Istanbul was a mixed experience. We had only two days and had a lot of ground to cover. In addition the traffic was really bad so we spent a lot of time standing in trafic jams. What I remember best are Chora church, the galleries of Hagia Sophia, the water cisterne and then the boat trip on the Bosporus.
Chora church is old , built around AD 530. Chora means outside and it was built outside the city walls. The original mosaic and frescos were preserved and they were spectacular. They were made before the period when it was forbidden to have pictures in the churchs (about 720-860AD). Here is a selections of the decorations.
This church had qualities that make me remember it much better than Hagia Sophia, and I wonder why. I think part of are the dimensions, it was much smaller. It also had a better atmosphere, may be because the size. It was not as crowded so somehow the artwork got closer. The quality of the mosaic was great and that also made an impression. We got close to the pieces, again a question of dimensions. So summa summarum, it was a great experience.
Hagia Sophia – the galleries.
Hagia Sophia was crowded and was under restoration. The galleries were impressiv enough and I even found the insciption made by a viking 1200 years ago saying “Halfdan made this”
For some reason Hagia Sophia did not make a great impression on me. I son’t really know why, may be the contrast to the Chora church, or the crowd. It was more impersonal, if I can use that expression. I actually liked the view from on of the windows best. It was fun however to find the vikings mark.
The water cisterne.
Istanbul is an ancient city and water supply was of course important. They built several underground water cisternes and one was restored and opened for the public. They reused pilars from all over so the styles are very different. I even found a pilar’s foot with the face of Medusa that was placed upside down.
Boat trip on the Bosporus.
We took a boat trip from a harbour close to the Black Sea down to the Golden Horn. The weather was great and we saw a lot of intersting points from ancient castles, expensive houses, modern bridges, palaces and mosques.