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Wednesday 25 September 2013

[Tuesday 24 September 2013]

07:00–18:00 Istanbul, Turkey

Day 268 Wednesday 25 September Ezra 7-10

Cruise News








Explore Ashore




The cabin temperature was higher, so I felt nice and warm in bed. Janet had set the alarm for 6.30am. Not sure whether we’d actually moored up at that point and looked out of the porthole shore-side and at a “Welcome to İstanbul” sign; or whether we were still moving, with all land features in the distance. I remember looking out at the latter at some point after it had become light. We went down for breakfast ca.7.30am. The queue waiting in the main Lido restaurant was out of the door, so we went out on deck. Most of the tables were occupied, but we found a place; and there was no-one lined up at the buffet. I had: orange juice; Rice Krispies; peeled, sliced grapefruit pieces; bacon, sausage and baked beans; and coffee.… We were checked out with our boarding cards both by the ship’s staff and then by the Turkish officials in the small terminal building; then we left the compound into the adjacent coach park, where we were pointed to coach №14 (or whatever) that was for our choice of excursion: “Taste of Istanbul: Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Cistern”. But someone handing out stickers gave us one for coach №15 which was also doing the same tour. At least we didn’t have to walk around with a sticker proclaiming “Trumpy Tours!” [as on 27 Aug. 2013]. Our guide… got on and introduced herself as “Saliha”. (I later saw from her identification-badge that it was “Saliha Kismet”.) She issued short-range radio receivers and earpieces to everyone, and we set off. First stop was as near to the Blue Mosque[i] as the coach could get, and Saliha led us the short distance on foot to it. The story was that the charge, that it was sacrilege against Mecca to equal the number of minarets that the mosque there had, was countered with the excuse that the Sultan asked his architect for gold (altın) minarets but he misheard and built six (altı). The noise of crickets, ubiquitous on our first visit to Turkey, was conspicuously absent.
[i] Popular name for the mosque, built 1609–1616, of Sultan Ahmed I (b.1519, sultan of the Ottoman Empire 1603–1617)


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 08:56:56
The Tomb of Sultan Ahmed I


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 08:57:22
The Tomb of Sultan Ahmed I — information posted outside


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 08:59:48
Entrance to the outer courtyard of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 08:59:18
Calligraphy at the entrance


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:01:04
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:01:32
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:02:10
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — entrance to the inner courtyard


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:02:58
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — purification fountains to the right of the entrance

Outside were later-added purification fountains, but inside there was still in the centre of the courtyard a now-disused covered fountain reminiscent of Mohammad Ali Mosque in Cairo (which also was Ottoman-style). We joined the queue which snaked round three sides of the courtyard; and at the entrance, low so one had to stoop slightly to pass through, there was a blue-carpeted step up, just before which we had to take our shoes off and put them in a little plastic bag that had been provided. Janet had donned her “babushka” and was let through; other women of our party had to cover up with sizable rectangles of cloth that were handed to them.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:05:12
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — old purification fountain in the centre of the inner courtyard


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:05:52
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — entrance to the mosque interior


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:07:02
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — vaulted arcade and one of the six minarets


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:07:02
Detail of 09:07:02 showing the moon


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:12:06
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:18:16
Removing shoes


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:18:16, detail
Saliha Kismet, our guide

The central dome was supported by four extremely thick fluted columns — by “extremely” I mean perhaps the widest columns I’d ever seen in such a structure. (No, I guess the ones in Karnak Temple were wider.) I’ve seen wider brick or stone-block built supports. There were other supporting columns elsewhere, reused from earlier structures. There were semi-domes surrounding the central dome, and galleries with semi-domes around some of those. Decorations were geometric, floral and calligraphic. There were stained-glass windows in the prayer-direction. Saliha gathered us and explained things from time to time, here, and in the other sites we visited.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:19:40
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:19:56
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:20:14
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:20:34
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:25:08
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:26:08
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:26:44
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:27:06
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:33:52
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca), and to the right of it the minber (pulpit)


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:37:22
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — stained-glass windows


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:38:10
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — stained-glass windows


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:38:22
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — stained-glass windows


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:40:18
Sultan Ahmed Mosque — muezzin’s tribune


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:40:30
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:41:00
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:41:12
Sultan Ahmed Mosque

After leaving there we walked a few hundred yards to Hagia Sophia, built as a church (the third on that site), turned into a mosque, and latterly a museum.[ii] The complex structure of main dome and subsidiary domes of this basilica-style church reminded me of the model of St. John’s basilica on the site at Selçuk, and I wondered whether there was archaeological evidence for domes originally on the latter, or whether they’d just modelled it on this early church-building style.

