Roman Hippodrome- ChaRIOT into the past

ay 2: 11th April 2011

After a long trip to the Chora Museum we made our way to the Roman Hippodrome

For this we had to drive through some narrow lanes. Its quite a remarkable skill to drive through cobbled roads that wind up and down, through hotels, houses and markets.


When we got out of the van no wait the bus to go to the Hippodrome, it was Sunny. So we like smart idiots decided to leave our mufflers and caps in the van. But when we went to the Hippodrome, it began to blow..err the wind began to blow (=Damn why do they say the wind began to blow takes the fun out of writing why can’t we say It began to Wind like It began to Rain….?)

So we saw the Hippodrome/Egyptian Obelisk/ Serpent Column all shivering!!!

A little bit about the Hippodrome

1. It doesn’t exist today

2. You have to imagine it


Wikileaks (=Well I’m leaking Wikipedia ka gyan to you all so effectively leaking Wiki :P)

Hippodrome is a Greek word for a a Roman Circus for horse racing and chariot racing

(=Wait a minute, isn’t this supposed to be a ROMAN hippodrome??)


The Greek hippodrome was similar to the Roman Circus, except that in the latter only four chariots ran at a time. I could really not imagine a huge amphitheatre there where people used to crowd to watch races. Also the square is so well done, it looks like a modern promenade and not a place where a stadium stood.

There are 3 main items of interest in the Hippodrome

  1. Egyptian Obelisk
  2. Serpent Column
  3. Walled Obelisk

Egyptian Obelisk:  To decorate the Hippodrome, various emperors used to bring in works of art from abroad. This one is a huge column which  was brought from Egypt to erect inside the racing track. The Obelisk was cut into 3 pieces and then brought to Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius II . It seems it was cut into 3 pieces and then brought to Constantinople….Only 1 piece remains.


Serpent Column: This was brought to Constantinople after the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the Persian wars in the 5th Century. The Serpent heads were destroyed in the 17th Century. Parts of the heads which were recovered are in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Walled Obelisk: This was covered with some plastic sheet, maybe because it was under repair. It seems the original was covered with gilded bronze plates which were stolen during the Crusades.

We really couldn’t see much because it was very windy and we were shivering!!! Also our guide was rushing us into the Blue Mosque!!! This is why it is really preferred to travel on your own. Then you can stay at a place for as long as you like and not be rushed about.

That just about wraps up The Hippodrome. I would have liked to have walked down the promenade, i’ve seen beautiful pictures of it online. (=Damn the exams i missed on some good research!!)

To be Continued: blue A Mosque lies ahead; Matis n Kaleens…Carpets et all


A Mosaic at Chora Church


A panel in the Parecclesion


Heiroglyphics on the Obelisk


The bottom of the Egyptian Obelisk

All in a Day’s Work – Istanbul in a Rush

Day 2 – 11th April 2011

As per our travel agent’s plans, we were taking a half day tour of Istanbul today. We were actually supposed to take it on the 13th and it included a tour of the Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya. So we called the Travel Agency in Istanbul that was handling the tours we’d booked and got it interchanged. So the tour on 13th became the Tour on 11th because we’d already covered one of the items in the tour. (=The tours are flexible that way and always include a pick up and a drop)

Oh a thing i’d forgotten to mention, Our hotel stay included breakfast so we had to go to the breakfast room which was on the top of the hotel. It was a terrace with large windows. It was beautiful to go in the morning and see the Bosphorus and Istanbul looking sleepy with mist around.

Our breakfast was always some cereal, eggs in varieties, aubergine with potatoes and youghurt, cut vegetables, some noodles, bread, cold cuts, jams and preserves. There was the customary tea and coffee and canned juice. If you wanted fresh juice they would make it live (=in front of your eyes, give u a straw with decorations on it) but charge you 7 TL for it (=Rs 210 for some juice?? Ridiculous)

But the menu would remain same for all the days with slight variations in the yoghurt dishes (=with or without aubergine)

So, at about 8:30am our pick up van came to take us for our “Half Day Istanbul Tour”. There were a lot of people to be picked up from the adjoining hotels (=In the area where we stayed, there were many hotels in the by lanes)

Like wayward sheep, we were all collected and driven towards the Dolmabache Palace where people were again shepherded into different buses as per the tour they had opted for. But there was no problem for us we stayed in the same bus. Along with us were some people who were German and needed a German guide. The English people included us, some people who were from a cruise that was taking a halt at Istanbul and some people who had opted for the Full Day Tour.

