Istanbul is a unique city. This city literally joins 2 continents. The major portion of Istanbul is located in Asia Minor and the smaller section rests in Europe. We enjoyed the opportunity to visit both Europe and Asia Minor within the space of a few hours. I know of no other city that encompasses 2 continents. The statistical metropolitan geographic area has an official population of just under 13 million people, but its true population may exceed over 15 million. The city has a very rich history, far too involved and lengthy to be discussed in this blog.
After visiting the very impressive Hagia Sophia and the beautiful Blue Mosque our next destination was the nearby Underground Cistern. The cistern was built during the reign of Emperor Justinianus for Eastern Rome. Unfortunately, this is where our camera promptly reported that dreaded low battery icon. We forgot the unusual size extra battery on the boat, so that meant no more photos until we charged the camera overnight. Before the camera completely died we were able to snap just a few shots. What a shame! We have a few additional photos taken with our cell phone, but we forgot the cable on the boat so cannot upload to our computer from the phone until the boat arrives in Marmaris.
|Entrance to Basilica Cistern|
There is always water present in the cistern. In the "olden days" (as our grandkids would say), the cavernous space would have been completely filled with water. Today the water is kept at a level of only a few feet depth. The cistern is 110 meters long and 70 meters wide, encompassing a total area of 9,800 square meters. There are 336 marble columns, each 9 meters high. The supporting columns or pillars are coated with something that prevents damage from the water. This has worked very well for the 1,479 years since this cistern was constructed. Can you imagine!! Hard for me to wrap my mind around that factoid!
What surprised me were all the intricate carvings on the columns. The tops and bases of each column are intricately carved. Many columns still show evidence of carvings covering the entire surface of the columns; most of which has been eroded by water dripping down various sides of the columns during the 1 1/2 centuries of their existence. Why did they feel the need to be artistic on supporting columns inside an underground cistern that constantly would be filled with water? Not like these columns would be visible to anyone. Seems like utilitarian smooth columns would have sufficed.
The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall that is 4 meters thick. The firebrick wall is coated with special mortar that is impervious to water. Water to fill this cistern was provided from the Belgrad Forest located 19 kilometers north of the city. The water was delivered to the cistern via the long aqueduct also built by Emperor Justinianus.
|Medussa Head column support under water|
|Underwater Medussa Head column base|
|European Istanbul in background|
We walked 10 blocks or so from our hotel to the ferry docks and located the Beggars Ferry at the final dock before the bridge over to the European side. The locals call this the Beggars Ferry because it makes many stops along both sides of the river calling for additional passengers. There are several faster ferries that go direct to the various tourist sites on both sides of the Bosphorus River, but we wanted an all-day activity to stay out of the nasty weather. This trip takes about 2 hours in each direction, with stops at Besiktas, Kanlica, Yenikoy, Sariyer, Rumeli Kavagi and Anadolu Kavagi.
|Bridge to Europe|