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Saturday, 31 May 2014

All Roads Lead to Ephesus

Ephesus is the holy grail of tourists in Turkey, the must-see sight.  It has a rare full façade of a building rather than a forest of column fragments.  But do travellers really know why they should go there?  Should all travellers’ roads lead to Ephesus?

Ephesus - Why is it Important?

Library of Celsus and Double Arch
Library of Celsus and Double Arch
Yes, your road should go to Ephesus, preferably in off-season.  Started as an Ionian (Greek) colony in the 10th century BC, it was conquered by the Persians (547 BC).  Ephesus was situated at the beginning of the Persian Royal Road, which led to Persia and continued east – it later came to be known as the Silk Road!  So all roads did lead to Ephesus!  

When Augustus became emperor in 27 BC, he made Ephesus the capital of the province of Asia instead of Pergamum.  As the third largest city of the Roman Empire, it was famous for the Temple of Artemis (Diana), the largest temple ever built and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Like most archaeological sites it has only a jumble of columns left.  

However, Ephesus has enough remains to give you a sense of the grandeur of the city.  What you may not know is that several of the artefacts have been reconstructed so that you can see facades, arches and mosaics. 

Day 9: You can “do” Ephesus in a half day or you can experience it by spending all day.  But contrary to what we were told, all the tour groups came first thing in the morning.  It actually was better at lunch time when everyone goes out to eat.  The midday and afternoon would be too hot during peak season but is not a problem in the offseason. 

Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus: Greek inspired niches and statues
Greek inspired niches and statues
Fortunately we went in the lower entrance of Ephesus first thing in the morning and made it to Celsus with only a handful of people there.  I took photos right away. 

The interior of the Library of Celsus (built c. 120 CE) and all its 12,000 books (i.e. scrolls as they did not have paper yet) were destroyed by fire in the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 262. 

The façade was carefully reconstructed during the 1960s and 1970s using the original pieces.  On the right, the double marble gate (3 BC) into the agora (marketplace) is also the result of restoration. 

The inset frames and niches for statues in the façade shows the influence of ancient Greek architecture, in particular the skênê (the origin of the English word “scene”) of ancient Greek theatres.  This was the building behind the stage used for scene and costume changing.  The skênê building is missing at Ephesus so visit the Hierapolis photos for really great example. 

Curetes Way


Curetes Way View
Curetes Way View
Then we went uphill to the upper agora and upper entrance of Ephesus. After the small but photogenic Odeon theatre we walked down the Curetes Way with good views of the processional way with Celsus in the background. The colonnaded sides would have been packed with small shops (some things have not changed).

Curetes Way: scratches in the marble
Note the scratches in the otherwise slick marble-paved road. This was to provide better traction. The paving stones that are not marble are part of the restoration. There are some nice bas reliefs along the way. 

Note: to get a better view of the scratches, click on this or any other image to see a slide show of the photos in a larger size. 


Monument of Memmius
Monument of Memmius

Monument of Memmius

Curetes leads to what must have been an impressive monument, the Monument of Memmius. The Ephesians supported a five-year revolt by the Greek world (i.e. Greece and Turkey) against over-bearing Rome in which everyone who spoke Latin was massacred – as many as 80,000 in one night.

The Monument of Memmius was erected by Dictator (another word from Latin) Sulla (86 BC) to memorialize this event and to emphasize Roman authority in Ephesus.  


Nike bas relief
Nike bas relief
There are only a few sculptures left on the Ephesus site. On the ground next to Memmius, the Nike bas relief is one of the more evocative ones.   Nike is the Greek goddess of strength, speed and victory. Nike is the origin of the names Nicholas, Nicole, Nils as well as the Nike running shoes. 

Ephesus Terrace Homes

Terrace Home mosaic and frescoed walls
Terrace Home mosaic and frescoed walls
The Terrace Homes were houses occupied by wealthy citizens or priests of noble lineage. They are also another example of the government charging extra for a site within a national park or monument.  Is it worth going? 