[ii] From its inauguration in 537 till 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 1453 until 1931. It was then secularised and opened as a museum in 1935.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:55:02
Hagia Sophia, ahead


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 09:56:28
Sultan Ahmed Mosque, behind


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:00:12
Looking right: End of the bath-house situated between Sultan Ahmed Mosque and Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:00:50
Looking left: fountain


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:03:20
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:09:50
Hagia Sophia — entrance


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:10:02
Hagia Sophia

After obtaining and issuing tickets to us, Saliha led us into first one narthex, then another, before we entered the domed and galleried nave. The domes were supported by angled masonry (or brick?) pillars and arches, not round columns. On these pillars near each arch were large shields with calligraphic Arabic letters on them, but under the surrounding semi-domes and elsewhere there were the remains of Christian art, covered, e.g. with whitewash when the place was a mosque, and latterly revealed. Much of the nave was obscured by the scaffolding of restoration work.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:18:34
Hagia Sophia — outer narthex


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:39:26
Hagia Sophia — inner narthex


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:39:40
Hagia Sophia — inner narthex


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:39:56
Hagia Sophia — inner narthex


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:40:40
Hagia Sophia — lunette above the centre portal in the inner narthex


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:40:40
Hagia Sophia — same photo, straightened up


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:43:02
Hagia Sophia — about to enter the nave through the centre portal


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:47:16
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:48:18
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:48:28
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:48:46
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:51:04
Hagia Sophia — seraph, completely covered by the Ottomans


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:50:50
Hagia Sophia — seraph, restored


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:51:24
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:54:48
Hagia Sophia — upper gallery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:55:14
Hagia Sophia

Saliha led us to a side-room, where she showed us the “wishing column”, covered with brass plates one of which had a hole in the middle. Supposedly, if one puts one’s finger into the hole then touches the place where one has a disease one is healed.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 10:59:28
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:00:06
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:00:16
Hagia Sophia — “wishing column”

Above the door to the richly decorated exit corridor, on the corridor side, was a lunette with much gold in evidence depicting a centrally enthroned Mary carrying the Christ child, with Justinian on the left side presenting a domed church to her, and Constantine on the right presenting a battlemented castle. Their names were in Greek, as was “ΜΡ” and “ΘΥ” either side of Mary’s head. I was surprised to see “Mother of God” (Μήτηρ Θεού) thus abbreviated in Greek; I thought that “Mother of God” was a Latin designation, and that “Θεοτόκος” was the Greek form.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:03:24
Hagia Sophia — Virgin and Child flanked by Justinian I and Constantine I


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:03:24
Hagia Sophia — same photo, straightened up


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:03:50
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:05:14
Hagia Sophia

We went next to the baptistery, where the font was provided with steps for the candidate to actually get into the water.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:06:50
Hagia Sophia — baptistery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:07:18
Hagia Sophia — baptistery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:08:00
Hagia Sophia — next to the baptistery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:08:26
Hagia Sophia — next to the baptistery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:10:54
Hagia Sophia — purification fountain

We had about 20 minutes’ free time after that, and while Janet went to queue for the ladies’, I decided to hurry as fast as my legs and the crowds would permit, up the many, many-flighted ramp to the upper gallery to look around, and then back down a similar set of ramps (this one also had steps in one or two places) back again.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:14:26
Hagia Sophia — ramp to the upper gallery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:16:16
Hagia Sophia — upper gallery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:17:38
Hagia Sophia — View from the upper gallery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:17:58
Hagia Sophia — View from the upper gallery


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:19:00
Hagia Sophia — marble door


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:21:26
Hagia Sophia — ramp to the ground floor

