Friday, June 14, 2013

Turkey Day 9: Istanbul was Constantinople...

Turkey in 10 Days
1. General Remarks
2. What to Bring
3. Day 1: Traveling There
4. Day 2: Troy
5. Day 3: Pergamum, Thyatira, Philadelphia, Sardis, Smyrna 
6. Day 4: Ephesus and Laodicea
7. Day 5: Colossae and Perga
8. Day 6: Galatia: Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra
9. Day 7: Derbe and Tarsus
10. Day 8: Cappadocia and Nicaea

11. Day 9: Chalcedon and Constantinople (Istanbul)
When I told my daughter and step-daughter that I was flying into Istanbul, they independently started singing, "Istanbul was Constantinople, Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople."  I had no idea what they were singing.  I guess it's a 1953 song that was in Mona Lisa Smile.  I'm still dumbfounded that a couple lines from a ditty could generate so much enthusiasm while "The Hittites ruled this whole region for over a 1000 years gets nothing." :-)

I was tasked to find something to bring home that said, "Istanbul, Constantinople" on it.  The shop keeper looked at me with a puzzled look.  "Istanbul is Constantinople."

"But do you have something that says both Istanbul and Constantinople on it."

"No, Constantinople is no longer.  It is only Istanbul.  Here is Constantinople."

"Thank you.  Never mind."

Is Jesus half human?  Was he so divine that his humanity doesn't matter?  Does he have a split personality--divine on weekends but human during the week?  The Council of Chalcedon settled that debate in AD451. Just across the Bosphorus from Istanbul is Kadiköy (40-59-27.36N, 29-01-01.50E), where the council took place.

Looking toward Chalcedon from Istanbul

Of course it's not Constantinople any more.  "Even old New York was once New Amsterdam."  And it was Byzantium in between.  Constantine actually shifted the HQ of Rome here in the 300s and "Rome" lingered here long after Italy itself was no longer under Roman control.

With a visit to Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia; 41-00-30.10N, 28-58-48.39), we finished our tour of the seven ecumenical councils, the first four of which made the full transition from the New Testament church to Christianity as we now know it.

Aya Sofya

Here's the list:
1. Council of Nicaea (325) - decided on the Trinity
2. Council of Constantinople (381) - finalized details in the Nicene Creed
3. Council of Ephesus (431) - did Jesus have a split personality
4. Council of Chalcedon (451) - Jesus was one person with two natures

5. Council of Constantinople (553) - condemned certain authors
6. Council of Constantinople (680) - condemned the idea that Jesus only had one will
7. Council of Nicaea (787) - It's okay to have pictures of Jesus and others.

We left Iznik (Nicaea) after breakfast and drove 150 around the north side of the lake until we hit 575 going north through Orhangazi.  You can take this road all the way around the bay to save money on a ferry, but you'll add an hour or more to your time.  The traffic on 0-4 coming into Istanbul can be horrific.

We had two ferry options and took the second.  It was something like 50 lira.  In retrospect, since the traffic was so bad, we probably would have taken the first ferry option as 575 turned east coming north.  It would have been a longer ferry, but we would have cut off more travel on the north side.

You can't miss Istanbul, and the signs for Aya Sofya should be clear.  We passed a water cannon tank at a stadium on our way to Sofya.  We didn't know it at the time, but they were gearing up for one of the early riots over the park the conservative government wants to turn into a mall.  The riots have only increased since we left.

Aya Sofya is now a museum, and while it is full of Muslim art...

Aya Sofya Islamic caligraphy
Aya Sofya caligraphic chandelier

... they are also now restoring some of the underlying Christian mosaics.

Aya Sofya - Jesus, Mary, John

Directly across from Aya Sofya is the exquisite Blue Mosque:

Blue Mosque

It's insides are also exquisite:

Inside Dome of Blue Mosque

Next to the Blue Mosque are some plunderings of other ancient sites:

Serpent column celebrating the Greeks' victory over the Persians in 479BC
Obelisk of Thutmose III (1500s BC) brought here in AD390

Ross also went into the Grand Palace.  We missed the Grand Bazaar where the latest James Bond was partially filmed.

Finding parking and a hotel were first on the agenda once we got close to Aya Sofya. Ross found us a very nice one.

Istanbul Hotel Bali
It had exquisite views from the top, where breakfast was served the next morning.  It was a little more expensive than our usual fare, and there are no doubt much less expensive hotels down the hill behind Aya Sofya.  But you couldn't have beat the view.

We ended the night with our first and last Turkish pizza at this exquisite place, tucked in an alley off the  main road running up and down by the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya.

exquisite Turkish Pizza

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