Sunday in Istanbul – the Basilica Cistern

11/30 – you’ve seen the Basilica Cistern in the James Bond movie From Russia With Love, and you’ve read about it in Dan Brown’s Inferno.

The Emperor Justinian used 7000 slaves to dig the cistern in the 6th century, to provide filtered water for the palace gardens. It consists of 336 marble columns, holding up the roof. If full, it would contain 100,000 tons of water.IMG_4823.JPG

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Carp swim in the shallow water below.

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The columns are presumed to have been scavenged from older buildings, and are a mishmash of styles. One has a hole that people stick their thumbs in for good luck.

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This column’s decorations are said to represent the tears of the slaves who died constructing the cistern.

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The highlight of the Cistern is the two heads of Medusa. Scavenged from an older Greek building, one was placed upside down, and the other on its side. Why? No one knows…

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Our neighborhood had no electricity this morning, so we had to walk to find a restaurant for lunch where the lights were on. We returned to my favorite lunch place, filled with locals. There are no menus, you just walk up to the counter and point at what you want – half a dozen bubbling stews that change daily. I picked chicken and green peppers, but Jim got the tastiest – eggplant and beef with vegetables. You sit at a table with a big basket of bread, thinking, “who could eat this much bread?”, but once you start eating, you keep reaching for another hunk of bread to sop up every bit of sauce on your plate. Food heaven. We try to determine what is in each dish in the hope that we can reproduce these flavors at home. Maybe we’ll just stay here instead!

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