Monthly Archives: August 2012

Food – Pizza Island style

On our first night in Stone Town, asking locals where we should eat is fruitless. You would be met with a blank stare or an undecipherable jumble of swahili and english. The divide between a restaurant that a local would go to and a restaurant that a tourist would go to is massive. And if you don’t know already, I’m willing to try all sorts of street meat, but the local restaurants are a non starter. Also, many of the restaurants on the beach serve alcohol and that’s reason enough for these muslim men to refrain from going.

After wandering around a good deal we had just given up all hope of finding palace to eat that both looked good and fit our budget. Then we saw smoke rising in the distance and a crown starting to gather. As we approached we saw tourist and locals alike ordering meat, fish, crab, vegetables, octopus, squid, you name it it was skewered and placed on white hot coals. They piled it all on a paper plate topped it with some still sizzling french fries and covered it with piripiri sauce or if you were adventurous pirpirihoho, swahili for very hot chili. (piripiri a native african chili, fiery hot, but immensely complex and flavorful)

seafood bar

Only being free of my stomach woes from istanbul for a week or so I wanted to play it safe, so we decided to steer clear of the pre cooked dodgy looking meats and go with what the vendors were calling pizza.

 

pizza cook

As you can see, this is clearly not pizza, but it was delicious. It came closer to a pan fried chinese dumpling. They start off with a thin layer of dough, pile on finely diced onion, carrot, peppers and tomato. Then they mix in a piece of laughing cow style cheese, a small scoop of mayonnaise, piripiri, and then crack a raw egg and scramble it all together in the dough. Our cook Mohammed slaps the whole thing dough side down on a buttered fry top and cooks for about 10 minuets.

not pizza

During our wait we noticed a large wheeled contraption next to Mohammad’s kiosk. And saw five foot tall stalks of sugar cane along with fresh cut limes and big bulbs of ginger being fed through the device, the juice was trickling down into a tub with large blocks of ice. We couldn’t resist, we bought one, then another, then another. They were 1000 TZS each, that’s about 75 cents. Ice cold, tart lime, sweet cane juice, spicy ginger. The only way they could have been better, and they were already superb was with a splash of white rum.

cane Juicer

If some entrepreneurial person is reading this, find a way to get one of these machines to venice beach, south beach, pretty much any beach in america and you will have a line of people down the block.

I have the best husband in the world, hands down.

Although this may seem quite obvious I’d love to share a story of one of the many reasons I know this is true.

Though our accommodation in Zanzibar is quite acceptable, it was not as nice or as luxurious as the internet had made it seem.  Go figure.  But, there are very nice hotels along the beach, we just weren’t really staying at one of them.  But, Seth and I happily ate our breakfast of fruit and instant coffee, glad to be out of Stone Town, and happy to be spending our second anniversary as a married couple in such an exotic place.

ZanzibarSunset

After breakfast, we went for a leisurely stroll down the beach.  We checked out the little pools of water to see if anything was alive in them.  Tons of sea stars and quite a few crustaceans.  We eventually made it to the super nice hotel at the top of the island and Seth decided to use the restroom there.  We wandered from the beach in through the hotel to reception to find the bathroom.  I stayed back as Seth went around the corner.  When he came back a moment later, he was accompanied by a staff member and said, “Surprise! We’re staying here for the night!”  I was utterly confused.  I didn’t know what was happening.  But it turned out that the evening before when Seth “went to get pictures of the sunset while the light was still good” he was really booking it down the beach to make a reservation at the nice hotel for our anniversary night.  Amazing.  I have the best husband ever, hands down.

hotel essque

hot essque hut

So, we spent the day and evening lounging around the super fancy resort.  Having drinks at the pool, lunch on the jetty out in the water, and a four course dinner, which had an added bonus of a rowdy kiswahili song and cake which, I think was their version of ‘happy anniversary’ or something like that.

hotel sunset

This morning we had a beautiful breakfast with delicious coffee, charcuterie, fruit, and steak and eggs.  And it was an amazing surprise of an anniversary that I will definitely remember.

Stone Town, Zanzibar

zanzibar Sunset

We made it to Stone Town in Zanzibar and to our hotel.  Though it is an island, Stone Town has the least island vibe Seth or I have ever been to.  It feels like a busy, dirty city.  Though our hotel was pretty, they caused us more problems than it was worth.  When we did our laundry they burnt a hole in my shirt, they charged us more for our second night without notifying us, and they didn’t follow through with helping us out with a transfer to the north of the island.  Zenji Hotel in Stone Town sucks.  Don’t give them your money.

