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 ūüėõ :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, Blue..blue 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
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Gir Travels- Is that a lion i see??


Alright, alright…I sense that I should bring the lions into picture somewhere.

Since its traveler’s luck that brings a successful lion sighting, the Gujarat Government has an Interpretation Centre (=I don’t know why it’s called the Interpretation Centre….we didnt decode any lion language anyway).

This Interpretation Centre is at a place called Devaliya. This place is about 7 kms from an intersection. This interpretation centre is open for few hours in the day. The whole intersection turning to go to Devaliya is closed from after sunset to sunrise

      

Most of the places were very sensitive to Lion lifestyles and did all they could to adjust to the lion’s way of life. A proper integration of Nature’s Way and the Human Way leads to rich dividends!!

Alright back to point. SO after a huge breakfast at Club Mahindra we made our way to the Devaliya Interpretation Centre. One bad thing about the whole Gir Sanctuary is that a road runs through it. There is a State Highway running parallel to the Interpretation Centre and a Railway line running through Gir (=Junagad to Somnath).But this doesn’t seem to have disturbed the lions who according to forest officials are flourishing in the Last Home to the Asiatic Lion.

Ya so back to the point!!

We were up (=ya ya tents!!! we wanted to laze forever!! who doesn’t) when we realised we’d better move if we wanted to see the Centre. So we packed up and went driving. Along the way, we noticed deer. The whole patch is a dry forest and is very dusty. But the deer are unperturbed as we drive through they probably being used to having cars zoom by. There are resorts and even a restaurant on our way there.

P.S” All resorts will be named after the Lion and having some derivative of the Majestic Pride. So there will be lots of places like “Lions Den” or “Lion Safari Camp” or having the word “Sher” in their name. I guess being located in a region which is the last haven for the Asiatic Lion is bound to have some ripple effect.

The Interpretation Centre is a 412 hectare of chain link fenced lion area which is Gir in a nutshell, covering all habitat types and wildlife of Gir (so i copy from a tourist booklet but facts are facts!!). It also has a feeding-cum living cage for carnivores and a double gate entry point. This Centre at present has 1400-1500 spotted deer, 200-250 blue bulls (a spectacular sight), 100-120 wild boar, 15-20 blackbucks (stunning sight), a few chinkaras and sambars aong with other mammals and reptiles. Not to forget the Lions.

After booking our tickets¬† (=Charges Rs 75 only per Indian and $20 per firangi), we made our way to the bus. There is a bus (=Eco-friendly, Runs on Jatropha Bio-diesel) which takes you on a tour of the Centre. Just as we entered after a while we saw some Sambar deer. This is the main animal that the lion feeds on (=70-80 kgs of sheer delight I’ve heard enough to knock the lion for 20 hrs). They are more majestic than the easily “spotted” deer (:P) and make wonderful watching. There we passed a few Nilgai (=Blue Bulls) These are extremely shy and canter off whenever they come into public eye. The whole landscape is yellow, criss-crossed with myriad hues of brown, streaked with a random green. I’ve got some wonderful snaps of the dust rising up because of our bus running over a dirt track.

After a good deal of driving through the bushes (=it literally looks like that although there are trees and shrubs there), the Lion came into sight. Actually there were 3 of them! Lazing! In the Sun! As we waited to grab them on camera, they Lazed! and Slept! Oblivious of their fans waiting for a picture to show back home! Nonetheless we got a shot of them snoozing and one Lion looked up the other way as if he was snubbing us (=How dare he!! I have a good mind to set Rajni on him!! pun intended)

Ah the Black Bucks are a sight to see!! Their horns curving gracefully with hard rims and the majestic sweep of white along their eyes!!! Mindblowing!! The Sambar and Spotted Deer pale in comparison!! I am uploading a picture!!

We were also treated to a pack of deer drinking water at a pool nearby. A simple sight it is to see animals drink but yet it is so calming. I could just sit and stare at that sight for a long long time

The trail ended soon and we made our way to the Interpretation Centre where there was a small TV playing a video made on the Gir Forest and the lion habitat there. There was also a display spanning 2 rooms about the History og Gir, The Fauna of Gir, Birds, Reptiles and other Interesting Facts that made Gir special. It also shed light on the importance of Gir to the local ecosystem and how essential it was to the ecological balance and survival of the adjoining areas. It was very well done.

Following that, we went to the Souvenir shop and got some T-Shirts, Honey (=Yummy), Some Caps and the Book with photos and Information about Gir (=ya i copied the facts out of this little one!)

After we went outside, we saw uhh..A scoo-cart!! Its a scooter which pulls a cart behind it!! Innovative. It functions as a rickshaw and they ply between towns. It also takes your harvest to the market. So presenting Rural Gujarat’s eccentric and indigenous reply to the Tractor. Presenting the “Scoo-Cart” (=I made the name up its not what its called there)

We clicked a few photos with the scoo-cart. After that we had some tea at a restaurant which also had a farm behind it as well as tents. Then we made our way to Club Mahindra.

Coming Up: The Actual Gir Safari-To see or not to see..Its not in my hand anyway

Stay Tuned

The Spotted Deer…we “Spotted” them most often

Board at the entrance

A Sambar

A shy Blue Bull

One of the pics