Sunday, November 18, 2007

Constantinope (Not Istanbul)

After visiting the palace, I headed over to the archaeological museum to take in some of Constantinople. Aside from the myriads of broken and glued back together plain red clay pots, it was interesting. So much of Constantinople has ended up in other parts of the world that museums in Britain, France, and Italy have more artifacts than this one, but Istanbul is full of archaeological excavation sites that will yield troves of treasures. The "church" pictured here - Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) - used to be the largest building in the world and the seat of the Byzantine Patriarch. It was converted into a mosque when the Turks conquered Constantinople but is now a museum, thanks to Kemal Ataturk. Yeah, it's old - finished in 537.

Across the world, countries are demanding their artifacts be returned to their countries. The Greeks have been passing out flyers with a picture of a headless horse asking "Where's my head? It's in London!" and are building a new archaeological museum where they will have empty spaces with signs saying such and such an artifact is "temporarily on display in London." Good to see they have some humor about it.

Anyway, back to Istanbul, as there isn't much of Constantinople left these days. Here is a mosque. I know, I know, shocking, isn't it? I mean, a mosque in Istanbul? What will they think of next? I liked this one's ornate exterior. It was once a church. Very plain inside compared to a lot of them we visited. As you can see, it was an absolutely beautiful day - couldn't have been more perfect for walking miles as we did. It'd probably be better to actually write the name of the mosque here, but as we saw so many of them, I can't really remember it, and since it was the very first thing we saw that morning, aside from our bread/egg/tomato/cucumber/grape/olive breakfast, by the time I went to write everything down, the name had slipped from my memory like the melting real butter on my bread. Had it been toasted. But at least it was butter and not this nasty margarine stuff the Bulgarians have left over from the Soviet days. (My theory, anyway.)

Sometimes - or most times, in my opinion - the best things you see are things you weren't looking for, like the stunning view of the entire city from atop an old wall a few miles from the city center. We scaled the wall like we were climbing a mountain, though we did have a few ancient steps to help us up. This isn't a city, it's a billion cities expanding further than the eye can see. I've poorly put together a sort of panorama to try to show the scope of the massiveness. They actually go in order, though I've mistakenly left some gaps. Kind of difficult to take a 360 degree photo! This is definitely the best view in the city - and the only thing it cost was some energy from the climb!

(Click to make larger, but mind the gaps and the seams.)

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