21 December 2010

St. Saviour in Chora

On one of my solo days I ventured out past the Bazaar Quarter to find the city wall. It actually took me forever to figure out how to even get there. I am not a map reader and shouldn't really be allowed near them. The way it looked to me on the map, the wall ran along the Bosphoros...and that was so not correct. But I finally did figure it out and hopped on the tram to get there. And the figuring out how to get there was not my last difficulty of the day.

So I found the wall and followed it for a bit. And then I ran into some construction and it looked like the entire area was blocked off. Now this was somewhat concerning to me because it not only hindered me from following the wall, but following the wall was the only way I knew how to get to the church/museum of Saint Saviour in Chora.

There was a mosque I planned to visit enroute to the church and, while I couldn't see the church from where I stood, I could see the mosque high up on a hill (it's not in the above picture but think about there being a big hill somewhat to the right and stick a mosque on it). So no big deal, right? All I have to do is start heading up and keep the mosque in view and I should be fine, right? Right?!

No. Well yeah I did finally reach the mosque but after much wandering up and down and around steep streets in what looked to be not really a neighborhood I wanted to hang out in for any length of time. This was also another of the unseasonably warm days I was blessed to have so I was huffing and puffing around every corner and hill. I finally did reach the mosque only to not be able to figure out a way in because it seemed to be surrounded by the same construction that had ended my path along the wall. I was less annoyed about not seeing the mosque as I was about not having a good excuse to stop for a few minutes and recover myself. With my less than stellar sense of direction and a dubious guidebook map I pressed on hoping that I would find the church soon. I ended up getting dumped out of a side street at what looked to be a pretty main road (I was fairly excited about that alone). I found the road on my map and, according to said map, the church should be right there.


There was no church. Finally though, after walking up and down a section of the street a few times to see if I could simple "feel" where the bloody thing was, I caught sight of an itty bitty sign that said "muze". I assumed (and turned out I was right) that muze was the Turkish word for museum. So I trustingly followed the sign so yet another side street where I found a more informative "Kariye Muze" sign. And then...yatze! Saint Saviour in Chora.

It's oddly shaped on the inside...in the fashion of the old cross-shaped churches and I couldn't quite figure out which was the main ceremony room and if anyone ever came to worship since there did not seem to be enough space to stuff everyone into. That aside it has some of the most stunning mosaics I've seen. The entire inside seemed to glow.

Jesus heals two blind men.


Raising of Lazarus (upper left)


Miracle of the loaves and fish.


Journey to Bethleham
After spending quite some time admiring the church (and admittedly having a rest) I decided to try to see one of the other churches in this area of Istanbul. I actually started out feeling mildly discouraged...the guidebook maps made everything look so far apart and there was a tangle of little streets (some without names) between me and the church I really wanted to see. But I again struck out hoping I would have better luck.

Better luck was not my fate. I went back the direction I came but consulting my map realized that I wanted to go the other way so I walked back to St. Saviour. But once I got back there nothing looked very promising. So I thought I'd head back to that main street and see if I had a better shot from there. A taxi driver stopped me and asked if I needed help and when I told him my destination he said no problem, it's less than 1 kilometer. Go past the church, turn right then left then I think another left and you'll be there. 10-15 minutes.

Forty minutes later...

The directions I got from the taxi driver ended up with me making a giant loop back to that main street. I walked up and down one street off that (street/steep hill, potato/potato) at least three times, tried a few sides streets...eventually I just decided to head in what I thought was the general vicinity of where I wanted to be. Definitely not an affluent part of Istanbul, I chose my streets based on how many people there were on them and how much activity seemed to be happening. I also may have stopped into a shop or two for su (water).

After some time I found myself on the street which ran parallel to the water, which was basically where I was trying to be. I know that the church sat along the water somewhere so now I just had to figure out if I were going left or right. The corner I stopped on to check my map again was occupied by a busy restaurant. One of the waitresses took pity on me and came out to give me the restaurant's card, indicated it's address and pointed at my map. She was my favorite person that day. With her assistance I happily discovered where I was on the map and realized that I should turn right. A few yards later and ta da!

Saint Stephen of the Bulgars. I knew I had to visit this church when the guidebook said that the church is made out of cast iron. Iron! How cool is that? St. Stephen's was built in the 19th century when the Bulgarians broke away from the Greek Orthodox to form their own church. This is still a functioning church used by the ever dwindling Bulgarian minority in Istanbul.

Water fountain

It was a pretty exhausting day. But in the end it was worth it. Not because I saw the old city wall or the two churches, but because I got to take a water bus back to the Golden Horn!

No comments: