We set out to walk from our hotel down to the Spice Market this morning. It took us about 30 minutes. It would have taken less if one of us did not insist on actually stopping to look in windows rather than simply glancing on the way past.
The Mısır Çarşıs (Spice Bazaar) was less busy than when we visited last year. We spent a good bit of time there and visited many shops and fended off many shopkeepers. We found some helpful people as well. It is always nice when someone wants to share what they know with you for no other reason than hospitality or friendliness. At one spice shop the helper told us how to cook with many of the spices and what he liked to use them for. When Patricia wanted to buy small amounts of spice (the minimum was 100 grams and she wanted 50) he said “For you, madam, I break the rules.” Part of the pitch, no doubt, but he was enormously gracious while we picked the 9 different spices we wanted to take home. At another place we bought a number of different kinds of tea and got the same patient service which seems amazing in the hustle and bustle all around. It was interesting to note that the good English seemed to disappear when we said all done, no more. Just look at this one more tea; you want Iranian caviar? You want saffron? Come look, lady.
We took the tram back to Sultanahmet Square which saved us a slightly uphill walk. After dropping our purchases in our room, we headed out to the Basilica Cisterns. They are called that because they are close to the Hagia Sophia, which was once a Basilica. After fighting our way through a tour group to get down the stairs (darned tourists) we spent an hour or so walking around and taking pictures. Patricia, who last year didn’t want to visit the cisterns, was an enthusiastic director: this would be a perfect place for a picture; quick, there is no one in the way; can you get this? I had planned to use a tripod to get pictures because the light is dim but no sooner than I took the tripod out, a guard came over and told me “no.” He followed me around for a bit just to make sure. Nevertheless, we got some good images.
On the way to the Archeological Museum we stopped for a bite of lunch. Patricia had wanted to try Turkish pancakes and we saw a place where they were prepared in the front window. They are a traditional food. Think of a quesadilla with fillings. The pancakes are similar to tortillas. The cook rolls out balls of dough (it looks like dough to me) and spreads on the fillings such as spinach, cheese, potatoes, or minced meat or a combination and covers that with another rolled-out piece of dough. They were doing a land-office business and we enjoyed ours.
The Archeological Museum (begun in 1891) should be considered one of the treasures of Istanbul. It is large, it is clean, the exhibits are all clearly labeled in Turkish and English, and the entrance fee is nominal. The real treasure is the exhibits themselves. We only spent about an hour and a half there and saw only a tiny fraction of the displays. The rooms on the part of the first floor we visited are laid out in chronological order. What we saw was an amazing collection of statues and friezes and reliefs from the 6th century B.C. to about the 2nd century A.D. Each room had an introduction area that told us from where and when the pieces came. And, they let visitors TAKE PICTURES of these treasures. I could easily spend an entire day looking and taking photos, but I know I would suffer information overload long before the day was over. I took a quick pass through part of the second floor and discovered an area devoted to artifacts from the different layers of Troy—a part of history that fascinates me. Everything was so clearly labeled that there was no confusion.
On the way out to find Patricia I went into another area called the “necropolis of Sidon” which held monumental sarcophagi from a period of several hundred years. I was struck by the beauty of these monuments. The amount of work they must have taken and the great expense to create them are still clear after more than 2000 years.
We went to dinner at a the House of Medusa Restaurant. We found it last year and it was a treat to visit it again this year. On the way back to the Empress Zoe we got a couple of nice pictures of the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque.
A full day again, but one we enjoyed a great deal.
Today’s pictures start here.