Saturday 6 January 2024

The Cistern at Istanbul

 We arrived at our hotel late last night, and then had to get up early for a trip to the centre of Istanbul. We were on a guided tour and started with the Suleymaniye Mosque.

It is probably the third most famous mosque in Istanbul and about 500 years old. There was lovely views from a plateau and next to it was a cemetery. 

Our guide told us that all of the ladies buried there had a flowery shaped headstone, but the men had different top depending on their profession. If they were an intellectual they got a turban shape, and the cleverer the person, the bigger turban.

Moving on we had a quick visit to the Grand Bazaar and took a photo of the main entrance that is identical to the one that we took on our last visit in December 2017. The Bazaar was still very nice and the store keepers very friendly. 

All of the main sights are very close together, and the Blue Mosque looked magnificent in the winter sunshine. 

The Hagia Sophia Mosque is the oldest and was built in 537 by the emporer Justinian 1st as a Christian church. It was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans and has the most beautiful interior. 

But the best thing that we visited today was the Cistern. It was also constructed in the six century, also by Justinian, and is an enormous underground water storage area. It was built using pillars from ancient Roman buildings and some of them are beautifully decorated. 

You enter the Cistern by climbing down metal steps and then follow paths that are suspended above a shallow pool of water that makes brilliant reflections. It is very dark and every few minutes the lights change colour and the whole place looks completely different. 

The most famous pillars are held up by two statues of the head of the Medusa. In one his head is resting sideways, and this one is upside down. 

No one knows where these statues came from, but they were hidden under water for nearly 1,500 years before anyone saw them again. Apparently tradition says that the statue may be upside down to stop the power of her eyes, as if you looked her then she could turn you into stone. 

I was very surprised and impressed with them, but Darren insisted that we had seen them before. Sure enough, we have photos of them from 2017 and I even wrote a blog saying how much I liked them then too. 

At least I am consistent, but I am very disappointed with my appalling memory. 

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