The floors display beautiful mosaics and the partial walls are adorned by frescoes.  On huge tables are hundreds of thousands of pieces of mosaics that are being re-constructed like a jigsaw puzzle.  
The mosaics are probably in better condition than at Pompeii but somehow I felt a letdown at the Terrace Homes.   Part of the problem is that the signs give only very dry facts and mainly extol the donors for the restoration.  They do not explain what you are seeing or give you an interesting story. Interpretive pamphlets and/or signs are essential for educating the public on life in ancient times. 
Latrines: view of Celsus not included
Latrines: view of Celsus not included


The Temple of Hadrian is closed for reconstruction so continue into the Latrines just before Celsus.  The city had one of the most advanced, multiple aqueduct systems in the ancient world.  Use of the latrine was restricted to men, who paid a fee on entrance. Public latrines were built in order to obtain the uric acid used in tanning sheep and goat skins in the tanneries.


Ephesus Theatre

Ephesus Theatre seats 25,000 people
Can you imagine 25,000 people cheering in this Theatre?

The Marble Way continues the short distance from the Library of Celsus to the Theatre. Seating 25,000 people, it was the largest outdoor theatre in the ancient world.   By the way, the Roman Colosseum was a closed (and covered) amphitheatre and sat c. 75,000 people. The Ephesus theatre was used for drama; but later, gladiatorial combats were also held here.

Decline of Ephesus

But why did the 3rd largest city of the Roman Empire fade away?  Part of the answer lies at the end of the 11 meter (36 feet) wide avenue from the theatre to the port.  But where is the water?  

Homeros Pension dining room
Homeros Pension dining room
The Küçük Menderes (Little Meander) River delta silted up the harbour.  The sea is now 8 km away. This led to marshes, mosquitos and thus malaria.  Now throw in some earthquakes and the sack by the Arabs in 700 and 716, and Ephesus declined into obscurity. 

Homeros Pension

Each night we met many fellow travellers at the home-like Homeros Pension.  We all ate together in the quaint dining room and stayed after supper talking.  Lars from Denmark has made a career as a yachtsman, and has sailed and travelled around the world.  He has been working in Bodrum but calls spectacular Mallorca his home.  He showed us his superb people pictures that he took while living in Turkey. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

All Roads Lead to Ephesus via Selçuk

The small town of Selçuk is a good base for a three-day exploration of the surrounding sights.  It is only 3 km away from Ephesus, the capital of the Asian province of the Roman Empire, and 8 km from Şirince.  But do all roads lead to Ephesus?  

Dilay at Red Basilica Pension
Dilay at Red Basilica Pension

From Bergama to Ephesus

Day 8: Before we left, we had a delightful breakfast of egg, tomatoes, olives, nuts, simit (sesame seed bread) and jams and especially a luscious cheese at the Red Basilica Hotel in Bergama.  Dilay was a charming host/manager and we had a long chat.  
According to our Itinerary Map, it was supposed to take three hours to travel 175 km to Selçuk. But we got lost. When we approached Izmir there was no sign for either Selçuk or Ephesus. Did I mention that road signs are not geared to tourists?  Next time we will have to be aware of what is the next important towns along the highway – clearly Selçuk and Kuşadası don’t count.
We ended up missing the bypass expressway and had to drive through Izmir, Turkey's third largest city's. The nice surprise was that the buildings climbed dramatically up a steep and long hill giving us great view all along the expressway through the whole city of 4 million people.  By the way, the traffic moved much more smoothly than in Istanbul. 


Şirince Village View
Şirince View from Museum Parking Lot
Selçuk by contrast is a quiet town with 28,213 people compared to the alternative, the touristy town of Kuşadası. We decided to spend the afternoon in Şirince, 8 km away.  There is a clear sign for Şirince going east off the main boulevard, Ataturk Caddesi. Unfortunately we got lost again as there was no sign to turn left at Şht. Er Yüksel Özülkü Cd.  The road soon leaves the town and travels through green farmland.  
Şirince Houses
Follow the Grey Stone Road

Şirince is a 19th century Greek (until 1924) hill town famous for white buildings, olive oil, and fruit wine.  Many shops offer tasters and sell bottles of wine  as well as oils and other knick-knacks.  Many restaurants line the streets, especially around the museum area.  Its 600 inhabitants are totally overwhelmed by thousands of tourists. And so will you be. 
Ignoring the commercialism down the main road, I walked through the narrow paths in the village.  There were some quaint buildings and stone paths that were just made for photography.  Many of the restored buildings are now pensions or restaurants. 


