Turkey Day 23 - Nicaea - Iznik

Robin and I inside the Aya Sofia in Iznik– at the end with the seats for the bishops.

After five really good & emotional full on days here in Canakkale beside the Gallipoli peninsula it is time to move on, and to get back in the car. Today was the latest start on the holiday and we were not away until 11am!

Both Grandma and I were hoping that a shop across the way from hotel would be open as there were some interesting Gallipoli souvenirs for the 100 year anniversary we wanted to look at, but it did not open and getting the car into the single space out the front of the hotel was problematic but eventually it was free so Julianne could pack the car.

Today is a long drive, but there are no stops so it is straight there for a change. The drive was uneventful and we arrived at Iznik at around 4ish and pulled into a really modern nice hotel right across from Lake Iznik. Iznik used to be called Nicaea and is where the very first Ecumenical Council was held back in 325AD – the first big council to discuss the big differences between the early Christian sects and resulted in the Nicene creed. Iznik is now famous because of tile making and there are tile shops everywhere, and I have seen Iznik tile shops in Istanbul as well.

After dropping of the small bags we are using in Iznik into the hotel; because we are staying only a single night all the suitcases and everything else is staying in the car overnight – we all headed into the centre of town.

The first thing that stuck me was the dust, it was everywhere and boy are the roads rough. I noticed several people who had tractors outside their houses and I can see why.

I parked in the centre of the town and we started walking around. First up was a visit to the Aya Sofia of Iznik, which is now a mosque of course but includes some remains of the original church from around 550AD. It’s amazing how some of the building and artwork have survived over the centuries. The mosque which uses the old centre of the church has recently been restored.

The family outside the Aya Sofia in Iznik.

The clearly Romanesque half round windows and arches.

As we left, with of course Robin pushing Luke and the reconstructed Aya Sofia in the background.

Walking down the main street in Iznik.

We stopped off and visited the Yesil Mosque, an original mosque built in 1378, I enjoy looking at these original old buildings be they mosques in Turkey or Cathedrals in England. The minaret has this great green and blue glazed pattern which is related to the famous Iznik tile industry.

Yesil Mosque.

Robin off at full speed inside the mosque.

Grandma and Julianne with headscarf’s on inside a mosque – which may have been the last time on the holiday – how sad.

We then walked down to the edge of the town which still has a fair amount of the original Roman and then Byzantine city walls standing. To even get into the town we drove through the original Byzantine gate which was fun – though very narrow in our large SUV.

Driving through an original medieval gate – very cool.

I wanted to follow the wall, so I explored the wall around a quarter of the town back to the car while the others all waked directly back to the car down the main road. Exploring and looking up at original city walls that used to protect people for hundreds of years, all done by hand always impresses me.

City walls of Nicaea

With a modern road beside it of course.

Reconstructing the city walls.

For tea we went to a local restaurant – it looks new and shiny and was brilliant. This is the real Turkey, a modern restaurant selling food for Turks where English is not spoken – brilliant. We are getting to understand what we are doing and all ordered lovely meals. Turns out traditional kebabs are quite spicy which is amusing and not what you get in tourist centres and the Turkish tea is really really strong.

After eating on the way back to the car Robin mentioned a church he had found that he wanted to show me. I of course had to make sure Robin’s church was found. He must have seen it when walking with Julianne and Grandma back to the car. Robin and I dashed back a bit but couldn’t find it. He kept mentioning that it was down from the Wall. I finally realised that he meant the city walls, so I drove down to the where I started my walk around the city walls and leaving Julianne and Grandma with Luke in the car headed out with Robin to back track the route he took earlier. It was a few minutes walk but it was important to be able to let Robin share his excitement and eventually we found Robin’s church – and he was so excited. A church he found and got to show Daddy! It was amusing that he didn’t mention it to Julianne or Grandma as he walked past it before – he must have thought ‘Daddy would want to see this’.

One proud Robin and the 'church' he found.

It turned out to be a graveyard for a very interesting character ‘Çandarl Halil Pasha the Younger' the Grand Vizier of Murad ii and Mehmet the Conqueror – the Sultan who conquered Istanbul and the Byzantine Empire. Within 4 days of taking Istanbul the Sultan had him executed – so it was a risky job and so much for thanks for you hard work.

So it may not have been a church but Robin did find something really interesting, and you can see why he thought it was a church.

The Grave of Çandarl Halil Pasha the Younger.

It took a while to find Robin’s church and it had been a long day driving so we got back to the hotel quite late. Once the boys where in bed I spent the evening sitting by the lake drinking beer and working on the blog. A very lovely and nice way to spend the evening instead of cooped up in a Hotel like normal. The lake is large and you can see lights of other towns in the distance.

 Grandma at Lake Iznik before heading off to bed.

Adam Weller