I have been back in Texas for almost a week, and my dear father in law gently reminded me that I have left my faithful readers on the edge of their seats, waiting to hear about Istanbul. I do apologize!
The flight from Paris to Istanbul was a mere 3 hours and 15 minutes, most of which I slept, having left my apartment early that morning to catch the shuttle to Orly airport. After landing in Istanbul, we were met by a driver who whisked us off to our hotel and our smiling tour guide, Cassandra, from Ottoman Passport. Cassandra is a long-time friend and is just as crazy about Turkey as I am about France. She spent a year before college living with a Turkish family (with whom she still keeps in touch) and Istanbul has held a very special place in her heart ever since. She shares her passion for Istanbul with those who would like a private tour guide in that amazing city. There were eight Houstonians in my group, the maximum size she leads, and we all were charmed by the exoticism of Istanbul, which felt a world away from Paris.
I did not take notes during my stay, and I do not have the benefit of a guide-book to refresh my ever waning memory, so many of the photos will be unidentified. Just enjoy them and don’t worry yourself about the details!
Istanbul is full of mosques, most (all?) of which had these elegant spires, called “minarets”. As we rode from the airport to the hotel, we were awed by the number of minarets in the city sky line. Our visits to the mosques will be a lasting memory. Everyone had to remove their shoes before entering, and women had to cover their heads. Yes, women are allowed in the mosques, but are relegated to a small area behind the men and behind a screen of some kind. What’s up with that, anyway?
While I loved seeing the mosques, my favorite church turned mosque turned museum was the Church of the Holy Saviour In Chora, a Byzantine church built around 1080. Between 1315 and 1321 the interior was decorated with fabulous mosaics and frescos, which were covered in plaster in the 16th century when the church was converted to a mosque. Later, the plaster was removed, and the building was turned into a museum in 1948. The surviving mosaics and frescos are stunning, despite damage from the plaster, earthquakes, and age.
I don’t want to overwhelm you with Istanbul all in one swoop, so stay tuned for future installments, same Bat channel, same Bat time.
Over and out.
P.S. – Cassandra of Ottoman Passport is a homie but she did not compensate me for promoting her on this here blog o’mine. Of course, if she wanted to bring me back a fabulous carpet, we could probably work something out. Not really.