Istanbul: Covered Bazaar,
Chora Church, Beyoglu district, Bosphorus cruise
Western Turkey - Personal Journal
- Monday, 6 April 1998
This was our last day in Istanbul so we took our luggage to the
lobby by 8:15, where the bus was waiting to take us to the covered bazaar at
9:00. We saw that the sheep had been herded into a lot across the street and
fortunately we had a little time for pictures. It seemed strange that the
shepherd was wearing a suit. Perhaps he dresses up when he brings his herd to
town. The sheep were probably sold to families to be used in the Bayram
sacrifice on Tuesday.
At the bazaar we were amazed by the array of items for sale. Jim
later expressed a desire to come back to Istanbul with empty suitcases, fill
them at the bazaar, and then go back home.
On the bus, Meli fed us details about the neighborhoods. The area
with the obelisk (the site of the ancient Hippodrome) has come to be known as
the "belted stone" neighborhood. (In Cappadocia, she told us, we would eat as a
resturant called "waist wrapped around with a golden thread.") The Oksar
neighborhood began as a tourist area. It became a "suitcase sales" area, where
Russian women would bring suitcases full of goods to sell in the market. Soon
they realized it was more lucrative for them to sell their bodies so it became
an area of prostitution, then the Mafia moved in and began to control it.
Chora Monastery (Kariye
The bus took us through the city streets to Chora church. As we
walked up the hill, I could hear a rooster crowing in the little village
neighborhood. Meli's lecture began inside the highly decorated church. It was
in this church in the 10th century, Meli told us, that it was decided how Mary,
Jesus, the disciples, etc., would be depicted in art. The church had gone
through a 200 year iconoclastic period prior to this time, but apparently the
iconoclastic position of the Muslims pushed the church to want to be different.
They began to depict the Christian stories in mosaics and paintings on church
walls. (For more information on the Chora Monastery browse on over to
Art, said Meli, is culture and geography. It depicts what the eye
sees. Portraiture tries to project qualities, such as wisdom, strength, etc. In
the pictures of Jesus, the positions of arms, hands, fingers, depicts a
quality. Jesus is variously represented as Son, Savior, and Christ. (Meli used
other words with which I am unfamiliar - one is Pantocrator, which means the
all-ruling father. There were others that mean teacher and savior.) A cross was
painted behind the head to identify Christ. (It makes sense - up until now no
one had seen his picture!)
A depiction of an emperor with a crown shows the Christian who
built the church in 1020. Beside him is the Muslim who restored the church in
1280 - a sultan wearing a turban. Across the room is the story of Lazarus. Meli
pointed out the unwrapping of the grave clothes of Lazarus, and then the turban
on the head of the sultan. "The turban" she said, "is the fabric that will be
used in the future as his grave wrappings."
A mosaic high in a dome depicts Jesus having broken the gates of
hell and bound Satan. He has Adam by one hand and Eve by the other, and is
pulling them out of hell. Meli wishes that people would remember this message
about Jesus, that he has already accomplished this.
Meli's lectures in this building are again overwhelming, and it is
hard to remember or reconstruct even a portion of what she told us. She talked
of 8,000 years of people worshiping a mother goddess, being told now there is
one God, and his name is Jesus. How difficult it was for them to accept! In 432
AD, they were still struggling, and in the ecumenical council at Ephesus, Mary
was declared to be the mother of God (Theotokos as opposed to Christokos); once
again the people had a mother goddess. (The council at Ephesus in 432 was when
the Trinity was made a Church doctrine, against the raging heresies of the day
- was Jesus human or divine? Upon it being declared that He was both fully
human and fully divine, and a member of the Trinity, it was a logical side
effect for people steeped in Greek Philosophy to conclude that Mary was
therefore the Mother of God.)
Meli told us the story of Mary, whose mother was named Anne
(Remember that earlier she told us Anne meant mother.). Mary, she said, had
been born into an important rich family, with a genealogy of kings. These
stories were new to me, and I had no hooks in my mind to hang them on. After
coming home, I did some research and found that such stories are told in what
is called the apocryphal books. They are not stories that are told in canonical
scripture, the Bible. I found two versions of "The Gospel of the Birth of
Mary," which seem to be the traditional support for these beliefs.
Meli talked about Dormition and Assumption, again terms I did not
understand. Later research revealed that it was believed that Mary never died,
but went to sleep (Dormition) and was taken to heaven by Jesus (Assumption). I
also learned that the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church refers to
the doctrine that Mary was conceived without sin. Jesus' entry into the world
is referred to as the Virgin Birth. This meaning of Immaculate Conception is a
confusion to most non-Catholics (and even to some Catholics, I have learned)
who mistakenly think it refers to the conception of Jesus. But those who
learned and remember their catechism (including my husband!) know that the
doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is that Mary herself was conceived
without sin. New Testament genealogies do trace Mary back to King David, but
the wealth of the family at the time of Jesus' birth is not obvious in
More intriguing tidbits were given to us, about St. Basel, two
saints named Gregory, St. Simon, and the soldier saint. It was all too much. I
couldn't take it in. I don't think this is a one-time only tour. We need to go
back again to be able to comprehend what we've seen and heard and learned. As
Meli told us more than once, she hoped it would be a "spoonful of honey in our
mouths" to make us want more. It is.
Hotel Pera Palas
Too soon, (or not soon enough, it's hard to tell) we head across
the Golden Horn to the Beyoglu section of Istanbul where we were dropped off
near the hotel Pera Palas so we may wander about on our own. This hotel is
famous for its role in the history of spies during World War II, as well as for
being the place where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express.
Ataturk's suite is an "on-request" museum. Someone with a key let us in and we
stared in amazement at the room preserved as it was when he died. It deserved
more time than we had to give to it, and soon we were back on the bus. The
Spice Market was the next scheduled stop, but one look at the holiday crowds
convinced at least half of us that we'd skip this one.
The bus moved on to the harbor where our boat awaited. We had a
nice interlude, resting on the anchored boat in the Golden Horn and waiting for
the others to join us from the Spice Market. Just before 5 p.m. we embarked on
our cruise on the Bosphorus. We were told that the top layer of water, where
the stronger currents are, flows south to the Sea of Marmara. The deeper,
saltier layer flows northward into the Black Sea.
We cruised past the Dolmabache Palace. This palace was built and
occupied in the 1800s by Mahmut II, and Topkapi became a place to house
discarded members of the harem and elderly palace servants.
Along the Bosphorus shore are homes, some new or restored and
quite nice, others old and in serious need of repair. The homes are used by the
Turkish people as summer homes only - that means they are used for a month or
so out of the year, and sit empty the rest of the time. The price for a summer
home on the Bosphorus can be as much as $20 million.
After dinner in Uskudar, across the Bosphorus from Istanbul, the
bus took us to the train station. On the way, Meli told us some stories about
how she got started in her own tourist business. A very interesting and long
story about engineers who loved trains included a part about Meli repairing an
engine in order to give her clients what they were looking for.
Night Train to Ankara
On the train at last, we got settled into our little cubicles. It
was some time before the train left the depot. Once on the way it traveled very
slowly and during the night it made frequent stops in the middle of nowhere for
no obvious reason. Add to that our excited frame of mind and you can well
understand that it was impossible to get a good night's sleep.
In the early morning hours, the train passed by the village of
Gordion - famous for the Gordion knot that Alexander is said to have cut with
his sword. We didn't see it; we were trying to keep our eyes shut.