I still just had time to go round to the WC. The gents’ queue was much shorter than the ladies’. The man at the urinal next to me, similarly to me, was equipped with radio and earpiece. He was evidently French, because when his earpiece accidentally fell into the pissoir he exclaimed, “Eh, merde alors!” then muttered, “Mon Dieu!” Not far from there, with a short march involving traversing the tramway on the busy street at a light-controlled pedestrian crossing, was the entrance to the sixth-century cisterns. Across the road from there was a wooden building, which seemed typical of a number I’d seen earlier from the coach on our way through that part of the city. Saliha again obtained and issued tickets, and we descended into the cavernous cisterns, the roof of which was supported by hundreds of columns.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:51:20
Typical Istanbul wooden building


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:51:28
Entrance to the Basilica Cistern


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:55:26
Basilica Cistern


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 11:58:02
Basilica Cistern

She took us to a place where there were two carved faces of Medusa, one oriented sideways and one completely inverted supposedly to negate the petrifying effect of looking at her.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 12:02:50
Medusa column base 1: sideways Medusa


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 12:02:58
Medusa column base 1: sideways Medusa


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 12:03:34
Medusa column base 2: upside-down Medusa


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 12:08:26
Basilica Cistern


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 12:09:52
Basilica Cistern

After that we were returned by the coach to the pick-up point, ca.12.30pm. We’d hoped to have something to drink (and I to eat) before our next trip without boarding the ship, but there was no provision at the small terminal building, so we went through security scans, etc., and reboarded the ship. Janet had Diet Coke and I a ginger beer at Hemingway’s Bar, before we checked out again and went for our 1.15pm rendezvous (for 1.30pm set-off) at the coach park. We had “№17” stickers this time. We boarded the coach (13:11:38, below), which set off a little before 1.30pm.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:11:38
Starting the second excursion

It only took us a short distance before we got off, walked to the river boat and boarded. Our Turkish guide — she gave her name but I’ve forgotten it — gave a commentary on the loudspeaker as we proceeded.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:28:00
Boarding the boat for the Bosphorus tour


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:28:10
Seen while waiting to board: jellyfish


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:32:20
Seen from the boat

I started taking photos from the starboard side, but when it was plain that we going to go along the left bank, “the European side”, then cross over and turn back along “the Asian side”, I switched to taking them from the port side of the boat.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:35:16
View to starboard


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:38:32
View to starboard — MS Thomson Celebration


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:41:02
The Bosphorus Bridge, ahead

What confused me was that I’d taken a photo of the Thomson Celebration from the starboard side — but wasn’t that the Asian side? I thought that we were moored, and that the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia were, on the European side. We passed under the Bosphorus suspension bridge, then went on to a second suspension bridge spanning the Bosphorus—


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:41:52
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:42:58
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:42:58
Detail of 13:42:58


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:44:04
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:45:12
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:45:12
Detail of 13:45:12


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:45:42
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:45:42
Detail 1 of 13:45:42


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:45:42
Detail 2 of 13:45:42


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:45:58
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:48:48
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:50:00
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:49:52
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:50:32
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:52:02
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:53:26
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:53:44
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 13:54:06
Views to port: European side — Bosphorus Bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:00:16
View ahead: Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:00:16
Detail 1 of 14:00:16


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:00:16
Detail 2 of 14:00:16


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:03:16
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:05:46
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:08:30
Views to port: European side (Asian side visible ahead)


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:09:46
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:10:20
Views to port: European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:10:32
Views to port: European side

—before turning back and going along the Asian side.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:12:18
Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:13:26
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:15:52
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:17:12
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:17:12
Detail of 14:17:12


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:17:54
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:19:18
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:22:16
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:23:44
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:25:02
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:28:00
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:31:44
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:32:10
Views to port: Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:36:10
Views to port: Asian side — mosque and church side by side.

