Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to Istanbul--Basilica Cistern

Time to get back to the pictures, guys! Stick with me and we'll get through all of these eventually.

One of the absolute coolest things we saw in Istanbul, but one I had the least expectations for, was the Basilica Cistern. The entrance is very innocuous, just a door in a small building on a street corner that kind of looks like a shed. We immediately walked down a flight of stairs and, woah.

But things get really impressive when you hit the ground.

There's row after row of arched columns with several feet of water at the base. From wiki:
this underground structure was known as the “Basilica Cistern” as its was built underneath the Stoa Basilica, a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine had already constructed a structure, which was rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian. It provided water for the and other buildings on the First Great Palace of Constantinople, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman Conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

The base of the columns are lit with an eerie orange light that gives the whole thing a very otherworldly feeling. Walking down the steps was like descending into the underworld, but it didn't seem nefarious. There are paths through the rows of columns that you can just wander down. It's like walking in a big stone forest.

Some of the columns have really interesting details, like this one. It looked like it had weird swirly eyes carved all over it.

At the back of the cistern, are several columns that have the face of Medusa carved into their bases. You know Medusa, one of the three gorgons, snake for hair, can turn someone into stone by looking at them, blah blah.

And in the water at the base of the columns are fish!

One last look!

1 comment:

Arista said...

I've heard about this! They did a whole segment on cisterns in Istanbul on the history channel.