The Istanbul Archaeological Museum was undergoing renovation when we went, so I don’t think we saw all the different exhibits they have. It also was that part of the time I was there I felt like I was walking through a rat maze. In any event, it has some really nice exhibits. However my favorite part was actually the Tiled Kiosk next door. I find the name amusing because when I hear kiosk, I think of a little booth in the mall with someone trying to sell cell phone accessories or some pillow that is going to solve all my health problems. The Tiled Kiosk is pretty though and has walls covered with tile, stained glass windows, and other art.
The Basilica Cistern is without a doubt one of the coolest, human made places I have ever been. I don’t think you need to be an engineering nerd like myself to find the place to be really neat. It is an underground cistern built in 532 A.D. It is a wonderful example of engineering and was used to store water. Now it is a tourist attraction complete with a cafe. Yes, there is a cafe, and in my opinion, it would be only more perfect if it was a Starbucks simply because they are everywhere. The cistern was featured in the James Bond movie ‘From Russia With Love.’ Two of the columns have Medusa heads as bases, possibly because they fit and were available. There is still water in it below the walkways, and fish live there. They were introduced to keep the water clean.
Hagia Sofia is an amazing piece of architecture and art. It was a church that became a mosque that became a museum. The interior is covered with beautiful stone panels, carved stone, mosaics, and painted plaster. Much of the mosaics were covered with plaster and then painted centuries ago, but the revealed mosaics are intricate and beautiful. The painted plaster is quite beautiful also. The stone panels demonstrate the beauty of natural stone. Besides the actual decorative interior, the actual architectural form of the building with all its domes and arches is gorgeous and also amazing from an engineering standpoint. Considering the age of the building and the number of earthquakes the area has suffered, it is amazing that the building is still standing. Some earthquake damage can be seen such as a leaning column in a photograph below.
While in Istanbul, our tour group visited the famous Blue Mosque. It is gorgeous. The exterior is beautiful, but the interior is even more beautiful. The interior is arches upon arches upon domes. Most of the interior is covered with gorgeous mainly blue and white tile, which gives the mosque it’s name.
While our tour group was in the Ephesus area, we visited a rug making co-operative. The members make rugs by hand. The rugs are beautiful and intricate. They walked us through the process of how they make and dye the threads and then make the rugs. I rather liked the place because the person who was showing us all the steps readily admitted that the exhibits were for the tourists. They dye the threads elsewhere, but I like honesty in tour guides.
First they take silk cocoons and pull the strands out of them.
They dye the various threads using natural material. The wool is easier to dye than the silk.
They make the rugs on looms. Turkish rugs differ from all other rugs because they use a double knot. I couldn’t understand anything else they were doing other than that the person making the rugs has to count threads and follow a pattern the entire time.
They then showed us rugs in many different styles. They were all gorgeous.
Our cruise through the Greek Islands ended in Turkey, where we visited Ephesus. The ruins of ancient Ephesus are amazing, partially because of how much is left. The library is just gorgeous. Several streets are still present which gives you a really good feel for how the city used to be. The public toilets make me glad to be alive in the indoor plumbing age.
Today we visited the small Dodecanese island of Patmos. It is where St. John is believed to have written the Book of Revelation in what is known as the Cave of the Apocalypse. The island is very pretty with gorgeous, wonderful views from the hills. It also not too touristy.
This morning we went to Kalymnos, the sponge divers’ island. The island is in Dodecanese island group and seems be known for the sponge divers and that is about it. We visited Nautical and Folklore Museum. It was tiny but had some nice exhibits on the sponge divers and the history of them. According to the museum curator, the death rate among sponge divers was near 25%, which is depressing to say the least.
Today we visited Santorini. We came in at sunrise and left after sunset. It is not often I get both sunrise and sunset photos in a single day, but Santorini was worth it. Santorini is a photographer’s dream place. The island group of Santorini is a collapsed caldera. The main towns on the island of Santorini, Fira and Oia, are set on the ridge of the caldera. So, it’s a rather dramatic setting. The architecture is the classic Cycladic, but not all the buildings are white stucco. Some are different colors, and of course there are many churches with the beautiful, simple blue dome. If you can find the good vantage points, which is not always a simple endeavor, then you can get some amazing photographs. Finding the good vantage points involves going down many different tiny sidewalks that twist and curve and at times look like they lead no where.
This afternoon was spent in Paros. I really liked Paros. It is small, not too touristy, pretty, and friendly. The Church of Ekatontapiliani was a highlight of our walking tour. It was a wonderful church to photograph with its beautiful stonework.