Thursday, March 2, 2017

It's Not the Hagia Sophia...It's Next Door

It's one of the most famous sights in the world.   The Hagia Sophia has been looming over Istanbul for hundreds of years.  It's been a sight in both Istanbul and Constantinople.  It marks one of the most vibrant, crowded, colorful, historic, modern, and infamous cities on Earth.  There are over 14,000,000 people in Istanbul.  The city straddles two continents.  The Bosporus Strait is a main waterway for industry, military and of course, tourism.  This is an amazing city with amazing things to see and do.  It's also very crowded.

There's not a bad view of the Hagia Sophia, known for it's enormous blue dome.  It's one of the biggest domes in the world.  It's one of the biggest places of worship in the world.  It's also not a church anymore.  It's a museum for us tourists.  That's okay.  I prefer it that way, because I hate walking into a church to see what beauty is inside and interrupting worshipers every single time.  Thank you Istanbul for making this amazing place into a museum.

Istanbul has so many historical sites that there is no way that I intend to talk about the city as a whole.  The giant city spans two continents and has one amazing bridge to do it.  It has all kinds of historic and religious places to visit. You can go to services and see a Whirling Dervish.  You can find thousands of restaurants and hundreds of hotels.  You can see all kinds of shows and hear all kinds of music.  I could go on and on. There are entire books on the subject.

So, I mention the Hagia Sophia, but not as the subject of this blog.  I mention it because about 500 feet away from it is something truly unique and something worth a visit if you find yourself in one of the largest cities in the world.  It's my Adventure for Anyone.

The Bosporus Strait is connected to the Mediterranean Sea.  It's salt water.  So, with a city of 14,000,000 give or take; you tend to have a fresh water problem.  In ancient times, they created a system of underground cisterns to catch water for the population.  There were hundreds of them.  Being the time of the Romans, they were also quite ornate.  They fell into disuse many centuries ago, but one of them is back.  You may have read about it or seen it in the movie.

The Basilica Cistern is one of the leftover behemoth cisterns from that era.  It sits 500 feet from the Hagia Sophia and in the 1980's it was refurbished and put into use as a tourist attraction.  Most recently, it was the location where the evil Zobrist set off his population controlling virus in Dan Brown's Inferno.  I read the book and watched the Tom Hanks movie.  I wanted to know what really went on in this place.

 For one thing, you can eat there.  There is a Cistern Cafe for tourists to stop and eat at while visiting the cistern.  They serve authentic Turkish fare although it is a little expensive.  In the off season you can walk right in and be seated immediately however.

The head of Medusa was explicitly mentioned in the book and movie of Inferno.  It is there.  There are varying stories about why it is there, but it is there.  Was it art?  Was it a message?  Who really knows?

There are 336 Byzantine columns in the cistern.  When the place was renovated, they put in walkways so that we can walk around and see all of the giant underground reservoir.  Now, mind you, there are hundreds of these under Istanbul.  This is the one that you can visit and have a meal there.  This is the one that has events throughout the year whether it be music or something more unconventional.  It's an amazing place to visit.  It's one of those places that your friends won't believe you about unless you take pictures.

So, Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world.  There are thousands of things to see and places to go in the city.  There are thousands of restaurants, hundreds of hotels and millions of people.  I only mentioned one tiny part of this amazing city, but I think that it's a part worth seeing.  So, go see the Hagia Sophia and learn about it's history and beauty.  The best part is that you can't miss that place.  After, go a few hundred feet and down the steps into the amazing Byzantine Cistern that has added something special to the lists of attractions in Istanbul.  Enjoy!!m.ZzZz.4990000156459.0.169423090048.%2Bistanbul%20%2Btour.+istanbul_+tour&semcid=US.MULTILOB.GOOGLE.SEARCH.TSHOP&gclid=CLjpkKmsuNICFQlWDQod45INvw

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