Saturday, 27 October 2012

Istanbul,Turkey.Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace. Grand Bazaar.


Istanbul by night
Basilica Cistern


 Medusa Head  in Basilica Cistern
There is plenty to see in Istanbul above ground, let alone under it, but the Basilica Cistern, dating from the 6th century, ranks among the top sights.Visitors go down fifty-two stone steps and are faced with a spectacular sight and a marvel of engineering.  Subdued lighting shows lines of classic marble columns, 336 in all, which support the elegant, vaulted arches of this underground chamber. All is reflected in the water where lurking fish can also be seen, below the viewing platforms.

Entrance gate to Topkapi Palace
Originally 7000 or so slaves built the cistern to provide water for Topkapi Palace and other buildings on First Hill. The water came via clay pipes from the Belgrade Forest twelve miles away.
The Basilica Cistern was closed for years, forgotten about and rediscovered in the sixteenth century by French scientist Petrus Gyllius. It is now a museum, well looked after and has undergone many repairs over the years. Copious mud has had to be removed and columns repaired.
James Bond rowed through the cistern on one of his adventures in From Russia with Love in 1963. The cistern is sometimes used for concerts as the acoustics are so good, and also art exhibitions. There is also a small café.
Now seasonal drought, pollution and 12 million people are causing a severe water shortage but the authorities are investing in new pipelines and other measures to improve the situation.

                                The Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar pottery
Above ground, Istanbul is a wonderful place of palaces, minarets, mosques and bazaars on both sides of the Bosphorus. The Grand Bazaar lives up to its hype; with shops of all kinds, business-suited Turkish vendors and an exotic setting and sounds, with melodious muezzin calls from the mosque outside at regular intervals.
Topkapi Gardens. Tulips originated in Turkey

St.John the Baptist's hand

Rambulation was delighted in Topkapi Palace to see what is purported to be John the Baptist’s arm and hand, covered in gold apart from an opening to show his bones. Moses’ stick and Mohamed’s tooth are also there among the relics. Istanbul is a World Heritage Site and a European Capital of Culture in 2010