Tuesday, November 20, 2012


After our lazy day yesterday we really packed in the sightseeing today!

We started our day by causing quite an argument between two taxi drivers.  We left our apartment about 10 am, and walked about a block from our apartment to a street where we've seen several taxis.  Sure enough, there was one right at the corner, so we walked up and showed him where we wanted to go.  In a flash, another taxi screeched to a halt--evidently he thought he was next in line, and that we should have been HIS fare.  He grabbed the piece of paper out of my hand, telling me "I know this place, I take you"!  I snatched that paper right back, telling him "give me back my paper!"  We just walked away, shaking our heads and let them continue their argument without us.   A block or two  away we caught another taxi, gave him my piece of paper, and off we went!

Our first stop of the day was Chora Church, which was originally built in the 5th century A.D.  It was rebuilt after an earthquake partially destroyed the church in the early 12th century.  The beautiful interior decoration was added in the early 1300's.  The church was converted to a Mosque after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, in about 1453.  Due to the Muslim prohibition against iconic images in Islam, the frescoes and mosaics were  plastered over, causing great damage.  It remained a Mosque until 1948, when it underwent major work to restore the original artwork.  In 1958 it became a museum.

The mosaics in the church are considered to be some of the most beautiful and precious Byzantine mosaics in the world.  They are absolutely stunning!
The unassuming exterior of the small Chora Church:

Side view, including a minaret:

Just to the right of the entry:

One of the domes:
Close up:

Detail of the center:


Another dome:

Detail of the saints:


Still another dome, this one with Mary and Jesus:

Interesting to note the different "look" of Mary and Jesus:

A wonderful mosaic of Jesus in another area of the church:


This mosaic was my favorite, even though it's a very different portrait of Jesus than we usually see:

Amazing detail:

Even the window casings were beautifully decorated:

The marble work in Chora Church is extraordinary:

Even the door frames were beautifully made:

The floors were inlaid marble, very colorful:

David in Chora Church:

We really enjoyed this church, the mosaics were some of the most beautiful we've seen anywhere.

Our next stop was quite a distance from Chora Church, so to save time we decided to take a taxi to the Tram stop a few miles away.  There were several taxis parked right outside the church, so we approached one  (the first one!) and explained where we wanted to go.  I always ask them to use the meter--but his guy said no, 30 Lira.  That's practically robbery--we paid only 20 Lira from our neighborhood--about twice the distance!  We said no thanks, and walked a block or so away and caught a different cab.  Our fare was less than 15 Lira.  I may be a tourist, but I'm NOT a stupid tourist!

Our taxi ride took us along the old city walls for a while--they are very interesting, wish we had more time to explore them.  Here's a few shots taken from our taxi window, they're not the best pictures:

Our journey to the small area of Ortikoy was a bit convoluted, and included a taxi, Tram and then bus.  But we made it!

Ortikoy is a neat area, kind of artsy, with fun boutiques, cafes and a craft fair on Sundays--all that is right up our alley!

Ortakoy-where we got off the bus:

We turned down a small side street, and found a big public square lined by pretty pastel painted houses:

Ortakoy is right on the Bosphorus, there were families relaxing in the square, and men fishing off the pier:

An old guy selling pigeon food:

A cute little boy feeding the pigeons:

Mr. Pigeon has a bath:

There were narrow lanes winding through the streets, all set up with vendors selling (mostly) handmade items.  There was a lot of jewelry:

But nothing too nice; Sherry--they need you here, too!

This older lady knitted and visited--she seemed to know everyone!

It was about lunch time, and it was my turn to choose our lunch stop.  We'd been seeing cafes with these large piles of food in their case--looked like gelato, but it was actually toppings for HUGE baked potatoes.  We saw many, many locals walking around with these--sitting on a bench or low wall to eat them.  Those potatoes certainly seem to be popular!

We chose a small restaurant with seating, and settled in to enjoy our B-I-G baked potatoes.  They gave us a small "menu" of topping options, and we checked which ones we wanted.  They were really good and filling:

After our yummy lunch we strolled around a little more, returning to a booth that had some very interesting jewelry.  I bargained hard and bought a pretty silver/carnelian/turquoise and coral pendant--he wanted 40L, and I paid 25L--pretty good bargaining!

We found our bus stop, and took the bus back to the Tram stop.  Along the ride I noticed the large Dolmabahce Palace just beyond the Tram stop.  I'd wanted to see the palace, and we'd tentatively planned on visiting Monday.  But since we were so close, we walked up to check the hours--and they were closed on Mondays.  I'm glad we checked--because it was an amazing place to see!

Dolmabahce Palace was built by Sultan Abdulmecit from 1843-1856.  The construction of the palace was extraordinarily expensive, costing 5 million gold coins-the equivalent of 35 tons of gold!  This cost led to the bankrupting of the Ottoman treasury in 1881.

No photos were allowed inside the palace, and entrance is allowed only by escorted tour.  It was a quick tour, actually more like torture for me--I just love to savour every little decorative detail in places like this, but no lingering allowed on this tour!  It was still worth it, though.

To say that Dolmabahce Palace is ostentatious, over the top and amazing is just an understatement.  I've run out of superlatives to describe it--the best I can do is to say that it makes the Palace of Versailles look like a shabby shack!

The ceilings are gold leafed--14 tons of gold leaf were used for just the ceilings.  The square footage is about 484,000.  The chandelier in the ceremonial room contains 4 tons of lead crystal!  There is a crystal staircase featuring hand cut crystal balusters--it is incredible.  The floors are the most beautiful wood inlay I've ever seen, with many different intricate designs.  The rugs throughout the palace were gorgeous, and the biggest hand woven rugs I've seen.  The palace still has it's original furniture--and of course, it is just beautiful, ornate and amazing!

The grounds of the Palace are beautifully manicured, and photos are allowed, so here are a few:

Dolmabahce Mosque on the palace grounds:

Clock Tower near the main entrance:

The very ornate main entrance gates:

The pretty iron gates:

Looking out from the gardens, toward the Golden Horn:

Unusual statues in the garden:

More beautiful garden:

Gates to the Dolmabahce Pier:

Lion staute in the gardens

The front of the palace:

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia--this is the Ceremonial Hall with it's HUGE crystal chandelier:

The biggest magnolia tree I've ever seen:

Beautiful swan fountain, centered in the garden right in front of the entrance to the Palace:

Looking out over the water:

Here I am in front of that pretty fountain:

The exit area--I loved the pretty coral colored walls:

After about an hour in the Palace, and 1/2 hour or so in the gardens it was time to catch the tram back to our neighborhood.  We were suffering from sensory overload, anyway--absolutely the most elaborate place I've ever seen!

We decided on dinner "in" tonight, and chose a small kebap shop just up the street.  We'd noticed long lines each night and thought that was a good sign--and we were right!  We picked up one kebap "take away" for the bargain price of 6:50 Lira--about $3.75!  It was delicious!  Here's a picture of the guy slicing our kebap meat:

Another quick stop for a beer and some yogurt along the way, and soon we were walking past the Blue Mosque--only one more night to enjoy this beautiful sight!

 Good night,  Mr. Moon, and good night Mr. Morning Call To Prayer--please turn the volume down tomorrow morning!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had two more wonderful days in Istanbul. All of your pictures and your blogs have been so amazing. The historical sights you are seeing have all been fantastic. The palace really sounds quite impressive. Funny stories about the taxi drivers---good for you to just move on and try the next one.