Istanbul, May 13-14
We dragged ourselves from the airport to the Grand Hotel Halic of Istanbul.
The lobby offered two elevators, capacity four people each–or two people and their suitcases.
Chelsea and I shared a fourth floor room overlooking the city.
The red-eye flight stole six hours of the day from us.
Our guide Mehmet lured us back into the land of the waking with a four-course dinner.
An after-dinner stroll around the city revealed that the Turks deliver their sushi by motorcycle.
Sightseeing began in earnest the next day at 9am. I was still lagging.
First stop: Topkapi Palace, ancient home of Ottoman sultans. The design unfolds in a chain of gardens, rather than a block structure typical of European castles.
Second stop: The Archaeology Museum. Addison and I made friends with a lion.
The indoor exhibits contained just about every work I remember studying in Art History class.
My favorite mosaic portrait. Check out the eyebrows.
The Romans prized porphyry stone, because they considered purple the imperial color.
Hence this fragment of porphyry foot from the Roman Tetrarchy (the emperor’s throne divided among four co-sovereigns); see the complete sculpture behind Dr. G.
Third stop: The Hagia Sophia, largest church in the world at the time of its construction.
Gold mosaics adorn the ceilings, except the swathes where time and opportunistic visitors have nibbled them away.
Muslims defaced the church’s Christian imagery when the Byzantine empire fell, converting it into a mosque. When Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic, he re-designated the building as a secular museum.
I’m pointing to 1,000 year-old graffiti. A Scandinavian Viking carved his name (“Harold”) into the railing.
This dog joined our tour group as we strolled from the Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque (a treasure trove of mosaics).
Penultimate stop: The Underground Cisterns once collected water for the city; now only bands of tourists and schools of carp enjoy them.
Yesterday’s post describes our final stop, in the Grand Bazaar. Mehmet promises us we’ll never experience another day so packed with site-seeing.