Homeros Pension Bedroom
Homeros  Fairy Tale Bedroom or Craft Museum?
We stayed at Homeros Pension, which has an excellent location a two blocks north along the museum road behind the tourist office, then one and a half blocks NW.  The manager/chef was very friendly and we had a long chat on the roof-top terrace when we arrived. 
The building with the dining room is a cozy Ottoman house.   Every room was crammed full of classic furniture and crafts. 

Homeros Pension Dining Room with the Brits
Homeros Pension Dining Room with the Brits
We ate our suppers at Homeros: There were some very good home-made dishes.  But the best part was that this was a great time to meet and talk with other people from Argentina to Australia.

As soon as we walked into the dining room, Bob from England (on the right side) said hello and introduced himself and everyone else to us. Bob is never at a loss of words and has lots of entertaining stories.  He is a regular visitor to Homeros and Turkey.  His daughter and Turkish in-laws live nearby. 

Shirley and Ken from Australia are on an eight-month Round-The-World (RTW) trip. They are experienced travellers. Shirley writes her personal impressions on her travels in a private blog.  Ken worked in cartography and land titles and at one point their family lived in Bangkok while he worked for the Thai government. 

It felt like we were on our RTW backpack trip. Interestingly, it was the older folks that were the friendliest.

Last  Post: Pergamon Acropolis (Day 7)
Next Post: All Roads Lead to Ephesus (Day 9)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Pergamon Acropolis

What to See in Pergamon

The acropolis of the ancient Greek and Roman city of Pergamon is a small but dramatic site worth seeing on the way to the Turquoise Coast.  Many significant sculptures and architecture from Pergamon are found in museums in Turkey and Europe. 
Day 7: We crawled through the heavy traffic of Turkey's fourth largest city, Bursa.  Once outside the city limits, we enjoyed the easy driving on the excellent six-lane divided highway D200.
Along secondary road 10-51
Along secondary road 10-51
Alas all good things have to end.  Using our Google Map to select the route, we exited the D265 and turned south on the secondary road 10-51 to Savaştepe.  Wow, we saw our first (and only) pothole but also there were very few cars.  
The scenery dramatically improved with rolling green hills dotted with trees.  Oh and it was our first sunny day of the trip.  But there was no place to stop to take pictures – it was a two lane road with no shoulders.  We rejoined major highway D240 near Soma, where a recent disaster took the lives of 301 coal miners.  

Note: click on any image to see a slide show of the photos in a larger size. 

Pergamon  Acropolis

Acropolis above Bergama
Ancient Pergamon above Sunset-lit Bergama
Finally, 270.3 km and 4.5 hours later, we saw a rocky outcropping with ruins from the highway.  We had arrived at Bergama so we drove the very steep, narrow road to the top of ancient Greek city of Pergamon.  There is a very small parking area with only one other car (off-season) but those without cars can take the teleferik from the city to the same parking lot.  
View from Pergamon Acropolis parking lot
Time Travel 2000 Years Back to the Pergamon Acropolis
It was exhilarating that when we arrived at our first ancient ruin the sun had blessed us.  But best of all, the setting was special.   I climbed just a little up the hill to get photos of the gorgeous island-studded lake formed by a dam.  I hope there is something in the charter of the UNESCO that guarantees no development within eyesight of a World Heritage Site (WHS).  This is the way things should stay.   It felt like we had been transported back to ancient times.  Well, at least until we turned around and skirted past the small tourist shop area.  

Walking up a steep new wood ramp, there was only one tour group in the central piazza and soon after they had left.  This square with views of Bergama is actually a platform supported by arches that provides a level surface for the huge Temple for Trajan and Hadrian.  