The spice tour was nice.  We roamed through a plantation and were able to smell and taste a variety of local spices such as lemon grass and cinnamon, but the spice Zanzibar is known for is clove.  The clove flower had a very sweet, spicy smell.  

Zanzibar Tumeric

Zanzibar Lipstick Plant

We then made our way to the north of the island.  As I mentioned before, the hotel guy did not follow through with getting us a good price on a ride to compensate for the damaged shirt.  40 dollars is way too much for the ride.  After being swindled a few times trying to find a ride, we finally managed to get a ride to the north for a reasonable price.

But, apparently there are two hotels with very similar names.  We were taken to the Baraka Beach Bungalows while we needed to go to the Baraka Aquarium Bungalows.  Hmm… So we had a delicious lunch of lobster coconut curry before heading to our actual hotel.  The place is fine, but it wasn’t quite as nice as the hotel we were initially dropped off at.  But the Aquarium Bungalows will do.  And it was clean and did have hot water, so… How can I complain.  Once we made our way down the beach I felt better.  This is my first white sand beach.  It’s quite beautiful.  The fine white sand  makes the water glow a bright turquoise.  It’s really quite lovely.

Zanzibar Flats

This Is Africa

We found a few days prior to leaving Istanbul that Americans need a visa to enter India, even for connecting flights.  We tried the embassy in Istanbul, but we couldn’t wait the required four days for the visa.  So the plan was to apply for the visa in Dar es Salaam Tanzania and they would mail it to Zanzibar, where we’d pick it up after our safari. We landed in Dar es Salaam at 2 am and then “slept” until 8am where we hired a car to take us into the city to the Indian consulate. We dropped off our passports in the hopes that they would approve the visas and then send our passports to Stone Town in Zanzibar after our safari. We were more then a little concerned that we had just given away our only  way of leaving the country. Our trip hung in the balance and rested on the Indian embassy’s ability to quirky approve a visa and return our passports.

Well, we made it back to the airport at about 11am and we were able to hop on an earlier flight to Kilimanjaro Airport.  We were picked up by our driver and made it to Moshi.  We were pretty exhausted, since we’d been traveling for a full 24 hours, I timed it.  

We met our guide, driver and buddy for the next week, Elvis.  And we, finally, got to meet Ria.  Ria has been such a huge help, not only with arranging everything involved with our safari, but she’s helped us change things last minute in order to handle our India visa issues.  

Seth and Elvis

There is no way I could give you a play by play of our entire safari.  There’s just too much to say.  We saw every animal you could imagine on a safari and experienced things that we could not have imagined beforehand.  We saw elephants up close, and were even charged once.  We watched giraffes get spooked by our slowing car, then stop to check us out.  The lions were majestic and even more impressive close up.  On our second day in the Serengetti we watched a collared lioness kill a thompson gazelle and then retrieve her two young cubs to treat them to a feast.  

Kitten Kill

The safari nights were just as eventful as the days.  Our chef, Good Luck, treated us to some lovely meals that we were able to share with the good company of Elvis.  We were so fortunate to be able to share our safari with these wonderful men.

Seth Berkley and Good Luck

We only left our tent in the middle of the night once, and seconds after we got back into our tent we heard close sounds of hyenas and lions.  And the noises only became more intense.  I woke up one evening to the sounds of a kill, lions grunting and hyenas cackling.  Those noises stopped any future nighttime bathroom runs

Safari Night

We were able to partake in a few days of cultural experiences as well.  We jumped and shrugged with the Masai, we spent time in the sitting room with Tatoga tribeswomen, and went on a hunt in the wee hours of the morning with the Hadzabe tribesmen.  We were able to catch a glimpse of life that hasn’t changed since the beginning of communities.  The experience has been life changing and I hope our pictures can give you a glimpse into our adventures.  

tanzaniaShillings

Obama Bus

zebras

Buffalo Skull

Safari Sunrise

Turkish Cooking and a Wild Goose hunt

We made our way to our meeting point to meet with Olga our cooking instructor for the day.  We headed out to the Asian side of Istanbul and wandered around the market. We stopped at various stalls to learn about local things and try foods native to the area.  I especially liked the Turkish Coffee.  We’ve tried some pretty good coffee here, but this one was the smoothest.

