Last day in Istanbul


Ian was confined to bed with cough and cold so I ventured forth alone for a big walk around the city. I wanted to see the Rustem Pasa Mosque, renowned for its Iznik tiles. It is approached through the Egyptian Bazaar, now rather tourist-oriented, but with some nice spice displays. All around the bazaar there are streets of shops and stalls, not so t-o, and full of interesting things.

Rustem Pasa Mosque

I inadvertently discovered the street where the sellers specialised in that well-known medication starting with V. All authentic of course. One vendor had an intriguing little device that looked like a stapler, but it was a tiny hand operated sewing machine. Another man was providing a laminating service from his cart, which had a small generator that he started up when required.

The entrance to the mosque was via some steps hidden amongst all of this activity. It was beautifully decorated with tiles, and as a bonus, I overheard a tour guide commentary that explained the reason for the low hanging lights in mosques: they are providing light to enable reading of the Koran, rather than general lighting.

The next destination was the Aqueduct, requiring a hike up past the Suleymaniye Mosque, skirting the Grand Bazaar, past the university and the Princes Mosque. This is a prominent landmark with a major road going through it and residential areas alongside. There was an interesting and pleasantly leafy shopping area on the other side with spice shops, butcher shops with lots of tripe on display, men drinking tea, bakeries and melon mountains on trucks.

Istanbul Aqueduct
Then through narrow residential streets to the Fatih Mosque (being renovated) and into Fener, a rather traditional area where women in black and men in baggy pants are more numerous (these pants have pleats at the back and the front – that’s how they become baggy). I was looking for the Greek Orthodox church of St Mary of the Mongols. I found a large building with Greek writing but could not see the church, but was then overtaken by Peter, an Australian man, who was being led there by a Turkish boy. The church was quite hidden from the street and we entered through a locked gate and courtyard, guided by the Greek man who looks after it. He showed us inside and told us the history of the church which is protected from conversion into a mosque by the edict of a sultan many centuries ago. The large building adjacent used to be the world centre of Greek Orthodoxy, and is now a high school with only 60 students. Few Greeks now remain living in Istanbul. Our tour was interrupted by the arrival of some German tourists and it all felt a bit rushed. Peter was more knowledgeable about historical matters than I and explained some things. He also had a different view on the incident with the Greeks at Aya Sofia and felt that a firm response from the Turks was necessary to stop things from getting out of hand as the atmosphere can rapidly become explosive.

Painting in Greek Orthodox church of St Mary of the Mongols

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