Alone in the ruins of the temple, I took my photos right way.   One of the signs shows an artist’s drawing of what the complex looked like. It must have been amazing. The three standing columns and the pediment are evocative.  

What is the Significance of Trajan and Hadrian?

Why is there a temple to Trajan and Hadrian?  The Romans followed the custom of deifying an emperor. This came from Alexander the Great, who in turn, adopted it from eastern cultures.  This is another example of how the East has been influencing the West and vice-versa for many centuries.
Trajan (ruled 98-117 CE) achieved the peak territory in 117 CE.  The Roman Empire stretched from Morocco to Mesopotamia, from Britain to Armenia.  N.B.: it is not the largest empire in world history.

Pergamon Temple of Trajan


Pergamon Temple of Trajan
Stand in Awe inside the Temple of Trajan
While Pergamon was originally an ancient Greek city, it rose to importance under Hadrian (ruled 117-138 CE).  His reign was the most peaceful as he stopped any further military conquests. Peacetime led to increased spending on culture and Hadrian loved the Greek culture.   The Corinthian peristyle (columns all around the temple) shows the influence of Greek architecture.  The curved retaining wall viewed from the back is the base for the massive peristyle.  
Hadrian had a keen interest in architecture and sponsored many monuments – such as the Pantheon (Rome), the largest dome built for a 1000 years until the Astrodome stadium!  The purpose of Pergamon was to tie Asia Minor to the Roman Empire and show off the greatness of Rome.  

Theatre of Pergamon

Acrophobic Pergamon Theatre
Precipitous Pergamon Theatre - Acrophobics Avoid!! 
The most spectacular ruin was the vertiginous theatre directly below the temple square.  While I am not scared of heights, looking down the 10,000 seats is breathtaking.  Do not drink and attend theatre!  It was constructed in the 3rd century BC. The Greeks used their expertise in physics to produce the highest quality sound in theatres. Our word “acoustics” comes from a Greek word akoustikos, meaning “for hearing”.
walk around the acropolis
It's a long way down from the Acropolis Trail
It is worthwhile to walk around the whole acropolis (it’s not that large) and I only met three people until I came back to the central square. By car we drove out of town to see the theatre from below. Further down the road we saw the remains of the aqueduct that can be seen from the back of the acropolis walk.  

What is the Significance of Pergamon?

The most famous monument of this site – the Pergamon Altar – can only be viewed at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.  Its monumental stairs stood at the entrance to the acropolis.  Pergamon also had the original sculpture of the Laocoön, the most iconic sculpture of the agony of death.  An Ancient Roman copy in the Vatican Museums had a strong influence on Michelangelo, Raphaello, and many other artists – which in turn affected the art of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.  So this is an example for how one culture, one era has affected other cultures, other eras.  


Carpet Businessman from Bergama
One of Our Favourite Encounters
We were cold (it started raining) so we had mercimek çorbası (lentil soup) at a small place on south side of Kinik Caddesi recommended by our hotel.  It was excellent and only TRY 4.  Adding the lemon provided made it even better.  It is delicious but very different from the Indian or Nepali lentil dish, dal.

Tonight's pièce de résistance was talking to the owner of the carpet business for at least a couple of hours.  He buys old carpets from remote villages and reuses them to make new items for sale.

He is totally fluent in English because he lived in New York City from 14 to 19 years old.  He worked in his sponsor's carpet shop.  He had lots of personal stories about his New York friends, the differences between Turkish and American cultures, and other events during his life.

