Turkey Day 1 - Chora Church, City Walls & Blue Mosque
Our first full day in Turkey, and of course everyone is jet-lagged especially Luke. The first part of the day was frustrating as we couldn’t get Grandma’s e-mails to work, and this being the first time she had been so far away from everyone she quite rightly wanted to be in contact with the family back home, to share what had been happening on her big overseas adventure.
By 9-30 things were happening and we were by splitting up. The one thing I didn’t get to see the last time I was in Istanbul was the medieval walls of Constantinople. The walls are not close to where we are staying so required several tram rides to get to, plus not many tourists go there so they not covered in many of the guide books, which is amazing considering these walls are one of the greatest medieval walls in history. I discovered online that there is a good example of the walls near the old Byzantium Chora Church so I headed there.
Visiting Chora Church first up was like 7th heaven to me, it was just like being back on my 4 year OE in London visiting old historical stuff. Chora church dates from around 700 years ago and has some of the most amazing mosaics I have ever seen, most dating from around 1312AD. There are the most gorgeous mosaics just everywhere, hard to think that they were all so old. They were persevered as the Ottomans’ whitewashed over them when they turned it into a mosque in the 1400’s, it was turned into a Museum about 50 years ago so they can now be seen.
After spending a bit of time taking in the old history of the amazing Chora Church I headed up to see the old Constantinople city walls, which could not be missed as they are just so huge.
Not only are they large but they are really old, built in 400AD, so 1600 years ago and were so impressive they were only ever breached twice in 1000 years of use. I have seen medieval walls in places like York, but nothing compares to size and the impressiveness and grandeur of these walls which are actually a lot older as well. Also this being Turkey they have no concept of Health & Safety like we do. There are these very steep stairs leading to the top of these high walls towering above the 5 – 6 story buildings below with no barriers or anything. It is neat to be able to clamber all over these old historical walls but the broken glass and mess around was a shame. There were a small handful of other tourists and locals on the walls at the same time.
Also the view from the top of the walls showed all of Istanbul, one can see for miles and miles in all directions. It must have been a lot of labour and work to build them by hand, but that is the Romans for you – very industrious.
I spent an hour clambering around the walls. An added bonus was that without the family I could go all over the place without them getting concerned and trying to stop me which was handy.
Then I was on the tram heading back to the others, I was due to meet them at 1pm, and walked in the door at 1.02pm which I thought was impressive. The rest of the family had spent the morning taking it easy and adjusting to a new city. They had visited the Arasta Bazaar, a small local bazaar near where I stayed last time. Julianne got to introduce Grandma to shopping Turkish style, seeing the shopping options and buying some food and nibbles for our stay in Istanbul.
After a yummy homemade lunch we all headed out to buy tickets to a Whirling Dervishes show for tomorrow, explored a bit more of the local shops and Grandma buying a nice head scarf before visiting the Blue Mosque, a huge 500 year old mosque near where we are staying.
Julianne and I have been here before but Grandma was surprised and blown away from the size of the Blue Mosque and how majestic it is on the inside.
Inside the Blue Mosque.
We then strolled back to Coskun House to do some updates like writing blogs and Grandma starting to make contact back home using iMessager on her iPad.
For tea tonight we visited Doy Doy, a favorite restaurant from my first visit and the ambiance and food was just as good as I remembered, through the range was smaller with no doner’s plus the prices were reasonable and Grandma finally got a good Turkish meal. Also jetlag is still kicking in, Robin fell asleep during meal which was cute. On the way to and from Doy Doy we walked through what was a real Roman Circus – the Hippodrome with some original features from 2000 years ago.
Back at Coskun House it was showers and then bed.