Jessica is still showing Renaud and me the sights of Istanbul. It is a huge, interesting city, but I am not sure I can make it interesting to you as well. I will just try to hit the highlights of a day in the life of an American explorer here.
As I've said before, often the best things are those found unexpectedly by serendipity. We were in a very low rent section of the city when I happened to spot a crowd of men, some of whom were flying doves held by their little feet by a long cord. The gathering looked wild and filthy: like something from the dim past. This picture doesn't really set the mood -- it cleans the place up too nicely.
It was all men --not a woman in sight, and especially not one wearing shorts. I wasn't sure Jessica would go in, and I wasn't sure I wanted her to. They had cages and cages of birds What do they do with them? Eat them? Bet on them as homing pigeons? I still don't know.
They were proud of their birds and willing to show them off. By the way: not only were there no women in shorts in the compound, but no men in shorts either. I always wear long pants in Muslim countries.
As we walked along, Jessica led us to a busy, busy Muslim mosque. It was packed with people.
Above it, on the hill in the back, was a huge cemetery with Muslim, Ottoman and Byzantine graves dating from way back in history all the way up to last year. It was a beautiful oasis in the noisy city.
I was interested in some of the plaques mounted on the cemetery walls. I think, but don't know for sure, that they held quotations from the Quran (Koran).
At the top of the cemetery was an outdoor restaurant where we had the national drink, tea, and ice cream. The view out across the city from up there was breathtaking.
But for a shift in scenery, lets go underground, down where the huge cisterns are.
These things (there are several) were built back in Roman times by the Christian Emperor, Justinian the Great, who began the Byzantine Empire and helped start the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. He had these cisterns built to supply water for the growing city of Constantinople, and brought in water by aqueducts leading down from the forests in Hungary.
Afterwards, the cisterns were forgotten, and only rediscovered many years later, in our own times, by people how found they could drop buckets through holes in their basements and draw up water and sometime fish. Look closely at the picture above, and you can see some carp. There are a bunch of them down there.
This cistern, or reservoir, was only opened to the public recently, but since then it has found its way into several books and movies. It is just as I pictured it as I read about it in novels.
I got interested in the reflections down there.
I suppose the real life of the city is above ground, in the many mosques, the few churches, and the thousands of shops and bazaars, of which, the "Spice Bazaar must be one of the best.
Want to make some perfume?
This busy bazaar certainly smells good (I bet you can't tell that it smells good from this video).
From up there you can see the "Golden Horn" sticking out into the Bosporus, with all its marvelous mosques and palaces and the Sea of Marmara back behind it all.
Only a couple of days more here, and then we head toward Greece, I on my motorcycle and they in a bus. We are going there to climb Mt. Olympus. I think that will be fun.
Goodnight from Ron in Istanbul.