Last  Post: Cumalikizik & Bursa - Ottoman Delight (Day 6)
Next Post: All Roads Lead to Ephesus via Selçuk (Day 8)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Cumalikizik & Bursa - Ottoman Delight

Cumalikizik, Bursa – Ottoman Delight

Our main reason for going to Bursa was to see a 700 year old Ottoman village, Cumalikizik. It is now a World Heritage Site (WHS).   But so is Ottoman Bursa (Tophane) with its ancient walls.  With a population of just under two million, Bursa is the fourth largest city in Turkey after Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir.
Note that when you click on a photo (only in a post) it starts a slide show of those photos.  The main advantage is that the photos are shown much larger.         
Cumalıkızık: Blue House
Cumalıkızık: Blue House

Cumalikizik Ottoman Village

Kizik means a set of nearby hamlets or small villages but only Cumalıkızık (pronounced ju-ma-li kee-zik) is as well-preserved with 270 half-timbered houses.  Kizik is also the name of one of the 24 clans of Turks from Central Asia. 
Ottoman houses are generally two or three-story timber-framed buildings with wood-framed windows projected over the street.  The buildings are entered through a ground floor courtyard that is either soil or large flat stones.  About 180 buildings are still being used by residents.

Cumalıkızık Ladies
Cumalıkızık Ladies
As it is low season there were very few tourists in Cumalikizik.  There were no tour buses.  That was one reason it was enjoyable.  What made it special was talking to two local women.  It is amazing what you can communicate with just a few words and Google Translate.  One had studied a bit of English but spoke very few words.  She is 45 years old and has a 26-year old son and a 23-year old daughter.
I went all the way to the top as well as every side street.  They were all cobblestone and a man was keeping them clean.  In olden times the refuse water would have run down the middle of the street.

Cumalıkızık Lady and Moroccan Man
Cumalıkızık Lady
& Moroccan Man
On the way down we met two young Moroccans, a 21 year old man and a 20 year old women.  We discussed what life was like in Morocco compared to Turkey and how things were changing among young people in both countries.  The youth have pretty much adopted a modern culture; whereas there are many people still dressing in traditional clothes such as the trousers spread by the horse-riding Turkic people to the west. 
The man has been studying at Bursa University for 3 years but the first year was learning Turkish.  He seemed fluent.  So he acted as interpreter when we met the two women again. We had a great time as they could now communicate with us.

Cumalıkızık Family going home
Cumalıkızık family
going home
Why is Cumalıkızık a WHS?  It is not because they have superb architecture.  If that is what you expect you are going to be disappointed.   To see a more prosperous version of an Ottoman village go to Safranbolu, which is described later in the trip.  Since Cumalıkızık is a rural village you cannot expect exceptional architecture.

Was it a must-see?   It brought back memories of the poor villages we saw hiking in the Himalayas with the aromas of burning firewood and little tea houses along the way.  What is unique is that the whole village was preserved from 200 years ago.  There are few ugly modern buildings to spoil the atmosphere.   Plus it is surrounded by all that green space including Mount Uludağ.  There were also many birds at Cumalikizik even though it was not yet spring.

Tophane, Bursa

Tophane's Ottoman Walls
Tophane's Ottoman Walls
In the afternoon we went to the district of Tophane (old Bursa) on top of a low hill. It has better kept Ottoman houses than Cumalıkızık plus the old city walls. It is the reason that Bursa is also a WHS.  Again we thought we were lost but ended on 2 Kavakli Caddesi. There were Ottoman houses plus the stone façade Haraççıoğlu Madrasa with a popular tea house.

The hotel staff told us to go to Üftade Türbesi ve Cami.  It was located just a bit south on a side street to the east before the city gate.  It was not the tombs and mosque that were interesting.  It was the little park behind them where there was a viewpoint.  Below us were remnants of the old city walls and people scurrying around the streets.  No one told us Bursa is built up a mountain on one side. Also walk through the gate to Yokush Caddesi to see the walls from the outside.  After that we went to the clock tower in the park off Hasta Yurdu Caddesi. It was not remarkable but it had 200° view of the modern part of the city.
Kapali Çarşi Silk
Kapali Çarşi Silk
From there we went to the Covered Bazaar (Kapali Çarşi) off Ataturk Caddesi. There were lots of expensive fashion and jewelry shops.  It is still a centre for the any silk trade.  The capture of Bursa marked a turning point for the Ottoman Empire.  In 1335 Bursa became the first Ottoman capital.  That is why Bursa was the major terminus of Silk Road

Finally we went for supper to Çiçek Izgara (meaning flower grill), which is a block away from the bazaar near a park and flower (çiçek) shop area. The prices are in the TRY 12 to 14 range, half of what we paid in Istanbul. The meal was very good. 

