The thing is, once you start uploading photos, you realise you can save yourself thousands of words. Especially when the Art Student / Photographer is keen to have her work seen. So here goes, with Day 4’s dot points:
- Breakfast at our new hotel was a bit of a people-watching moment. It may be that breakfast is in two sittings – an early one for guests whose womenfolk veil their faces in public, and a later one for the rest. We arrived at the very start of our allotted time to find meals well under way at two tables. The niqab must come off for breakfasting purposes, and one young woman in a hijab had a huge floppy hat on over it – in the street this would have looked like a slightly awkward way of shading one’s face, but indoors at breakfast it seemed to be more of an identity statement: I wear the hijab but it doesn’t define me.
- We caught the tram. Each tram is three linked vehicles the size of a Melbourne tram, they come every five minutes or so and are always crowded. A phenomenal number of people are moved around this way. As we moved out of the old city, the demographic changed dramatically – the niqabs that are everywhere in Sultanahbad (the area around the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi) almost completely disappeared.
- We walked the better part of a kilometre along along the Theodosian Walls, originally built at the command of Emperor Theodosius II in the fifth century CE, finally breached by Sultan Mehmet II, Fatih, in 1453, and a now standing reminder of that great triumph.
- After bickering over the map and receiving helpful advice from a complete stranger who called out to us from 20 yards away, we reached the Church of St Saviour in Chora, aka the Kariye Camii. From the outside it could be any beautiful old Byzantine church of modest proportions that had been converted into a mosque:
We bought orange juices at the inevitable café cum souvenir shop, paying seven times as much as we had in Karaköy a couple of days before. Then we went inside to be blown away by what John Freely says are ‘the most important series of Byzantine paintings in the world’. I don’t know anything about important, but these frescoes and mosaics, executed in the 14th century, were covered by plaster rather than scratched out in Islamic times, and the ones that survived earthquakes and other disasters are, well, look:
Just look at the tension in Christ’s body as he drags whoever that is out of the tomb.
- Another long walk, a ferry that turned out to be non-existent, a cheerful scene of families picnicking (it was Sunday) beside the Golden Horn, evidently oblivious if the garbage littering their waterside park, a taksi ride (see how I’m picking up some Turkish vocab?) back to more familiar territory.
- We tried for a second cultural outing, to the Dolmabahçe Sarayi, but we hadn’t reckoned on the Sunday crowds. The queue was possibly the biggest and slowest-moving I’ve ever seen. Rather than wait in line for at least two hours we caught the tram back to the air conditioning.
That was yesterday. I’ll post about today tomorrow.