"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

istanbul part one: majestic constantinople

I can't help it, but when we get to travel to a country, I want to see it all. I know that's impossible but sometimes, I try to defy impossibility.

We started our time in Turkey with a couple of days spent in Istanbul.

It's a massive city with too much to see in just a few days, but we did our best. 

Istanbul stretches between Europe and Asia and, originally called Constantinople, it came into existence as a kingdom guarding a precious waterway for trade between the continents. We felt the best way to take in as much as we could, was to stay in the heart of the Sultanahmet district which lies on the European side of the city.

Sultanahmet holds the Topkapi Palace (home of the Ottoman Empire Sultans), the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and a few other attractions we thought we could squeeze in. Plus, everything was in walking distance of our hotel which was also located on street secured by guards with foot traffic only.

The vast majority of our first day was spent touring the Topkapi Palace along with it's museums.

As I said before, tourism was low so we sort of had large portions of the place to ourselves.

The gardens were so well kept.

The mosaics were stunning.

We walked around imagining the place teaming with royalty, servants, diplomats, harems and children back in it's early grandeur.

The artistry of every detail was amazing.

We listened to the quiet echoes of our own footsteps in this detailed courtyard. I'm a romantic so I envisioned young women calling from high windows to playing children down below, a time when maids herded the king's offspring as a harem of mothers lounged reading or stitched delicate fabrics in shaded corners.

In all this beauty, the imagination can run a bit wild.

Just take in those eves above.

And the mosaic work of the pathways between buildings.

The Palace has a magnificent view of the city.

We wandered from building to building taking in the cook house, treasury, private quarters, armory, and museums containing spiritual relics and gifts from worldwide magistrates.

Until my traveling companion's attention began to slip away ;)

I was pretty awe-struck by the beauty of it all.

We grabbed a late lunch and headed back out into the streets where my pictures became pretty limited. Nothing brands you quicker as an American tourist than a camera snapping away. 

And though we felt safe enough, we thought it best to refrain from drawing attention.

Our next adventure took us to the aqueducts underground beneath the city. The deeper we descended, the more excited Newel became.

He declared this his favorite thing of any that we saw.

Walking along in the cool, damp, darkness, it was his turn to imagine slaves working to build the cistern that would supply an empire with water.

In the very depths of the vast Basilica Cistern, lies this column carving of the Greek Medusa. Creepy and cool all at once.

I was so taken with the stretches of the original Wall of Constantinople which wrapped all throughout the city.

I mean .... we come from a world where anything of ancient importance is put behind glass with warnings against flash photography etc. and this wall ... it's just there. Miles and miles of it. With modern buildings built between it's stretches.

Can't you just imagine soldiers standing at the guard up on top of that thing?

There are archways that lead to underground tunnels, many of which are sealed off.

But some weren't and this really cool employee of our hotel, offered to show me a way in.

We descended some steep stairs in a dark alley way ... I must admit, for a brief moment it did cross my mind that this might be where we would be murdered ;)

But he was so enthusiastic at our interest to see these timeless caverns.

Dungeons or passageways, secret chambers or lost chapels? I have no idea.

But the magic of standing in the silence of an ancient and medieval world long gone was tangibly real and fantastically exciting.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures, but I have to tell you your line about imagining for a brief moment that you were going to be murdered sort of made me chuckle. I read those dumb teen vampire novels and in one of them, there were tourists visiting Italy that thought they were going on a tour of the underground caverns or something like that, when really they were being led to the slaughter by the evil vampires. Bleck...but, it has stuck with me! So, I don't think you are horrible for having that fleeting thought! LOL