Our 2007 UK and Europe Trip
The Blue Mosque and Archaeological Museum
15 Jan 2008
We can hear the singer calling from the Blue Mosque (five times a day) from our hotel so it wasn’t much of a walk to get there. It is called the Blue Mosque not because the outside is blue but because of the blue Iznik tiles in the interior. Iznik tiles were used by the Ottomans for their buildings and the most exquisite and expensive tiles are made in Iznik. There are just over 20000 tiles in this building but they are so high it is very difficult to see them in detail.
The mosque is open to tourists when it is not being used for prayers and is free to visit. It is both impressive from outside and within and is considered one of the most celebrated mosques in the world. It was commissioned by the then 19 year old Sultan Ahmet Camii and he quite often joined the labourers working on the mosque, such was his enthusiasm for the project.
Our next destination was the Archaeological Museum which was founded in 1881 with its collection spanning 5000 years. It was realized that a lot of the countries heritage was being removed by treasure hunters and archaeologists around this period and so the son of one of the nations most revered archaeologists made the first move to establish this museum. There are three buildings to explore and as outside was bitterly cold and wet we were happy to take our time and browse through its corridors of treasures. I will let the photos tell you about them.
One new section of the museum has been created to exhibit artifacts that have been uncovered very recently. The government is building a new railway line from the west to the east of the country mainly following the coastline and during excavation 26 ancient wrecks have been uncovered and many other buildings. All these discoveries have delayed the construction but some important finds have been made.
The Tiled Pavilion was just spectacular and tells the story of Turkish ceramics. The pavilion was built in 1472 as a sports pavilion and is the oldest secular building in Istanbul. Quite a few visitors came and went while we slowly made our way throughout the pavilion. It was such a pleasure to see this beautiful work.
Next was the Museum of the Ancient Orient with two basalt lions from Samal dating from the 8th century guarding the entrance steps. Inside were exhibits from Mesopotamia, Egypt and Babylon. There was a spectacular display of tiled lions which once formed part of a freeze on a street in Babylon. The street was 16 metres wide and 300 metres long and each freeze was about 1.2 metres long so it must have been quite a sight to see this street in ancient times. By this time we were pretty pooped so we went back to the hotel for a rest before going out again for dinner and to celebrate my birthday.
I chose a café from our guide book which had a reputation for affordable and delicious Turkish food and had been in business since 1925. The food could only be called pretty ordinary and there was only a choice of meatballs of dubious origin or kebab meat along with a salad. Gary also had a soup which we think was pea soup or perhaps chickpea soup. Service was instant and it didn’t exactly turn out to be quite the romantic Turkish dinner that I had hoped for but it was fresh and eatable with no alcohol. We did find a coffee and pasty shop after though and indulged in cake and baklava with our coffee.