Patricia's Visit to Istanbul

I have been very busy sightseeing since returning from Australia. My friend, Patricia, who was in the same year at school as me, flew in last Thursday for a visit. I have had such fun giving her a glimpse of Istanbul.

Paticia bought lots of postcards to send to friends.

On Friday, we visited the little Chora church, with its amazing mosaics and frescos, followed by a visit to the Aya Sofia. The church of St Savior in Chora is purported to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine church. The original building dates from the 5th century. The church was rebuilt in the 11th century, although many of the frescos and mosaics weren't added until the 14th century. They were plastered over when the church became a mosque in the 16th century and gradually uncovered again when the church was declared a secularised museum in 1948.

Patricia outside the Choro Church

One of the beautiful frescos in the Choro Church

The Aya Sofia is one of those 'must sees' of Istanbul. This was the cathedral of old Constantinople, from the year 360 until it became a mosque in 1453. In 1934, the Aya Sofia was secularised and it was opened as a museum in 1935. The sheer size of the Aya Sofia is amazing, Its vast interior must have held thousands of worshippers in its day. It is a remarkable feat of architecture, with its magnificent dome almost appearing to defy gravity.

A stunning mosaic from the Aya Sofia.

The next day we took the ferry all the way along the Bosphorus to Anadolu Kavaği, a little village at the entrance to the Black Sea. There we had a delightful fish lunch, seated right on the edge of the water, before making the return journey. Towering over Anadolu Kavaği is the Yorus castle, an ancient Byzantine fortification. We admired it from afar, preferring to linger over lunch, rather than struggle up the steep hill.

David and Patricia at the fish restaurant in Anadolu Kavaği.

On Sunday, we went to Christ Church, built to commemorate the Crimean War, so that Patricia could meet Canon Ian Sherwood, with whom she had communicated, but never met. After church, we enjoyed a glass of wine in the parsonage, before taking Ian to the House Restaurant for lunch.

Patricia with Canon Ian Sherwood

Monday took Patricia and me to Büyükada, the largest island of the Prince's Islands. We toured the island in a horse-drawn carriage, before enjoying a leisurely lunch in a fish restaurant beside the Sea of Marmara.

Patricia, in the 'Surrey with the Fringe on Top'.

Our next trip was to the Basilica Cisterna (Yerebatan Sarayı, or sunken palace). This was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and was designed to provide a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople, among other buildings. It continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 right up to modern times.

The Basilica Cisterna (Yerebatan Sarayı, or sunken palace)

After admiring the cisterna, we visited the Grand Bazaar, where Patricia bought gifts for friends back home, before walking down the long road to the spice market. There, we sampled and bought Turkish Delight - even though it shouldn't be in my diet, it was delicious!

We saw this boat on the Bosphorus. They were making fresh fish sandwiches.

Today is David's birthday, and Patricia took us to a magnificent lunch in our favourite restaurant to celebrate. Tomorrow, Patricia flies out again. We hope she enjoyed her stay and look forward to her next visit as there is so much more to see of this extraordinary city called Istanbul.

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