Kapali Çarşi Gold
Kapali Çarşi Gold

Last  Post:
Green Mosque, Bursa (Day 5)

Next Post:
Pergamon Acropolis (Day 7)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Green Mosque, Bursa

Yeşil Cami

gorgeous green tiles of Yeşil Türbe
Gorgeous Green
Green Mosque, Yeşil Cami, Yeşil Türbe, Bursa, Turkey, Ottoman houseToday was our big travel day but will we make it to Yeşil Cami in Bursa?  Will we learn why the Green Mosque is in Bursa?  First we had to have our Trial by Tire.  We had to experience İstanbul traffic from behind the wheel.  Did I mention that in Turkey “lanes are just a suggestion”?  This was followed by Trial by Signage – or lack thereof.

Note that when you click on a photo (only in a post) it starts a slide show of those photos.  The main advantage is that the photos are shown much larger.  

Getting out of Taksim

After another sumptuous breakfast, Sirkeci Mansion called a taxi for us to go to Hertz at Taksim Square, which cost TRY 20.  We left at 09:00 h and at least six staff came out the door waving us goodbye!!!  It was a royal send-off.  I wish I had taken a picture but the taxi was waiting.

The Hertz people were not that friendly; very business-like.  When I asked directions for Bursa they said just go straight up their street then follow the blue signs.  But there were no signs, blue or green. Their road led us back west across the bridge to Sultanahmet.  Then we went the wrong way heading north up the Golden Horn.  Now it was trial by fire – I mean tire – experiencing first hand driving in Istanbul.  Oh, did I mention the lack of street and direction signs in Istanbul?

I finally turned around and went further south to the Galata Bridge and make a U-turn.  Since we had travelled to Taksim by tram, I saw a sign for the name that is the last stop of the tram, Kabataş.  It took another half an hour to go 10 km from Galata Bridge.  So at 11:00 h we were finally on our way.

Thanks to Google Maps and tablets, I knew the road to the highway veered left one km after Dolmabahçe Palace. There was still no sign at that intersection saying this way to autostrada (oops, wrong country)!  Doesn’t İstanbul have lots of tourists, even Turkish ones?

It was bumper to bumper until we crossed the amazingly high bridge to Asia and passed through the toll gates.  Tolls are very low in Turkey.  The driving was fine but Turkish drivers cut in or pass with very little room and Istanbul stretches on and on.  Once we passed the Sabiha Gökçen (Asian-side) airport the traffic thinned and it was very easy driving on a modern, six-lane divided expressway.

The Road to Bursa

Even though we did not have connectivity, I had the Google Map of Istanbul to Bursa open and we could follow the big blue dot (our GPS position).  As we reached the end of the Sea of Marmaris, we turned west on D130 to Bursa.  We thought it was the end of expressway driving but the D130 was a six-lane divided highway almost all the way except when driving through some towns.

However, it was the worst day with lots of rain especially as we crossed over a low mountain pass.  It was easy to find our hotel as it was right off this highway as we got into Bursa.  We arrived at 15:45h at the Hampton Hilton, which is very modern.  The young woman at check-in was very helpful and gave us suggestions that were definitely worthwhile.  Our room was very plush and had a coach and chair.  The breakfast was extensive and we sat in a sun-filled part of the dining area.  It was the most expensive place of our trip at TRY 222 per night.  In our research, Bursa hotels are more expensive and the cheaper Osmangazi hotels had significant “terrible” ratings with lots of bad reviews.

The Road to Heaven

carving in stone on Yeşil Cami's  exterior
Yeşil Cami
To make the most of the day, we wanted to see Yeşil Mosque and tombs.  As I was driving (back and forth), I missed the turn three times but was able to go down another street by watching where the blue dot was on our tablet.  Once again there are no signs for what is one of the main tourist sights of the city, but we were able to find it.

