Istanbul, Turkey. Day 3. Part 2.
So, continuing from where I left off, we went to visit the Basilica Cistern which is also around the same area. It is amazing to know that while we were walking above on the streets, an underground chamber exists below us and has been there since the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian. This cistern was also immortalised in a James Bond film.
Sorry, slightly crooked. Too lazy to assemble the tripod so in the end, balanced the camera on the handrail
We missed the entrance at first and then realised we had walked around it. Paid the entrance fee and entered the chamber. It was cool and for about half an hour, we escaped the summer heat. Basilica Cistern or also known as Yerebatan Sarayi or Yerebatan Sarnýcý, was built during the Byzantine era and can hold up to 80 000 cubic meters of water.
Named Basilica Cistern because it once lay near the Illius Basilica. It is 65m wide and 143m long with 336 columns. Platforms were erected for visitors to walk around and water drips from the ceiling above. The place is nicely lit with soft orange lights and you can see fishes swimming about in the water. I didn't though.
Teardrop design column
There are two interesting columns in this cistern. One is the curious teardrop design column. According to legend, the teardrop design is in memory of the slaves who died while building the cistern.
The Medusa head column
Another column or rather two columns of interest are the Medusa head columns. The Medusa head sculptures were placed at the base of the two columns : one is upside down and the other is tilted to the side. It is believed that these positions are deliberate. For more fascinating info on the Medusa heads and the cistern please visit the Yerebatan Sarnici site.
After the cistern, we headed back out to the sunlight and for lunch. At first we wanted to just buy fruits and simits to eat in a park but then we decided on a kebab restaurant, Konak restaurant which incidently has a branch in Osaka. Basak met one of the owners there in Osaka and as a result we had a pretty nice lunch! As we were waiting for our kebabs to arrive, we saw many turkish men playing backgammon which is sort of like their national board game, while sipping cay.
Bread and appetizers
Really long bread!
As usual, while waiting for the main dishes, we had bread and appetizers which were delicious! I think we had brinjals, beans, tomato based dishes as our appetizers.
I ordered the Adana kebab which is lamb meat with spices served with lavaş (bread) and pilaf. The Beyti kebab is made out of beef and wrapped with lavaş, topped with youghurt and tomato sauce. Delicious!
Then after lunch, we had cay. We had so many cay during our trip to Turkey. I love the cay glasses. They are so curvy! Wanted to buy but was thinking it will be a bit hard to bring it back home since it is glass.
Topkapi Palace, Main entrance
After filling our stomachs, we headed towards the Topkapi Palace, also around the same area. So, if you are in Sultanahmet area, you would have already covered so many of the the historical places in Istanbul. The whole place is a designated World Heritage site. As usual, there was a crowd. And since we came there quite late, we missed the Harem. The tickets were sold out. So, bear this in mind, you may want to visit Topkapi first in order to get into the Harem. First built by Mehmet the Conqueror, subsequent sultans lived here until 1853, when they moved to the European style Dolmabahçe Palace.
We could only go to two places, the courts and the Treasury display room. The Byzantine Haghia Eirene (church) is situated in the grounds of Topkapi. However, to my disappointment, it is not open to the public and nowadays is used as a site for music recitals. We walked around the first court. I can't remember now, where exactly the exhibits in the picture above were displayed. Too busy gawking at the whole place, I didn't take notes. Then we entered the second court where the palace kitchens and harems were situated. In the palace kitches is the porcelian gallery. The glassware and silverware galleries are also nearby. The Harem should not be missed. Guess I should use this as an excuse to visit Istanbul again!
Gate of Felicity (Babüssaade)
A richly decorated door
Exhibits : Kaftan with religious writings
Gate of Felicity, also known as the White Gate of the Eunuchs is the entrance to the sultan's private domains or the Third court which houses the costume gallery, the Treasury Gallery and the Holy Relics Rooms. The costume gallery was interesting but the Treasury Gallery and the Holy Relics room is a must to see. No photographs were allowed in both rooms.
Can't remember the name of this place but look at the decoration!
One of the interesting exhibits on display in the Treasury Gallery is the Spoonmaker's Diamond, the world's fifth largest diamond and the arm and skull of St John the Baptist. Many other various objects are on display and everyone of them is richly decorated with precious gems and gold.
Another decorated door
The Holy Relics room or the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms holds the holy relics of Prophet Mohammed. His footprint, a hair from his beard, his sword and tooth and many more are housed in these richly decorated İznik tiled rooms. Because these are holy relics of the revered Prophet Mohammed, an imam is always present in this room, reciting passages from the Quran.
The terrace and the Circumcision room at the far end of the picture
At the far end is the Circumcision Room
Then we entered the fourth court. The beautifully İznik decorated kiosks and the Circumcision room is housed here. However, we cannot enter the Circumcision room as it is closed off to the public. There is a lovely marble terrace and pool where everybody hung around and took pictures, including me.
Inside the Revan kiosk
The Revan kiosk was built to celebrate the victory of Sultan Murat IV capturing Yerevan (Armenia) from Persia. It is wonderfully decorated from top to bottom with İznik tiles, mother of pearls and intricate woodwork.
The marble pool at the terrace
Marble terrace, wide view
Baghdad kiosk through the terrace
The terrace is a nice place to linger around with wonderful views of the city. The circumcision room, which we cannot enter, is beautifully tiled on the outer walls.
Turkish boy, Topkapi Palace
Speaking of circumcision, on our way out, we saw this cute boy all dressed up and I was wondering why. Turns out that he would be circumcised the next day and this day was his day of fun.
Then off we went to the Grand Bazaar for a spot of shopping. But the Bazaar closes at 7pm and we were there at around 6pm. One hour of shopping...not enough! But it is huge and you can easily get lost with all the turns and corners.
Inside the Grand Bazaar
It was built during Mehmet the Conqueror's reign and houses over 400 shops selling everything from carpets to jewelry to restaurants. There are so many things to see and so many things you wished you can buy. Because it is famous with tourists, be very careful with the prices as they are high. Bargaining is a must. I bought small kilim rugs here.
Shop selling glass lamps, Grand Bazaar
I love these stained glass lamps. They are so beautiful. During the Seljuk period, these stained glass techniques were developed and during the Ottoman empire, Constantinople became the center of glasswork. Was so tempted to buy one back but the fragile state of the glass and the fact that I have no place for a hanging lamp, I didn't buy them. So the pictures are my only memories of the lamps.
For dinner, we bought fruits and sat in the Hippodrome park to eat. After that we went to a nargile cafe which was nearby our hotel. Nargile is the Turkish water pipe which was popular during the Ottoman period.
My friend wanted to try one. She ended choosing the strawberry flavour (yes, it comes in flavours!). I tried once and all I could smell was just the strawberry flavour. As you can see, it consists of a glass bottle which is half filled with water and a metal pipe with a hose is placed in it. At the top of the pipe is a small tray for cinders and atop of that is a bowl for the tobacco.
A special type of tobacco is placed in the bowl and a special type of coal is placed on top of it to ignite it. Through the mouthpiece, you suck in the smoke through pipe , through the water, through the hose and into your mouth. There are small nargiles for sale though they are just for decoration. You can buy bigger ones for use but transporting it back may be a bit difficult in addition to all the carpets, textiles, presents that you might be tempted to buy.
So next up, Day 4 in Istanbul.