Transit in Turkey

I wasn't going to write any more about Istanbul.  I was only there, in total, for five days, and have already posted on the dervishes and the carpet sellers.  Besides, most readers will have been there, so what insights can I glean in five days that you don't already have?

But Istanbul is such a great place!  & as I go through sorting out the photos they were calling me to write one last post on the place.  Just a quick one.

Five days was plenty of time to visit the obvious tourist sights - the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, the Yerebatan cistern, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts and the Spice Market.  The most stunning of these is certainly the Aya Sophia, built in AD537 as a cathedral, converted to a mosque in 1453, and then to a museum in 1935, it is said to have changed the history of architecture.  For nearly a thousand years it was the world's largest cathedral, and certainly the size of the building is still impressive.

But a few hours wandering around it, prying into all the little corners and looking up at what remains of the painted ceilings, is tremendously rewarding.  It has been restored, and added to, many times over the centuries and is stuffed full of marble pillars, intricate ironwork, golden mosaics, calligraphy, and even some blue tiled decorations hidden under an archway.

The Bosphorus cruise was a little disappointing, though might have scored more highly in better weather - but was probably just about worth it for the delicious stuffed mussels and fresh sardines at the lunchtime stop.  Continuing on the food line, the Spice Market was great for filling those little corners of my case with delicacies I can't get at home - apple and cinnamon tea, local sheep's cheese, and a half-kilo of delicious dried cranberries.

The other highlight was a trip to the exquisite little Chora Church, now the Kariye Museum.  It is full of golden mosaics dating from the early 1400s, as well as some reasonably well-preserved frescoes, and is well worth the effort of finding it.  In any case the locals are helpful - when my intended route was blocked by redevelopment a local man insisted on giving me a lift there, which was typical of the kind way I was treated by everyone I met there.  Unfortunately no more trips to Asia are in the pipeline but I certainly would not complain about another day in transit in Istanbul!

No comments: