Monday, July 14, 2008

Old Town flavour

Roline and I ventured from Sariyer by ferry today into Kabatas. This 1 hour trip costs 6 ytl, but is logistically much easier than driving to the metro and then the funicular. From Kabatas there is a tram for 1.40 ytl which goes right into the heart of Old Town. We scoped out the various baths today and decided on our choice for tomorrow. One place wanted 79 ytl! and you had to queue to go in.

We proceeded to the Underground Cistern, a huge cavern held up by 336 columns that the Romans stored water in. This was forgotten during the Ottoman reign and rediscovered and subsequently refurbished recently. Walking in you have to mind the dripping water from the cracks in th ceiling and the slippery floor. The columns are light from below in low red lighting. Originally tours went through on boats with gas lamps, but now there are permanent walkways. At the end of the structure (2 soccer fields later approx) there are these 2 columns held up by Medusa heads. There are 2 theories as to why. Medusa was the symbol for persecution of the Christians and this was symbolic of the Christians fighting it. The more pragmatic argument is that the columns (used from old columns aorund the city) were too small and needed to be propped up and they just happened to be the right size.

After another whirlwind trip through the Grand Bazaar (i found the silver jewelery components shop this time) in which I still did not buy anything, we walked the back routes to the Spice Bazaar. I am now the proud owner of more earrings and some turkish delights. yum. We stopped for a trip lunch in an air-conditioned cafe. At 29C and humid we felt relieved. The Galata bridge provided an opportunity to watch the fishermen try their luck and a nice breeze.

Our last stop and probably the most memorable is the Galata Tower, a structure with a history almost as long as Istanbul's. The tower was used as a fire alert, a ship lookout, a slave house, an astronomy tower, a prison and now a tourist attraction with a nightclub at the very top. The most significant thing is the 360 degree view of Istanbul. I have a panorama but you'll notice where i made a mistake in the angles of the picture. Still fairly impressive given the number of touristy people trying to push me out of the way.

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