Yeşil Cami (Green Mosque) is as much blue as it is green.  There are a few walls covered in blue-green tiles but the semi-circular tympana over the doors are blue tiles.  There is one side room that is beautifully tiled with patterns in a myriad of colours.  The mosque is very understated and, best of all, there are hardly any people.  Also notice the decorative carved marble on the exterior.  The mosque is on a hill with some nice views as well as some nice pastel-coloured homes.  Up some stairs across from the Green Mosque is the Green Tombs. 

gorgeous turquoise tiles of Yeşil Türbe
Green Tombs
It is really Yeşil Türbe (tombs) that blew us away and is the must-see.  The exterior of the mausoleum is clad with green-blue tiles that give it its name.  Again the tiles inside are really turquoise except for the gorgeous emerald green tiles around the doorway. 

tiled mihrab in Yeşil Türbe
Green-Gold Mihrab
Green is the colour associated to Islam. Heaven is described as containing green carpets and green silk garments.  Perhaps this is related to Islam's origin in a desert country with little green.  The lower half of the walls is lined with exquisite turquoise tiles.  The inlaid front doors are carved in a rich, dark wood.

Finally we went to eat supper at Iskender Kebab.  Living here in Bursa, Iskender invented the gyro machine and the döner made with it.  We ate a lot but we had missed lunch.  Again I was able to find the restaurant street as well as the way back to the Hamptons.

Last  Post: Süleymaniye Mosque Dome-ination
Next Post: Cumalikizik & Bursa - Ottoman Delight

Monday, 12 May 2014

Süleymaniye Mosque Dome-ination

Süleymaniye Dome Based on Hagia Sophia

Süleymaniye Mosque Dome, Istanbul
Süleymaniye Dome
Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest in Istanbul and one of the must-see sights of Istanbul.  The mosque has an amazingly large dome that creates a single vast space for a large number of worshipers.  But the atmosphere is very soothing.  The restrained decoration uses muted colours and blue and white Iznik tiles.  The Ottomans were the first in Islamic architecture to use ceramic decoration on a monumental scale. 

The Süleymaniye Mosque was built by supreme architect Mimar Sinan, who was influenced by Ayasofya.  It blends Islamic and Byzantine architectural elements.  The large dome is supported by half domes in Byzantine style as described in the Importance of Ayasofya.  

One new feature was to incorporate buttresses into the walls of the building.  Note the patter of the prayer rug in the photo.  That is to tell worshippers where to sit so that everyone is organized into neat rows. 
Süleymaniye Prayer Rug
Süleymaniye Prayer Rug
Be sure to walk around the courtyards and gardens. Here you will see men washing their feet and hands in the ablution taps.  At the corners of the courtyard are four slender minarets, a number allowed only to mosques sponsored by a sultan. 
Süleymaniye Mosque Inlaid Doors
Inlaid Doors
The beautiful and intricate geometrical wood-inlay patterns in the doors are spectacular. Sometimes they are inlaid with ivory or mother of pearl.  The image on the right is just one panel of the door.

Süleiman the Magnificent

The mosque was sponsored by the Ottoman emperor Sultan Süleiman, who saw himself as a second Solomon, his namesake.  He is well-known in the west as Suleiman the Magnificent, perhaps because his reign (1520-1566) was the peak of the Ottoman Empire.   

Suleiman was influenced by Alexander the Great’s vision of building a world empire that would encompass the east and the west.  This drove his military campaigns in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  He expanded the Ottoman Empire from Hungary to Georgia and Algeria to Iraq.   

University Area

In the courtyard of Süleymaniye, we noticed a young man discussing the mosque with a group of Malaysian High school students on a ten-day trip in Turkey.  The man was a Malaysian PhD student who is studying in Istanbul.  He said he was the guide for these students that were sponsored to go to Turkey to learn about other cultures and religions.  We all left the grounds heading toward the university.  Outside the mosque on Süleymaniye Caddesi, we had that delicious sahlep drink an orchid, vanilla or rose water, cinnamon, coconut, and milk drink for only TRY 2. Maybe that's the student price? 

