So after returning to Sultanahmet Park, we hopped into a taxi and went to the Kariye Museum.
We'd been told about this by George, the partner of Eveline at the cooking school, and it is also mentioned in the guide books and the wonderful Strolling Through Istanbul by John Freely and Hilary Sumner-Boyd.
It was built as the Chora Church in the 11thC, though the frescoes and mosaics were added in the 13th C. When it was converted to a mosque in 1511 the walls were plastered over, which preserved them. We were told that it had better mosaics than Ayasofya, so off we went!
It is set in a lovely garden miles away from anywhere, hence the taxi ride.
This is the back of the church
so we walked around it and went in. A lot of the ceilings and walls were painted, which was also preserved under the plaster.
but there are also a lot of gold and mosaics
and lovely marble
If you look at some of the marble panels on the walls it must be that the marble was split, then flattened and placed back together, because the patterns are like drawing ink in water.
more golden mosaics
I think there has been more restoration work done here than on Ayasofya - it is much smaller, after all.
After having our fill of gold and mosaics we left and walked up the street towards the walls, which are quite close here. We must be about 6 or 7km from the centre of the Sultanahmet, and the walls are on the lower side there, meaning that the diameter of the walls that Constantine set up would be maybe 10km, which is huge even by today's standards, let alone when the city was built in 511!!!
We climbed the walls
and could look back to the Chora Church (Kariye Museii) and out to the Golden Horn
So instead of taking a friendly taxi, we decided to walk down to the water and get a ferry back to the Sultanahmet. You won't be surprised to hear we got lost!
The maps don't really mark the tiny streets here, and we ended up in several dead end streets, and had to retrace our steps a few times. We'd walked so far and it was getting on to 5 and I was afraid we were going to have to walk all the way back to the Museum to get a taxi. Then a little girl tried to tell us how to get to the ferry, so we thanked her and walked on, then her mother accosted us and said that you have to pay to talk to children!! So J gave her 10TL and off we scampered!! We ended up walking through tiny laneways past people's lounges, but finally found a steep street and a flight of steps and stumbled out on the harbour!
We did find the 'ferry' stop, but it looks like one of those that stop only when there are passengers and certainly isn't on a regular run, so in the end we caught a taxi back to the Sultanahmet, glad to be off our feet!
We stopped for a refreshing turkish tea in the garden of this lovely hotel, the Yesil Ev, which used to be a palace
Beside this hotel, and in a small courtyard leading off it, is the Turkish Handcraft Guild.
This was an amazing find - there are 7 or 8 artisans working here and they each have their own rooms where they display their work. In addition there are 3 shops that sell traditional Turkish handicrafts, and all are sponsored by the the Turkish Touring and Automobile Association!! If you go to Istanbul you should make a point of looking up this place, as the quality and uniqueness of the offerings is superb.
The artisans are:
- a worker in marbled paper
- a calligrapher
- a doll maker
- a porcelain artist
- a gold leaf artist and miniaturist
- a weaver and embroiderer
- a maker of musical instruments
- a goldsmith
plus the shops where scarves, pottery, carpets and kilims, jewellery and paintings are sold. Very very high quality goods. I had a friend's name written in turkish calligraphy, and bought a lovely miniature painting and a fine embroidered scarf, at reasonable prices. The Istanbul Crafts Centre is at
Kabasakal Caddesi, 5
Our last dinner was on the roof terrace of a rather indifferent restaurant, but with a lovely view over the Sultanahmet, so that was a nice end to our time in Istanbul.
The obligatory photo of the Blue Mosque, taken tonight from our hotel terrace,
Istanbul is an exotic, exciting and beautiful city. I can't wait to go back, not only to see what I've missed here and re-visit some favourites, but to explore the countryside we never had time to see. I am counting the days!