Friday, January 23, 2015

Istanbul Turkey, Basilica Cisterns, Grand Bazaar, Tram Ride, Part 2

Continued from Part 1 After the Blue Mosque, we went to visit the Basilica Cisterns. This place is only about 100M walk from the Mosque. This is the video I made.


This place was fascinating. I hadn't expected to see anything like this before I came here. Basilica Cisterns? Wow. This subterranean structure was commissioned by Emperor Justinian and built in 532. The largest surviving Byzantine cistern in İstanbul, it was constructed using 336 columns, many of which were salvaged from ruined temples and feature fine carved capitals. Its symmetry and sheer grandeur of conception are quite breathtaking.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Like most sites in İstanbul, the cistern has an unusual history. It was originally known as the Basilica Cistern because it lay underneath the Stoa Basilica, one of the great squares on the first hill. Designed to service the Great Palace and surrounding buildings, it was able to store up to 80,000 cu metres of water delivered via 20km of aqueducts from a reservoir near the Black Sea, but was closed when the Byzantine emperors relocated from the Great Palace.

Forgotten by the city authorities some time before the Conquest, it wasn't rediscovered until 1545, when scholar Petrus Gyllius was researching Byzantine antiquities in the city and was told by local residents that they were able to miraculously obtain water by lowering buckets into a dark space below their basement floors. Some were even catching fish this way. Intrigued, Gyllius explored the neighbourhood and finally accessed the cistern through one of the basements. Even after his discovery, the Ottomans (who referred to the cistern as Yerebatan Saray) didn't treat the so-called Underground Palace with the respect it deserved – it became a dumping ground for all sorts of junk, as well as corpses.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The cistern was cleaned and renovated in 1985 by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and opened to the public in 1987. It's now one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Walking along its raised wooden platforms, you'll feel the water dripping from the vaulted ceiling and see schools of ghostly carp patrolling the water. (reference -

There was even a medusa's head, kind of squashed under a large column. Very odd looking.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
We spent about 45 minutes in the Cisterns. Be wary that the floor is wet and you often feel water dripping from the roof. Quite an experience and well worth the visit. I think it was 20 Turkish Lira per adult.

After we exited the Cisterns, we decided to make our way to the Grand Bazaar, on foot. It was easy because we just had to follow the route of the Tram, and according to my GPS, it wasn't too far away, less than 1km.

After all that walking, it was time to get a little bite to keep the energy levels up. So we stopped at a MacDonalds for a bite. My kids were with us, so I definitely wasn't adventurous with food.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I even made a short video of the MacDonalds and McCafe experience, including the prices.

Of course, since you were in Turkey and if you wanted to try local fare, there were plenty of cafes and eateries along the main road from Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaar. I must say that the Turkish Delights looked really pretty.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

After the break at Macs, we kept walking and found ourselves at the Beyazit Tram station, which is the station for the Grand Bazaar. There would be an entrance to the Grand Bazaar here. Bear in mind that the Grand Bazaar is very large, with more than 5,000 shops and various entrances. Image and video hosting by TinyPic There were large streets (not sure what to call them) and also many smaller alleyways, all very bright lit and full of people. I can only imagine how crowded this place must be in summer. Remember to bargain aggressively if you want to buy anything from this place. I overheard some people on the cruise ship saying that they paid only 10% of the asking price. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Anyway, we didn't explore the Bazaar very much because we knew that we were likely to come back here tomorrow to take a look again. The kids had been great (with all that walking) and it was time to get back to the ship, get some food and rest. We took the tram back. Beyazit station was very bright lit and it felt very safe even though it was dark. The entrance to the platform where you put in a red token (cost 4TL for adults). Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This is the video I made while waiting for the Tram at Beyazit station. To get back to the ship, we dropped off where we boarded earlier that day, at Findliki station, and then back-tracked to the ship. It was not difficult, however, beware that the road from the Findikli station to port gates was rather dark. Well, just take sensible precautions.

Onwards to Part 3.

1 comment :

  1. Wonderful, these 2 istanbul blogs as well as Kotor! Gives me an idea of what to expect on our upcoming cruise.