise on the Golden Horn, the Spice Markets, and an old bank.
Süleyman the Magnificent (Süleyman I) or the Lawgiver (in Turkish Kanuni)
Ruled the Ottoman Empire 1522 – 1566. Married a slave from what today we know as Russia. Died in battle in Hungary. The way Delik told the story it sounded like a TV soap plot to me. Apparently it did to someone else as well and his life was made into a series called the Magnificent Century (Netflix?). Prior to this series the tome of his wife which is right next to his own tomb was not that popular with visitors to the mosque but after the series aired her popularity increased dramatically. The reason for this trip was not soley the tombs but also to visit the magnificent mosque built by Süleyman’s architect, Sinan. and is credited with having built, 79 mosques, 34 palaces, 33 public baths, 19 tombs, 55 schools, 16 poorhouses, 7 madrasahs (religious schools), and 12 caravansaries, in addition to granaries, fountains, aqueducts, and hospitals.
Chora Church museum
Chora (Kariye) church was built in about 536 during the reign of emperor Justinian I but it got badly damaged in the Iconoclastic period (726-842). It’s been restored and expanded a number of times during it’s history. As with many other Christian churches in Constantinople it was converted to a mosque in 1511 and finally a museum in 1945.
There are beautiful mosaics and frescoes of the Byzantine Empire in the museum depicting the lives of the Virgin Marry and Jesus. As with churches in England many of the people who attended were illiterate so the main stories of the bible are told in picture form.
Pierre Loti Hill
Never heard of Pierre Lofti? No, neither had we until we travelled to Istanbul but that’s the whole point of travelling isn’t it? French naval officer turned novelist one of his better known works was Madame Chrysanthème written as an autobiographical journal of a naval officer who was temporarily married to a Japanese woman while he was stationed in Nagasaki. It closely follows the journal he kept of his summer 1885 affair with Kiku (Chrysanthemum). Some parts of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly are based on the story.
The view from of the Golden Horn from the top of the hill named after him is quite relaxing. The coffee shop is where he is reported to have sipped his turkish coffee changed it’s name in his honour.
Golden Horn cruise
Not so much a cruise as a way of getting from one place to another. We caught a public ferry into Istanbul where we crossed under the Galata bridge on our way to the Spice Markets. For me the most interesting points of the cruise were a privately owned public transport museum including a WW II submarine and a beautiful cast iron “portable” church.
St. Stefan Church is a Bulgarian Orthodox church famous for being made of cast iron. The parts were manufactured in Vienna and transported via the Danube River to Bulgaria and through the Black Sea to Constantinople. The Church was inaugurated in 1898 replacing an older wooden church that opened in 1849.
The Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Bazaar)
Opened in 1664 the bazaar was the center for spice trade in Istanbul, the last few years have seen the traditional spice shops replaced by other types. The building itself is part of the New Mosque (1660’s) complex. Originally the revenues obtained from the rented shops were used for the mosque’s upkeep.
Although it’s much smaller and less chaotic than the Grand Bazaar but no less colorful.
The İşbank bank museum
This wasn’t on the itinerary but we had some spare time before out transfer to the airport so Delik asked if we were interested in a quick visit after lunch.
İşbank (more formally Türkiye İş Bankası) was founded in 1924 and was the first to be established in Republican era. One of the founders of the museum was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the founder of Turkish Republic.
The image on the left is of the old safety deposit boxes. People who held them were contacted when the bank closed in 2004 and asked to clear them. For what ever reason some weren’t cleared and what is on display was found in the box when it was opened. Looking at these boxes was a strangely moving experience. I wondered why people valued these items so much that they placed them in a bank and then hadn’t collected them or told their families of the existence of a safety box and it’s contents?
The right hand image is nowhere as romantic as the first. It’s a picture of a light display in a corridor between two parts of the bank museum.
Airport transfer time and we’re heading to Cappadocia!