Spice Bazaar 

Uzun Çarşı Caddesi
The Long Bazaar
From there we walked down a steep street (Uzun Çarşı Caddesi, which means Long Bazaar Street) to the Spice Bazaar.  But on the way we saw the real working class Istanbul, shopping and schlepping, including Roma gypsies begging.  It was another world compared to Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu.  Unlike Sultanahmet, there were no touts trying to get us to buy things not even once. 

Turning right at the bottom of the hill was a long street (Hasircilar Caddesi) of shops with wall-to-wall people.  There were all kinds of things for sale as well as spices.  Suddenly the most aromatic coffee aroma wafted through the air.  A man most have noticed my “coffee eyes” and gestured for me to get into the long line of customers.  We are still sipping some of this delicious Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee (kahve) at home.

Misir Çarşısı store
Spice Bazaar
Just a few metres further, Hasircilar led directly to the west entrance to the Spice Bazaar.  Misir Çarşısı or Egyptian Market is the official name on your paper or Google map.   Be sure to also walk on Çiçek Pazarı Sokak (which means Flower Market Street) just south outside of the covered market.  The comparison of the streets and the covered market was like night and day.  The market was far more upscale, higher prices and less people.  The streets were frenetic, with porters carrying heavy loads and shoppers carrying heavy bags.  

So today marks the end of the Istanbul segment of the trip.  Tomorrow we get the car and drive to Asia I mean Bursa. 

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Chora Church Mosaics

Chora Church's Amazing Mosaics

Chora Church Mosaics: Jesus feeding the people
Ribbed Roof Holds Mosaics Better
The 4th century Chora Church is draped with amazing mosaics covering every cm (inch) of both walls and ceilings. Glorious gold permeates all the panoramic panels. The mosaics are in amazing shape considering the earthquakes and their age – they are nearly 700 years old.  The mosaics are in notably better condition than at Hagia Sophia plus they are much closer to you because of the lower vaults. 
The earliest known examples of mosaics were found at temples in Mesopotamia, dating to the third millennium BC.  The first glazed tiles were found in Persia dating from around 1500 BC. Most mosaics are made of small, flat, roughly square, pieces of stone or glass of different colours, known as tesserae (Latin for cube). There is no grout between the tesserae.  That would decrease the light reflection.    
Mosaic of Theodore Metochites presenting a model of his church to enthroned Christ
Benefactors always like to get into the picture
Most of the current building dates from 1081.  Virtually all of the interior decoration dates between 1315 and 1321 and was funded by Theodore Metochites, auditor of the treasury.  He was also a poet and patron of the arts.  A panel over the doorway to the inner narthex (hall) depicts Theodore Metochites in his full dress robes offering a model of Chora Church to the enthroned figure of Christ holding a book of gospels.  This follows the Byzantine convention of depicting an architectural donation.
Chora Mosaic of St. Paul
Can't you just Feel the Robes
Mosaics is one of the most important aspects of Byzantine art and architecture with its emphasis on rich decoration and colour.  The gold is gold leaf sandwiched between two layers of clear glass.  The extensive use of gold evoked the spiritual splendour of the Kingdom of God. 

However, it had the additional benefit of increasing light refraction and illumination in an otherwise dark church.  Also, the tesserae were set at slight angles to the wall, so that they caught the light in different ways. 

I am not going to provide endless lists of panels and figures that's another way to get museumed out.  For an animated description, read the Boundless web page on The Chora Church in Constantinople.
Because of the decline in the power and wealth of the Byzantine Empire, frescoes were used in the Parecclesion.  This side mortuary chapel ends with one of the most important and dramatic art works. 

Anastasis fresco: Christ freeing Adam and Eve
What? 3D and Movement in the Gothic Art 
The Anastasis (Greek for resurrection) depicts Jesus descending to hell, having defeated Satan (in chains below his feet), and raising Adam and Eve from the dead.  His feet positioning and the flying figures of Adam and Eve give a dramatic sense of movement and force not found in earlier mosaics. 

Note that the figures in the fresco are interacting with one another. This is in contrast to early Byzantine and Gothic art where figures are static and always forward facing.  

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