April 20, 2005 - May 04, 2005

Day 02
April 21,  2005 Istanbul, Turkey
The text and the picture is submitted by Elaine Squeri

Fortified city walls: chain of double walls to protect land side of Constantinople from Sea of Marmora to Golden Horn, about 6-7 km or 4 miles, constructed of red tile/brick and limestone blocks, and built between 412-422. These walls held until Mehmet II Fatih (the Conqueror) took the city in 1453 with the help of the canon ball, made on the site where the Museum of Modern Art is now. The Ottomans maintained the walls until the 18th century; there were 11 fortified gates and 192 towers and several gates still give access to Istanbul today. Another example of the overlay of empires in Turkey: ancient walls enclosing Seraglio Point where Topkapi and Haya Sofia are today, Roman walls west of Hippodrome built by Septimus Severus during rebuilding after sacking the ancient city in 196AD, Byzantine walls of Constantine and later further west of Theodosius I and II during 4th & 5th centuries enclosing all seven hills, finally Ottoman maintenance and enhancements under Mehmet II and succeeding sultans. No waste of materials – everything reused from statue parts, columns, rocks, marble (from the Sea of Marmora). The walls we visited were very high; one stairway had a railing, one had a chain as handrail, and other stairways, ramparts and apertures were without railings. When visiting an Istanbul neighborhood later on, we would see houses built right into the various remaining fortification walls.

Rest stop at Crown Plaza Hotel which had incorporated 5th-6th century columns and walls into its structure.
The magenta colored Railway Station in Istanbul served the Orient Express.

Stop at a neighborhood Named BALATI areas of the city, religion distinguished people and settlements. Levantine – Eastern Christians and Armenians; Jews; Roman Orthodox. In 1923 or 24 occurred the switch of populations when orthodox left for Greece and Thessalonikans came to Turkey.

Lunch on Pierre Loti Hill at Tourqhouse Restaurant with great view down on Golden Horn: mushroom almond soup, pomegranite sherbet (juice), chicken breast.

Eyup Cemetery
vertical stone grave markers: top edge distinguished women’s graves from men’s: women’s were rounded and men’s were shaped as stylized fez. Old markers had inscriptions in Arabic; the newer generally in Turkish with modified Roman alphabet established by Ataturk. Green funeral truck brought a deceased to his resting place down the lane, followed by small group of mourners. Graves were also all across and down the slope of the hill.

Covered Market or Grand Bazaar (Turkish term pazar; British adaptation bazaar)
Built in late 1400’s as financial foundation for support of former mosque; replaced in 1700’s. It is one of world’s oldest malls. Crafts are concentrated by specialty in separate areas; major area has gold shops along the “main street” leading to Gate Nur-I-Osmaniye. The back alleys still house specialty craft shops like the silversmith. Photographic highlights were textiles and book market which specializes in miniatures. The Bazaar was less crowded than Spice Bazaar; shoppers seemed less harassed by sales people than at Arasta Bazaar. We all gathered at the Gate to leave for the suburbs.

The two Koys (koy = village): Arnavutkoy and Ortakoy Bosphorus suburbs: the name Bosphorus comes from Greek bous, cow, and poros crossing place. The name reflects the legend that Zeus, unfaithful to his wife, Hera, turned his lover, Io, into a cow. Hera added a horsefly to sting Io on the rump and drive her across the strait. The first bridge joining Europe to Asia across the Bosphorus was built in 1974, 3rd largest suspension bridge. Another was built at the narrowest pt in 1989. In 520 BC the battle of Marathon, 100,000 horses crossed on a pontoon bridge!

Arnavutkoy is the first suburb we reached through heavy commuter traffic, attractive for its 19th century Ottoman wooden houses as well as its shoreline dotted with boats, benches, and a small park. The streets behind the shoreline were full of the wooden houses with many unique architectural features. Some historical features included: 2 or 3 stories of wood construction, upper storey extending out over the street on carved brackets; some had timber frames filled with cement, plastered with mud and straw, sometimes finished with plaster or whitewash; decorations in plaster or wood. Inside could be 10-12 rooms, built-in niches and cupboards, “bathrooms” accommodated in closets; plaster fireplaces with conical hoods; perhaps decorative ceilings; little furniture since the low benches around the walls served for seating; and eating was arranged on a stand spread with a cloth that also covered the lap as if a napkin. Bedding was stored in cupboards and taken out at night. Check following website for the more extravagant version of these houses: yalis.

Ortakoy (=middle village) was the second village we visited, a town where Roman Orthodox, Jews and Moslems lived side by side. We visited the Turkish Baroque Buyuk Mecidiye Camii, the work of Nikogos Balyan who had also designed Dolmabahçe Palace. He designed the mosque for Sultan Abdul Mecit in 1854; the sultan was an accomplished calligrapher and designed the Arabic calligraphy for the mosque. Remember the pastel colors, green rug, and large clear windows with the views of the Bosphorus? Entering the area en route to the Mosque, we had passed the enticing display of ice creams and other dishes in glass cases as if for “takeout” and the rabbit fortune teller on the corner. The streets had shops, galleries, and stands, very popular and crowded on weekends. Dinner was in an atmospheric restaurant right across from the mosque. The menu was fresh salads with grilled cheese and a smoked cheese with vegetables; fish with vegetables and salad; and a delicious dessert of pastry in syrup sauce with spiced grains, and quince. Back to the hotel at 10 PM and pack-up for departure.