TurkishCoffee

We then went to Olga’s home to cook.  We whipped up an assortment of traditional Turkish food.  We started by preparing mezze (starters).  We made one with green beans and one with eggplant.  I absolutely loved the green bean mezze, which is not characteristic.  But, they were so good!

TurkishEggplant

We, then made the stuffed eggplant.  It was stuffed with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a beef and lamb mixture.  That was also really tasty.  Even though I’m a big eggplant lover, I’m not usually a fan of stuffed eggplant.  But, I think this is because they are usually stuffed with rice, and I’m not a huge fan of rice.  So this was delicious.

TurkishStuffedEggplant

We made bourek in triangle form! Filled with a sliced cured meat, a feta like cheese and grilled onion mixture, wrapped in Turkish filo dough (which is a little bit thicker than other filo).  Those were amazing.

TurkishTriangles

For dessert we made what Olga called a sponge cake.  And spongy it was! It soaked up a ton of simple syrup.  It was served warm out of the oven with Turkish ice cream, which is made with a type of orchid root which has kind of a gummy consistency, much like the mastic we found in Greece.  Delish!

TurkishCakeIceCream

That night we did some laundry and ran into some ducklings waddling around outside our hotel.  They are adorable, but I’m not sure how much longer they’re going to last without a mommy.

Turkish Ducklings from Seth Cobb on Vimeo.

Today we went on a wild goose hunt.  Yesterday, we learned from Olga’s Turkish husband who used to work in tourism, that many people here would rather give you an inaccurate answer than tell you that they don’t know.  We definitely encountered this today.  We asked the tourist office If there was a UPS.  He told us yes then gave us directions.  But the directions did not lead us to a UPS.  We asked around and people kept pointing us in different directions, when finally one man in a hotel checked on the UPS website, and found it’s location, which was quite a walk away.  But, he told us there was a DHL down the street.  Then we had to walk in circles for quite a while asking people for directions and being sent in all sorts of directions.  Finally, after about an hour to an hour and a half we found the DHL, but they wouldn’t ship half of our things.  So we went for the regular post office, and had to wait a half an hour for the place to open.  Once it was open we were sent on another hunt to buy a box, because they only had one size, small.  My goodness.  I wish people would just tell you to ask someone else if they didn’t know.

We walked around for a bit and found a pide place that Olga recommended.  Pide is Turkey’s version of pizza.  It’s pizza, but the dough is shaped almost like a boat.  It was pretty good.

Back in Istanbul, and it’s Still Not Constantinople

Okey Dokey.  We’re back in Istanbul and we’re really enjoying ourselves.  Istanbul is such a cool city.  After getting settled in our room, we made our way to a part of the city we hadn’t explored before.  See, Turkey lays on two continents.  Part of it is in Europe, and across the Bosphorous is the Asian Continent.  So, we visited the Asian side our first night back to meet up with Emily and Neil, our buddies from Cappadocia.  

Istanbul Seth Ferry

The Asian side of Istanbul was very different from the European side.  It was lively, even more friendly, and there was just a buzz in the air.  There were people performing in the street, locals hanging out on corners, and way less tourists.  It was homey.  The Asian side has character.  Something we saw right off the boat and continued to see were these  people with large metal buckets filled with mussels.  Wow, we’re going to have to try that.  But, maybe in a restaurant.  We’re told they are cooked with rice and raisins on the inside.  You squirt lemon on them and viola!  

Emily had cleverly made a reservation at Ciya Restaurant.  She had heard about it on Trip Advisor and heard it was delicious.  And, delicious it was! You start out by visiting the ‘meze bar’.  What is this? Well, it is a self serve, pay by weight, salad bar, but not salad like Sizzler.  It’s all Turkish salads.  There were choices with eggplant and parsley and those were really good, but I think the winner was this greens salad with some sort of lemony drizzle on it.  Then, you head up to an entree counter where you can choose between delicious Turkish fare with combinations like chic pea soup in a yogurt dill broth or pureed eggplant and yogurt with lamb stew on top (obviously I like yogurt).  There were so many tasty dishes to try, and we tried a lot of them.  Dessert was interesting.  Emily had heard that they had an eggplant dessert that was supposed to be awesome.  It was interesting.  It was kind of like a small candied eggplant and they accompanied it with a type of whipped cream.  I wasn’t a huge fan.  There was, also, a layered dough, but it was milky, and that was traditional for Ramadan, it was interesting.  My personal favorite were these little powdered sugar topped round cookies with a fruit (perhaps fig) filing inside.  It was simple but delicious.

