Monday, March 31, 2014
The cradle of so much Western history. We tripped over thousands of years of history just by walking down the street. Sleep was elusive because my imagination was on fire. The history pulsed under my feet and at the tips of my fingers.
First stop Istanbul. Founded as Byzantium in the 7th century BC, then re-imagined by Constantine the Great in 330AD, captured by Mehmet and the Ottomans in 1453 and now a glorious international city at the meeting point of Asia and Europe.
Constantine's city - surrounded by water and a powerful wall - that stood for 1,000 years as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Today it still acts as a buffer: a moderate secular state (for now) between radical Islam and the West. As it did from the beginning of Islam until the fall of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine empire.
Justinian's Hagia Sophia - 537AD (minarets added later).
We were hunting Byzantine mosaics here and in Chora.
Glorying in the scale of Justinian's vision The largest building in the world for 1,000 years.
A humble 6th century AD cistern, filled with water to withstand siege for years, now a beauty in it's own right.
The Fort of Europe built by Mehmed the Conqueror in 4 months as part of his strategy to choke trade in the Bosphorus and take Constantinople. He was only 21 years old!
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) - 1616 AD - at sunset
In the Topkapi Palace Harem, stunned by the blue tiles in 300 rooms, thinking we'd have gone crazy with the political intrigue at the heart of the Ottoman empire.
Then down the Aegean coast hunting ancient Greek, New Roman (Byzantine), Medieval European and Ottoman history.
The temple of Zeus, Euromos - 2nd century BC
Ephesus - 2nd century AD. One of the 4 largest Roman cities in the world. They lived well here.
Ephesus - My kind of theatre! Beautiful location and large enough for serious entertainment.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the 6th century BC temple of Apollo at Didyma near Miletus. Hard to realize the scale in a photo.
The ruins of Miletus. A glorious 4,000 year old city, conquered by Alexander in 334 BC, turned into a bishopric with a castle by the Byzantine's in the 6th century, used by the Ottomans in the 14th century but finally abandoned when the harbour silted up.
The knights of St John's castle in Bodrum - build in 1400 to resist the Ottomans
Nice place to be sent if you lived in Medieval England! Kos and Greece in the distance.
Full circle in time. to the oldest shipwreck ever found - 1400 BC treasure on a ship carrying enough tin and copper to make bronze armor for 5,000 soldiers. A king's ship.
And of course, great food everywhere!