Yerebatin Sarnici or Yerebatin Saray1
After exploring ‘Hagia Sophia’ or ‘Aya Sophia’ or ‘St Sophia’ (=Too many names) we came out to the Sultanahmet Square where the two most beautiful monuments of Istanbul, The Blue Mosque (=Sultanahment Camii) and the Aya Sophia face each other.
As we left the Aya Sophia, we looked in awe at the huge mosque ahead of us. Now since my sister and my dad had done some reading, they knew it was the Blue Mosque but I didn’t, so I was amazed while I clicked pictures of the cobbled paths and the many roadside sellers.
The small and cute stands there sell 3 things
- Corn (=Yuck!! No Way, Indian ones are much better)
- Simit (=type of bread with sesame/til on it with or without a cheese filling)
- Kestane or Chestnuts roasted
- Cinnamon cakes (=Spicy and not so sweet)
So we helped ourselves to some Simit with cheese and soaked in the atmosphere.
This time is the best to visit Turkey, just off the winter which is quite harsh in the interiors and just before the heat wave hits across Turkey. The weather is extremely pleasant and enjoyable with temperatures between 8-16 degree C during the day and from5-10 degree C at night.
There was a trio that was performing in the Sultanahmet Square as a part of the Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (=I’m sorry I don’t know the exact translation Büyük means big and şehir is city)
At that point it really struck me that Istanbul integrates art into its very fibre. There is an appreciation for all forms of art here be it with history, relics and frescos or be it with music, paint and any other form of expression.
I guess we really don’t see much of that in India with not much inclination to appreciation of art barring those who actually practice.
We also saw the tram lines in Istanbul for the first time.
Following which we went to the Cistern.
Let me brief you a little about how the Cisterns and Aqueducts came into being.
An Ottoman Building using an Aqueduct
The Romans constructed numerous aqueducts to serve any large city in their empire, as well as many small towns and industrial sites. The city of Rome had the largest concentration of aqueducts, with water being supplied by eleven aqueducts constructed over a period of about 500 years. They served drinking water and supplied the numerous baths and fountains in the city, as well as finally being emptied into the sewers, where the once-used gray water performed their last function in removing waste matter. (=Long live Wikipedia)
Now the aqueducts were not limited only to Rome. With the spread of the Roman Empire, the aqueducts and Cisterns spread to different states such as Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Macedonia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Spain. Which sows the effect the Roman Empire has had over the world.
Also they made Cisterns which were made to catch rainwater and to store it. Cisterns are distinguished from wells because of the waterproof lining that Cisterns have. There aren’t many Cisterns found today.
This Cistern is very famous for the two heads of Medusa that adorn 2 of the pillars
Fact: The Cistern was built in the 6th Century by the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It is 9 m high with 12 rows of 28 columns
Fable Speak: There are many stories about Medusa. The most common one says that she had a face so ugly that people who saw her would be repulsed and would turn to stone.
This is why her head appears at 2 columns to ward off evil
The second fable talks about why her hair was turned to stone. It says she was the fairest maiden of the times and once she lay with Poseidon, the king of the seas, Goddess Athena was enraged and so cursed her transforming her beautiful hair to snakes. (=Poor her, jealous goddess)
But there is no accurate record about what really happened to Medusa although she remains an evergreen part of history
Anyway back to the Cistern. The Cistern has been constructed in such a manner that even though it is below the ground, there is fresh air through ventilation shafts constantly.
This too like other museums has an entrance fee (=10 TL or € 6) Most of the people come to see the Medusa’s heads positioned in the 2 pillars.
In one pillar the head of Medusa is facing sideways and in 1 pillar it is upside down. There are many stories as to why these were positioned there and only there and in these positions not looking straight forward. But because there are no accurate records, until a time machine is invented, we can only speculate.
The water even though old was clean. There were places where people had thrown in coins. There is a Roman legend that if you throw a coin i the Trevi’s Fountain,Rome, Italy that you will come back again!! (I should throw many coins there then!!)
Even though this was constructed in the 6th century, it has been preserved very well today with adequate signs for tourists with information. There are also plastic sheets put over the arches that need to be repaired.
Musings: (=How much i think!! My brain should be banned)
I often wonder why we as a country with significant scientific advancement can never manage to set funds aside or use it for the repair, maintenance and restoration of our national wealth. I guess with the decades of ingrained mindset that our sole purpose is to achieve a growth figure at all costs, we’ve let national wealth, arts and culture die a horrendous death, leaving the world deprived of all that India and its rich heritage has to offer.
So after we were finished with the Basilica Cistern, we saw some magnets and postcards (=Everyone sells magnets and postcard) and we went to have Doner Kebaps in the same place we’d seen before.
We had some Doner (=Turkish franky with no oil or sauce), Coffee (=Expresso Leggerimo with Arabica and other South American Varieties). This coffee had a few chocolates and coffee beans coated with chocolate as a side dish. Also we tasted apple chai (=Tea in Turkish is also called as Chai). It was the yummiest and they serve it in such small and cute cups with tiny tea spoons. There is sugar added and cubes also on the side.
After the long afternoon, we had a chilled out session in Room 203 accounting for the expenses (=My job 😛 :P). After which there was the dilemma of deciding the place where we could go out for dinner (=Remember there was lunch at Ozler this is still Day 1). We made a trip to the terrace, (=Our hotel to see if the restaurant was worth going to).
There was a balconey where you could go and sit in the cool evening air and smoke a Narghile (=Pronounced Nar-ghee-Le)
But the menu was very limited. You had to order certain sets like a full meal with an entree, a salad, a meat dish and some dessert. There was no two ways about it. But there prices were quoted in Euros (=Oh No!!) So we decided to skip it and go out exploring. The person who had helped us out in the Convenience store while buying Turkish Delights recommended a restaurant called ‘Balkan’ and gave us directions. We had a little bit of searching to do and it was in a lane that was being repaired (=Hey its not only India where there are dug up roads!!)
Balkan is a Self Service Restaurant meaning- U pick the dish from a limited range, The person serves, You pay per plate for what you order. And it turned out to be our cheapest meal of the whole journey (=:P :P).
So we had 2 chicken gravys, 2 plates of rice, 2 Ayrans, 2 Rice puddings (=Ah yes…yummy!!! All that sweet mixture with caramelized sugar on top!!!! :P) and the food was good.
- Turns out in Turkey these types of restaurants are ‘Lowest of the Low’ where you have nobody to serve you, you pick and carry. But the place was clean, the food was good and inexpensive and the quantity was better than the other restaurants that waited on you hand and foot.
After our dinner, we made a trip to “Diva Discount Mart” which was our faithful cost saving provider where we picked up some Ayran, Water and Flavoured Milk for the tour ahead.
So thus concludes the 3 part ‘Day 1 in Istanbul’
Keep Tuned for further notes!!!
Basilica Cistern with its pillars
Fishes and Coins
Medusa upside down