Info Snippets:

Our Guide Aziz was telling us stories about

1. Our driver (=He thought driving in Istanbul was tough during the rush hours. Apparently he hasn’t heard of Bombay Oops Mumbai and its traffic!!)

2. The Aqueducts that used to bring water from the Belgrade Forest to Istanbul, built during the Roman Times

3. The fact how every Turkish Man has to serve a year in the Armed Forces in any capacity

4. How he had to pay 1300 Euros for his wife’s wedding gown(= She had to pay 250 Euros to which a passenger remarked that it was a fair bargain 😛 :P)

5. Hotel Paradise which was the first hotel in Istanbul (=Reportedly, they spent $220 million for its interior decoration last year- Here Agatha Christie had stayed with Prime Minister of Turkey)

6. How Tulips Originated from Turkey and when the people from the Netherlands came, they saw and they took to claim their own. (=However we heard that they say the Tulips came from somewhere else in Netherlands not mentioning Turkey from another traveler)

7.The Orient Express –

First Stop: Chora Church and Museum also called Kariye Muzessi

This Church happens to be situated in a place which needs the driver to drive through narrow lanes. Squiggling through the narrow lanes we reached the Church. The guide Aziz had already got us tickets.

The charges for the tour include (usually)

  • The entry tickets (=A fancy affair in themselves)
  • Lunch (=If opted for full day tour)
  • Transfer from one place to another, Pick up from Hotel and Drop Off to hotel/any other place desired which is within the route

Chora Church/ Kariye Muzesi/Kariye Camii was

1st- Greek Orthodox Church

2nd – A Neighborhood Mosque

3rd- A Museum


Fact: You can tell the Status of the Mosque by counting the number of Minarets that the Mosque has (=Status meaning, the type of visitors or purpose)

If the Mosque has 1 Minaret: Neighborhood Mosque : For the locals of the area

2 Minarets: Imperial Mosque : For the Clergy and Other Nobles

 >2 Minarets: Super Special, Huge, Famous Mosque used to Commemorate an occasion or for Crowning a New Emperor/ Marriage of the Emperor etc

Back to the Church eh Museum…

The Chora Church was originally built outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of the Golden Horn. Literally translated, the church’s full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country: (=Wikipedia ki Jai!!)

The Church is famous for its Frescos and Mosaics depicting the life of Virgin Mary and Christ. There are 4 parts of the Museum

  • Exonarthex (=North)
  • Esonarthex (=South)
  • Naos (=Main body of Church)
  • Parecclesion (=Side Chappel)

There were a lot of people from South Korea and Japan as well as from Germany because they had translators with them.

The church is beautifully decorated with frescos. The Museum Rules forbid a person from using flash while clicking pictures of the frescos lest they cause damage to the frescos. Some frescos were in a bad shape but that was done during the Iconoplastic Age when any painting/mosaic of a human was considered as a form of idol worship

The mosaics in this Church had 3 layers which we discovered when we saw a damaged mosaic of Christ. Also, the people during the Greek civilisation had used a technique to split up a piece of marble so that there was an exact mirror image in a tile. So there were 2 marble pieces which had the same pattern looking like a mirror image. It seemed that this technique took them 2-3months to do.

Charity with a Heart:

We found out that in these mosques, there was always a SOUP KITCHEN. In these kitchens, food was served to the poor and hungry.

But, but and but this place had NO WINDOWS which meant that people outside could not see who was getting free food inside. Thats really nice and thoughtful

Verdict for Chora Church:

Unless you are an art lover or a historian, this place can easily be skipped. Its a neighbourhood mosque that has been preserved extremely well. Every little bit of history has been kept intact and made it a place of tourist interest

(=Imagine having every small temple with its history and stories documented and properly preserved!!! How nice that would be but what a Mammoth task!!)

I’ll continue the rest in another note

Keep tuned in for : Roman Hippodrome- Chariot into the past, and blue..A mosque lies ahead, Kalins and Magical Carpets, Grand Bazaar, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower n Fishy Dinner all on Day 2


Apple Cai, A note late but nonetheless