Thursday, September 13, 2012

Constantinople's got the WORKS! (13 Oct 2008)

I just found out how I erased my blog last night. This computer's mouse has buttons on the sides that allow you to go forward and backwards (because, apparently, moving the mouse up and clicking on the back button is FAR too much effort). I found this out because I just accidentally did the same thing again. Fortunately I hadn't gotten too far this time. Okay, so yeah, the works, including an El Torito, Jane. Yeah, that's right I had Mexican for lunch, so sue me.
Yesterday we went to Aya Sofya and the Basilica Cistern. Aya Sofya is a beautiful, grandiose, spacious building (church? mosque? details, details...), everything I had hoped for based on the tomes that have been written about it. In fact, I can hardly hope to do it better justice than previous authors, so I'm not even going to try.
The Basilica Cistern, on the other hand, I had never heard of until I started combing through Belinda's Lonely Planet, and I've got to say that it is now one of my top five favorite places in the whole world (okay, the truth is, without thinking about it really hard, I apparently only have two favorite places...Fushimi-Inari-Taisha in Kyoto is number 1...but still). Here's what it is - in the year 500-something (really, I can't be bothered to remember the exact time of my flights, what makes you think I'm going to remember dates in ancient history? It's one of the reasons I didn't do very well in art history classes), Emperor Justinian (one of them or another) decided the vicinity of Topkapi Palace needed a convenient water source. So he made this huge underground cavern, and supported it with rows and rows and rows of columns, which supported the vaults holding up the ground.
But that's just part of the story...after years and years, people were hardly aware of its existence, they just new that they could lower buckets into the holes in their basements, and bring up water (or sometimes fish...and hey, if they needed a place to hide an inconvenient corpse, well, done and done!) Later on, some dude investigated these claims and discovered the extent of the cistern, and even later (in 1987...take that, Geraldine Fowle!) the cistern was open to the public. They set up walkways that allow access from one end of the cavern to the other, and put up atmospheric orange and red lighting on selected pillars, really giving you a sense of the vastness and spookiness of the place. Fish (some of them quite fat, probably from years and years of feeding on bloated corpses until they became invincible!), flicker through the shadows, and water drips down from the ceiling onto your head. It's just cooler than you can even imagine. I stayed for a cup of hot chocolate in the cafe at one end of the cavern to prolong the experience.
Today we hit the Grand Bazaar. Wow. That was some kind of place. I was on a mission to find a metal belly dance bra, and after much disappointment as we went from one belly dance shop to another whose main fare seemed to be what we in the business call the "Turkish Airport Special" (don't ask), we stumbled into a silver shop that had some pieces that looked sort of like what I wanted. As I talked to the shopkeeper, he asked me to draw him a picture of what I was looking for, so I did...and he was like, "Oh, yeah, we have that," and he sent his little helper off to fetch it for me. I got really excited then, and having made my purchase, we started to wander the bazaar in earnest. That place is freaking HUGE! The whole thing is inside, but the arches covering the walks are so high up as to give you a sense of space. Some of the shop windows are filled with so much gold, I felt like I needed to put my sunglasses back on, just to protect my eyes. It took us a good three and a half hours before we felt like leaving, and that was only because we were REALLY exhausted.
Stay tuned for next time - I may be taking a Turkish bath, will definitely be touring the Blue Mosque, and at some point tomorrow, board a bus to Canukkale, from thence to visit TROY. Yee-AY!

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