Monday, September 21, 2015

Istanbul: Hagia Sofia and the Basilica Cistern

21 Sept 2015

Having escaped the crowd in the Blue Mosque, I emerged into the plaza between the Blue Mosque (behind me in the next photo) and the Hagia Sofia (shown). It is said to be even more impressive than the Blue Mosque, but is closed on Mondays so was not on my agenda.

In a little section of the park some dogs had created little wallows to lie in. Unlike the cats, there seems to be at least some control of stray dogs, as they had tags in their ears (like livestock in the US).

These little corn-on-the-cob stands were all over the city. I remember that it was also really popular as a street food in China and Brazil.

I love this, did not even notice the guy behind me taking his own selfie. I've been photo-bombed!

I really, really hope that the people cutting through the flower beds weren't my fellow Americans, how embarrassing. There was a small fence around it so it was clearly not meant for walking across.

The fountain in the center of the park was lovely, and like always when I see a fountain I take too many pictures.

I'm not sure what the domed building to the right is in the picture below.

The Hagia Sofia definitely gets on my bucket list. Look at the scale of it, how tiny the people standing in front of it appear.

The next stop, after a man on the street tried really hard to sell me a carpet, was the Basilica Cistern, an underground water reservoir which was built using "repurposed" Roman columns. I read that, after many conquests of the city, the citizens eventually forgot that it was there, until it was rediscovered.

James Bond movie fans may recognize the Basilica Cistern, as it was featured in "From Russia With Love".

I had hoped it would be cooler underground, but it is so much more humid down there that it didn't really feel any cooler. In the summer it would be a welcome refuge from the intensity of the sun.

The water isn't very deep - in fact there are Koi fish swimming around in it.

The brickwork in the ceiling is commonplace by that era's standards... just look at these beautiful arches and the amazing detail...

The below is a bit dark, but hopefully the differences in the tops of the columns is visible.

This column with the anti-evil-eye symbols carved in it was unique, all the others looked Roman.

Here you can see that the bases of the columns were different.

The other two columns of particular interest are the Medusa Heads. Speculation is that they were placed under the columns to make them the right height. This one is upside down...

... and the other sideways.

The Basilica Cistern is a pretty quick visit, about 20 minutes if you are in a rush, 30 otherwise. I would call it a must-see because it's so mysterious-looking and the reutilization of the old columns is rather fascinating if you like architecture.

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