shimdi ben Istanbul’da

After a rather epic journey through the night, we arrived in Istanbul early yesterday morning. We successfully taxied to the American Research Institute in Turkey-Istanbul, where I’m staying, traveling through busy streets, beautiful tree=lined avenues, and along the Bosphorus. ARIT is in an area north of Istanbul proper called Arnavutkoy. It’s a beautiful, historic area right along the Bosphorus, and contains dozens of fresh fish restaurants of which I’ve already sampled a couple. I’ve discovered that I really, really like calamari–I’ve had it a couple of times before and realized that wasn’t really very good at all, but this is.
Upon arrival I promptly went down for a nap, and after waking up my fellow Zincirli excavator and I went to visit the Archaeology Museum, which is conveniently located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood along with most other major tourist locations in Istanbul. The museum had quite a lot of statues and reliefs from Zincirli, and even had the orthostats (flat slabs of stone which were used to line walls, sometimes decorated with reliefs) set up as they would have been in the original south citadel gate, which I’d walked through the remains of only days before. We saw some other Zincirli stuff in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin last year. When the German team excavated Zincirli a hundred years ago, the rules were that half the finds stayed in Turkey and the other half went home with the excavators, so the Zincirli items are well=travelled.
Yesterday, we went on a whirlwind tour of the other major Sultanahmet sights. First we went to the Topkapi Palace Museum. This was the palace of the sultans under the Ottoman Empire. It’s a huge edifice with many of the sultan’s treasures on display and pieces of info on how the sultan’s empire was administrated: young men were taken to the palace and educated there to become the viziers and grand viziers, while in the harem women were also educated and, if they didn’t become a wife or concubine to the sultan himself, were married to the graduates of the “enderun.”
Then we went to Sultan Ahmet’s tomb and to his Blue Mosque. The mosque was beautiful both inside and outside, and as I stood there with my shoes off and with a scarf of dubious cleanliness doled out to me by a mosque employee covering my hair, I pondered the difference in ideas about worship and prayer between this and my church at home.
Then we went to the cistern museum: a huge subterranean Byzantine cistern, held up with 300+ columns. These were lit eerily with red lights, reflected in the shallow water. In one corner two blocks carved with Medusa heads served as column bases, one upside=down and the other on one side. These are believed to be of late Roman date, though noone knows when or why they were used in the cistern or why they aren’t right-side-up.
Next was the Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofia in Turkish. There was a large scaffolding in the center as some resoration work was going on, but it was still very impressive. Some of the original Christian mosaics of Justinian have been uncovered and rub sholders with Muslim floral decoration patterns and Arabic inscriptions–I’m assuming quotations from the Koran. It was first a Byzantine church and then a mosque, and is now, at the order of Ataturk, a museum of Istanbul’s Christian and Muslim heritage.
Finally, I went to the Grand Bazaar. I strolled past lots of jewelry shops, and salesman who wanted me to buy leather jackets and who spoke to me in English. I hadn’t seen a single foreigner other than ourselves for a month while in Fevzipasha, but in Istanbul I’m surrounded by people from all countries speaking all languages. I noticed when I was in England also, after having been surrounded by non=Americans for weeks, the American English accent is particularly jarring. It made me feel like trying to speak exclusively Turkish for a while, but unfortunately my vocabulary of about 8 verbs and 15 nouns probably isn’t sufficient 🙂
Today, I think I’ll revisit the Archaeology Museum. I have a bit more shopping to do which I’d like to do at the Egyptian Spice bazaar, and I’d also like to go for a boat ride. I’ll update the old blog once again once I’m stateside! Until then, gule gule (bye bye)!

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