17 June 2016

Photowalk: Edirnekapi to Ayvansaray

Outside of providing a distraction from work, Facebook really is sometimes quite useful. There's a group here in Istanbul run by a local guy who takes people on photo walks every other Sunday. Usually I don't like to do anything on Sunday-it's reserved for post church laziness-but I joined the most recent and am so glad I did.

Yas does these walks for people like me-foreigners who aren't tourists but who want to explore parts of the city that are less frequented. This walk I joined started in Edirnekapi and made a meandering path to Ayvansaray-near Balat. Along the way we stopped at several points of interest with Yas providing interesting details, history, and background.

Mihrimah Sultan Camii

We walked for a while along the old city wall. You can tell that it's been patched up in some places. In fact it's pretty obvious; so much so that UNESCO told Turkey to knock it off or lose the wall's protected status. Some parts are not repaired though and when we got to the Mihrimah Sultan mosque I gave up the chance for the view into the mosque complex and over several of Istanbul's hills because I was not doing those "stairs". Uh huh.

Terrifying stairs aside, the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque was my favorite stop. It is an imperial mosque (i.e. commissioned by a sultan) and sits on the sixth of Istanbul's seven hills. The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is a feat of mathematics and engineering. The arches that support the large center dome shouldn't be able to do so, and yet they do. The vast number of windows cut into each arch weaken the structure but despite this the mosque has been standing since the 1560s.

The windows are not just windows either. The majority are filled with beautiful stained glass that let in both light and color. It's breathtaking.

Edirne Gate

After leaving the mosque we headed back to the wall nearby and passed through the Edirnekapi (Edirne Gate). So-called because if you walk a straight line from the gate, not that that's possible anymore, you will reach the Turkish city of Edirne which was once upon a time the second capitol of the Ottoman Empire.

Kariye City Park

After leaving the Edirnekapi we walked further along the wall until we came to the Kariye Muzesi, also known as the Chora Church, my favorite museum in Istanbul. We went first to a lovely park I had no idea was behind the church then circled back around the front. I don't think Yas intended to stop but quite a few in the group hadn't yet been to the museum so we stopped for them. While it used to be one of the cheaper museum tickets at 15TL, the Kariye entrance fee has recently doubled. Luckily if you're a citizen, resident, or student in Turkey you can get the magical Museum Card which, for 50TL a year, allows you unfettered access to all the museums and sites in Turkey controlled by the Ministry of Culture.

Palace Center

Our next stop was the ruins of what was one of the imperial palaces. There's barely anything left and what is there has been so remodeled as to barely be recognizable. In addition to the very modern windows that have been put in, there's also a French balcony that makes no sense architecturally nor historically, and a door that opens to no where. Apparently it's to be made into some sort of cultural center.

Door to nowhere

When we weren't stopping for mathematically-defying mosques or ancient ruins were wandering the streets in the neighborhoods between Edirnekapi and Ayvansaray. Living where I do it's easy to forget what "real" Istanbul looks like. The narrow streets were lined with all sorts of homes, some if great repair, some not so much; some concrete apartment blocks, some traditional gems made from wood.

This enclosed balcony is called a 'cumba'

We stopped for a rest and tea break at the Molla Aşkı Teras Cafe which not only has a special tea blend with something like 40 spices, but also has an amazing view. While I may never attempt to hike up to the cafe (we walked down), I think it would be worth it. Worth it for the view and a tea-the food looked questionable so eat elsewhere.

Cemetery at dervish house

Dervish House

Our last stop was a renovated dervish house that is now a mosque. It also had an incredible view over the city and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the calm mosque and small cemetery over the bustling city below.

In the end it was a lot of walking on a warm day and I was exhausted after. However Yas was a great guide, it was a fun group of people, and I got to see parts of the city that I've never visited. I will be signing up for Yas's next walk!

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