Turkey 29: Chora Church

With this being Daina’s last day of the trip, and with souvenirs that need buying, we decided to keep things down to one major site today.  We definitely picked a beautiful one.

Considered one of the best surviving Byzantine churches and located just outside Istanbul’s original city walls, the Chora Church is “out there” when compared to Istanbul’s other major sites.  If we had walked from our hotel, it would have taken about an hour.  After hopping the tram to Eminonu, we found the right bus (the 32 in this case) and we were at the church about half an hour after we started the day.

A church has existed on the site since before the 4th century, but the current building was fixed up by the Byzantines in the 14th century, with some Turkish additions built in the 19th. 

While the inside of the church doesn’t match the Hagia Sophia in terms of size, the condition of the frescoes and the mozaics could, arguably, put it on par in terms of interior beauty. There’s only a handfull of separate “rooms” (each having a church-part name, which I can’t keep straight in my head), but I found myself slowly exploring each one. Due to its size, you could walk several meters in the Hagia Sophia and be treated to the same view. Here, you take four or five steps and you’ve got a different angle or view of the beautiful images. Really is a sight to behold.  So amazing that Blogger won’t let me post the pictures I took inside.  True story.

Rather than hop the exact same bus back, we decided to walk along the massive city walls that Theodisius built in the 5th century. There were some “stairs” that led up different parts of the wall, which gave some great views of the west district and the Golden Horn. I use the quotes because, holy moley, getting up and down those walls can be a bit dicey! Some of them are fine, while others are thin, half broken and steep. We climbed one set up to a turret, where I was basically using the thing like a ladder both ways. In the turrett, there was a “safety barricade” that had a section missing in the part where, arguably, somebody would have backed up while trying to get a good shot. Massive drop later, no good picture.

So once we were off the death wall, we walked down to the nearest major road, right next to the entrance of the Golden Horn, where we saw a submarine of all things. Then, bus back to Emoninu where I FINALLY got to try a fish sandwich. For six lira, definitely enough carbs and protein to last an afternoon.

The plan after that was to walk through the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar to do some souvenir shopping. Along the way, we stopped into the Rustem Pasa Mosque, known for its beautiful Iznik tiles, which were a sign of wealth. It was built by Rustem Pasa, who was found to be carrying body lice on the night of his wedding to Suleyman’s daughter, earning him the nickname “Louse of Fortune”. Any nickname with the word “Louse” in it sucks by default, but the fact that I basically know this guy’s grooming habits a good 500 years later make it extra unfortunate. The mosque, though, was impecably clean.

We picked up some pide for Daina in the Spice Bazaar, as well as the first batch of souvenirs, and then began the walk towards the Grand Bazaar. Fortunately, we found the souvenirs we wanted along the way, so we didn’t even have to hit the Bazaar proper. Good thing, since it was closed today. After that, back to the hotel for a repack.

Our last dinner together was at an excellent little place called “House of Medusa”. Pricey, but considering D leaves tomorrow for home and I’ll be on solo backpacker prices for the next few weeks, definitely worth it. I continued the trend of picking the best thing on the menu, on purpose or by accident, by having the “Medusa Chicken”, kind of a Chicken Kiev with mushrooms, more ham and a better cheese. Daina got the “Medusa Kebab”, which was a nice looking steak slathered in mushroom sauce.

Note to anybody coming to Turkey – if you don’t like mushrooms, make sure you ask “Does this have mushrooms.” A lot of the good stuff does.

One last walk through the Hippodrome, and that was it.

It’s always bittersweet when we get to this part of the trip. I’ve said before, I’m pretty darn blessed to have the job I have and a partner who can say “Go, have fun, be safe” instead of “You’re doing this stuff without me?” While solo travel has its benefits overall, those benefits are dwarfed when…. Well, I’ll try not to get mushy.

So as D flies home, I’m off to see some of the rest of the country.

K_Backpacks.

Miss D already.

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