Anyway, yesterday we did our best to run ourselves, but got our timings wrong due to not knowing when prayer time was & getting to the Blue Mosque at exactly the wrong time. So it was tram then tube up to a big section of the city walls, then over to the Chora Church, which is described in one guidebook as having the best preserved Byzantine mosaics in the world. I was disappointed to discover they were actually created around 1300: I thought I was going to see some _really_ old stuff. Almost all of the center room was mosaic free - but covered with beautiful marble - and the three side rooms were 1/3 fresco & 2/3 mosaic, but again the mosaics looked decimated, half to 2/3 removed. The carvings a the tops of the pillars were also defaced - literally at the decorations that had faces had them whacked off. It was a lovely space, though not as nice as Ravenna. Whoda thunk National Geographic would be giving me my hot travel tips?
On the way back up through the neighborhood to the walls, I has what I would consider my 2nd negative experience with the locals: a bunch of street kids came up to us & started hassling us & wouldn't leave. Things got nasty & one of the kids tossed a bucket of water at us. Then one of the local adults came up to them and started yelling at them. It made me not enjoy all the walking we were doing; I felt exposed. Also, my calves & my lower back ache from all of this walking. We never managed to really master the public transportation system here.
Several changes later, we were back to the Blue Mosque, and this time we actually got to go in. It was much airier than Aya Sofia, with a big window overlooking the sea of Marmara and lots of low hanging lights. The blue and white floral tiles were lovely, but it was far more white than blue. The four elephantine pillars holding up the body of the structure were also quite remarkable.
Then the sun was setting. We headed back to the hotel for a bit of reading & tea, then went to the Egyptian/Spice Market. Since we kept going to these things around closing time, I can't say we got a real "flavor" for it, but I did get some pistachios and cinnamon sticks and dried mango.
We then walked across the lower level of the Galata Bridge, where we were hustled for dinner (yeah the view of the water was great but I still don't eat fish) and I saw the truly amusing sight of a sardine flying up into the night sky, far over our heds; a man fishing from the bridge had caught him. We also walked through the very frash fish market at the other side of the bridge. Since I didn't want to buy anything, there wasn't much point to being there, so we headed up the hill (via the funicular), grabbed dinner, and called it a night.
Today I was feeling a bit unmotivated & our big event was going to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum
, which I'd been warned was quite large & possibly overwhelming. We went to the ancient Middle Eastern section & plunged ourselves into Assyrian, Mesopotamian, Babylonian etc (more than I'd heard of) civs to our hearts' content. I was thrilled to see the lions from the gates of Babylon (I think) and creeped out by the eyeless, fat sphinxes from Nimrud (?). However, we weren't able to really devote much brain power to the rest of the museum, though really I've seen enough Roman portrait sculpture to hold me & ditto for funeral stelae. Still, the Alexander Sarcophagus was briliant, but I was pissed that the snake head of the twisted Delphic column (now in the old Hippodrome just next to the Blue Mosque, which I saw yesterday when we were left hanging early in the day) was off in Paris.
The rest of the day was a bit of a bust - we tried to go see the Turkish military band but wound up in a cemetary instead of in the park we were aiming for (totally couldn't figure out where we were on the map), we got to the Galata tower shortly after sunset, and then I realized most of my energy was gone & I didn't have motivation to do much of anything. Forget climbing all those stairs, forget getting overheated in an overpriced hammam ... I was feeling done for the trip. I rallied long enough to buy a few souvenirs - soap, towels, & a trivet - then went back to the hotel by way of a Turkish BBQ. And we just finished playing Carcasonne. Time to pack, I think. A few pix are up at www.twitpic.com/photos/webcowgirl for them what's interested.