Walking home from dinner in Istanbul, I noticed the Eurovision Song Contest Finals being broadcast on a cafe TV and zipped back to the hotel to watch. From what I can tell, Eurovision is a American Idol/Pop Idol combined with good-natured European nationalism. I have some vague recollection of years past when the musical acts were either terrible, super avant garde or kitschy traditional music. Always one to watch European countries compete, I followed eagerly, only to realize that I really don’t like European pop music!
Posts tagged ‘Istanbul’
Last week I wrote about the incredible Basilica Cistern in the heart of the Sultanahmet, or historic center, of Istanbul. All the water needed to fill that and other cisterns in Constantinople was brought in through an extensive aqueduct network which partially survives today. The most significant portion is the Valens Aqueduct constructed by Emporer Valens in the 4th century AD. It is about 95 feet high with about a 13 foot arch span which now allows cars to drive through the Byzantine aqueduct.
I don’t buy a lot of souvenirs when I travel, but the prospect of bargaining in Istanbul sounded like too much fun. I hoped to negotiate in Turkish (to give myself some legitimacy) and so I really tried to learn at least how to say numbers. Frankly, I doubt I fooled anyone and you’ll see that only one purchase was actually significantly made in Turkish. That being said, I’m really happy with what we found.
How does a city surrounded by the ocean get enough fresh water to support a population of nearly half a million people? The answer for Byzantine Emperors Constantine and Justinian I was a 19km aqueduct that emptied into a massive reservoir beneath Constantinople. Today you can visit the Basilica Cistern; the entrance is about a block away from the Hagia Sophia. The cavernous pool is cool, dimly lit and a quiet retreat from the tourist commotion above. I thought it was incredibly beautiful and peaceful and spent about an hour very slowly wandering through it.
Our first full day in Istanbul we hit the big sights: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. I’ll get to those things soon, but I am still stuck on our amazing fish dinner the first night! As the sun began to set, we wandered over the Galata Bridge, watching the ferries come and go and observing the local fishermen. Standing almost shoulder to shoulder along the bridge, there were actually catching fish, albeit tiny finger-sized ones.