And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Istanbul - A Byzantine Walk

We had two days before our birding tour began, so like all the bygone travellers of old to Instanbul, we had to try and see the main classical ancient sites. A big challenge as almost every corner has some wonderful historical relic.

We decided to start near the centre of old Istanbul and work our way outwards, but I also wanted to see the the legendary massive sea walls of Constantinople, so it was going to be quite a walk.

Supplies are of course needed for a long walk. There are lots of these sweet shops full of different types of Baklava and Turkish Delights.

Near the ferry docks and Spice Bazaar, looks old but it's called the New Mosque.

Our first must-see site, the Hippodrome. An ancient chariot racing arena built by Emperor Septimius Severus around 200 AD. You can see what's left of the amazing green Serpent Column in front of the obelisk.

The Obelisk of Thutmose III brought from Egypt in 390 AD by Emperor Theodosius. The obelisk is in fantastic condition, seeing it's 3500 years old!

It rests on this base with carvings of Emperor Theodosius and his court. This is the top most segment of the obelisk, as it was cut in 3 pieces before being brought to Constantinople.

The ancient Egyptian carving are in good condition.

What the Hippodrome may have looked like, from the website Byzantium 1200.

You can see an obelisk (there were 2, a Walled Obelisk and Thutmose's) and 3-headed serpent column.

Next stop, was the small but wonderful church of Little Hagia Sophia.
Beautiful restored artwork at this important Byzantine site.

Nicely carved doors with brass locks.

Beautiful inside as well.

Wonderful light.

You can buy almost anything in the huge bazaars of Istanbul.

The beautiful Aya Sofya dominates the area.

What remains of the beautiful Palace of Bucoleon in the city sea walls, built around the 5th century. This was a Byzantine site I wanted to visit, again after having read Norwich's history books.

A disgraceful event occurred at Constantinople in 1204, with crusaders heading to the middle east, instead attacking and sacking the city of their fellow Christians. An interesting piece of history about this site states;

In the 1204 sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, Bucoleon was taken by Boniface of Montferrat who: "rode all along the shore to the palace of Bucoleon, and when he arrived there it surrendered, on condition that the lives of all therein should be spared. At Bucoleon were found the larger number of the great ladies who had fled to the castle, for there were found the sister of the King of France, who had been empress, and the sister of the King of Hungary, who had also been empress, and other ladies very many. Of the treasure that was found in that palace I cannot well speak, for there was so much that it was beyond end or counting." (Villehardouin)

For a 360 degree look at the remains of the palace click here.

How the palace may have looked, from the website Byzantium 1200.

Two lions guarded the seaward doorway.

One of the lions, now at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

Some people have their homes in the old city walls, many of the older homes are now deserted.

Narrow roads allow residents to get through the old city walls.

A lot of the homes in old Istanbul were made of wood, which resulted in fires often destroying large portions of the city, when fire-fighting was almost non-existent. It's good to see that many resident are now restoring the old wooden homes, some to become tourist hotels.

The orignal train station in Istanbul for the famous Orient Express. I had to take a picture here!

One of the most amazing sites below Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern. It can hold 80 000 cubic metres of water and has 336 marble columns, 9 metres high!

Amazing brick work on the ceiling to support the city above.

A surreal place with big Carp swimming in the dark underground waters.

Dark and quiet (well first thing in the morning before loads of tourists arrive).

No this photo isn't upside down. It's one of the 2 famous Gorgon heads on the base of 2 columns in the cistern.

This one is sideways.

No one is really sure why they are here, as the other columns don't have anything like this.

Some columns do have interesting carvings.

The cistern was a place I didn't know about, but turned out to be one of the most interesting sites in Istanbul (or under it).

1 comment:

Mr. Smiley said...