The mystery was solved when we went across the opening to the Sea of Marmara before returning to our starting point. I’d not realised that there was a long, relatively narrow inlet of the sea on the European side, the so-called “Golden Horn”, where our ship was moored, so both sides of that were “the European side”. Outward, I’d been so intent looking out from the port side that I’d missed the Sea of Marmara on the starboard side.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:40:44
Left, Asian side; centre to right, Eminönü (the peninsula on which stand Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque)


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:41:12
Right, cruise ships moored north-east of the Golden Horn; left, Eminönü peninsula, south of the Golden Horn


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:41:30
Left of centre, opening to the Sea of Marmara; centre to right, Eminönü peninsula


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:42:58
Maiden’s Tower, with the Sea of Marmara beyond

The story goes that a sultan had a much beloved daughter, and when an oracle prophesied that she would be killed by a venomous snake he had the tower built in the middle of the Bosphorus to protect her, where only he visited her. On her 18th birthday, though, he brought her a basket of exotic fruits, and an asp hiding in the fruit bit her and she died in his arms.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:43:22
Asian side and Maiden’s Tower


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:45:10
MS Thomson Celebration, moored on the Eminönü side of the Golden Horn


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:50:32
Approaching the Golden Horn…


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:51:32
…and the Galata Bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:51:56
Galata Bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:52:40
Galata Bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:53:34
The new Metro bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:54:16
The new Metro bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:55:08
Approaching shore


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 14:56:46
Back ashore

The short way back to the ship was lengthened considerably by the distance we had to walk to where the coach was parked, and the time we spent queued behind heavy traffic on Istanbul’s streets. Vendors were weaving between the lanes of traffic trying to sell their wares.


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 15:18:26
Slow-going back to the ship

We were back on board just after 3.30pm. We went to the cabin briefly, then sat on deck outside the Lido for drinks. I had a couple of slices of pizza. The ship set out ca.4.30pm. I went up to the uppermost deck, but the batteries failed as soon as I wanted to take a photo. I’d only changed them that morning, yet the red warning light had been coming on since the afternoon. So I hurried down deck after deck to find Janet, who could tell me where the spare batteries were. If Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque were the iconic landmarks of Istanbul, I’d wondered why they hadn’t been visible except when we went to them by coach. But to enter the Sea of Marmara on our way back through the Dardanelles we rounded the promontory, on one side of which we’d been moored, and there they were on the other side!


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 16:50:12
Heading into the Sea of Marmara: Eminönü peninsula on the European side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 16:50:54
Heading into the Sea of Marmara: the Asian side


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 16:51:42
Heading into the Sea of Marmara — Topkapı Palace on the Eminönü peninsula


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 16:52:00
Heading into the Sea of Marmara:— Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque on the Eminönü peninsula


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 16:55:32
Topkapı Palace


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 16:56:08
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 16:58:08
Sultan Ahmed Mosque


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 17:02:00
Hagia Sophia


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 17:02:24
Topkapı Palace


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 17:04:40
View back towards the Bosphorus from the Sea of Marmara: the towers of the Bosphorus Bridge; and more distant, the towers of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 17:07:00
View back, Eminönü peninsula, and cruise ship emerging from its berth on the far side of the Golden Horn


Wednesday 25 September 2013 — 17:08:52
View back, similar to 17:07:00

I went back to the cabin ca.5.10pm, and Janet was there. She’d been to Hemingway’s Bar and had returned. Copied today’s 150-odd photos from the camera (17:32–17:36), but didn’t do any editing, apart from rotating those intended to be in “portrait” aspect (23:40–00:18), so that I could view them as an aid to diary-writing. We went to dinner ca.5.45pm, and again I helped myself from various buffet items without losing appetite, as on previous holidays. We returned to the cabin, then went to Hemingway’s to hear a solo guitarist. But he just seemed to improvise and didn’t play any tunes we knew. What seemingly started as “Blackbird” later sounded a bit like “Here Comes the Sun”. His performance was indifferent, and his audience was distracted by conversation and indifferent to him. He went off before the scheduled 7.45pm. A pianist appeared after him, gave a better account of himself, and attracted some applause. We returned to the cabin ca.9pm. The cabin was too hot, but several minutes after Janet fiddled with the control knob, cooler air started to come through the circular ceiling-vent. Janet had a shower, and I lay on the bed and listened to the Beatles (The Yellow Submarine Songbook) and other music items, before resuming diary update, with the help of Janet’s journal. Janet went to bed, 10.30pm-ish; I carried on till 01:13 when I decided to go to bed.

[Thursday 26 September 2013]



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