We then found our way down the street to have a tower of beer and nargile.  What?  Nargile is what the Turks call hooka (aka water pipe).  It was really nice to hang out with travelers.  It’s, also, kinda funny that they’re both ‘from’ Colorado.  I hope we continue to meet cool people from all over the world.  It’s nice to trade stories and share differences from home.  

While we were drinking a man pushing a cart with a rabbit and a baby rabbit walked by our table, and because I had seen carts like this before and was so curious, I stopped and asked him what it was about.  Apparently it was a fortune telling rabbit.  I really wanted to hold the baby bunny, so I let the momma read my fortune.  Unfortunately, the rabbit only wrote fortunes in Turkish, so I have no idea what my fate will be.  But, the baby bunny was amazing!

Istanbul 571

The next day we were going to head to the Grand Bazaar, but apparently it’s closed on Sundays, so we found our way to the Egyptian Spice Market.  In our search to find the market we found what they call their garden bazaar.  And aside from a few plant seeds and pots, there were a variety of animals and creatures.  The first we saw were the buckets of leeches.  I guess blood letting is still going strong.  Then there were tons of different types of birds.  Chickens, peacocks, ducks, parrots, finches, pidgins, and many different species within them.  Some of them we’ve seen before, but many were new to us.  Really interesting.  There were, also, things like bunnies, hamsters, and guinea pigs, but they were not nearly as exciting as the birds.

Istanbul leeches

Istanbul ducklings

blindChick 

When we finally made our way into the Egyptian Spice Market it was way more touristy than we had expected, and there were way less spices as well.  There were lots of stalls selling Lokum (turkish delight) and scarves, some with ceramics, but wholly a tourist attraction, rather than where the locals buy their spices. Similarly, we were later told that the spice vendors cut their spices with cheaper things to increase their profit.  Not cool.  Oh well.  We ended up buying a kilo of turkish delight, though.  About midway through our spice market trip it started to rain.  We had been hoping that the clouds would open up, and open up they did.  The sky dumped sheets of water onto the streets of Istanbul.  We were fine walking through the light rain, but when it started pouring down buckets, we ducked into a shop to wait out the worst.  Eventually the rain subsided.

Istanbul rain

The next day we took care of some travel details, then spent a leisurely day around Istanbul.  We walked around the Ramadan market and went out to dinner at a place where locals break the fast.  That was nice.

Travelers Tip: Good bye hat, hello cap

You may have noticed this cream colored fedora arrive in our photos a few weeks ago when we first arrived in Greece. It was a reluctant purchase and not very expensive but I probably carried the hat around as much as I wore it. It doesn’t block the sun all that well as the brim is not very big and you have to constantly shape it or it turns into a mess. You can’t pack it in a back because it’s made of paper and it will crunch and become unwearable. After carrying it all over Greece, Egypt, and Turkey i’ve decided I need to put the hat down. I placed it on a railing inside the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul took a photo and walked away. The hat was claimed by some lucky traveler, because it was gone by the time we got back. I’ve replaced the hat with a cap that’s much more travel friendly and can be stuffed into a suitcase and holds it’s shape even when abused.

athensHat

R.I.P
July 23, 2012 – August 11th, 2012

istanbulHat

My new hat, hopefully it will serve me well in Africa and beyond.

Food – Ciya Sofrasi in Istanbul

We were invited to a restaurant on the Asian side of Istanbul by some friends we meant in Capadocia, Emily and Neil. It had great trip advisor reviews, and made the top 200 restaurants in Europe list by a travel site that I can’t remember right now. The restaurants name is Ciya but its pronounced chiya.

KML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
Ciya Sofrasi, Istanbul
Ciya Sofrasi, Istanbul 40.991133, 29.024645 Ciya Sofrasi Caferağa Mh. Güneşli Bahçe Sokak 43, Istanbul, Türkiye 0216 330 3190 ciya.com.tr‎

A bit confusing at first, but after our waiters explained the process it all made sense. First, you go to what Americans think of as a salad bar. This self service bar had all sorts of interesting spreads, dips and cold items. This is payed for by weight, Berkley beat everyone’s weight. Her plate cost 21 tl or about 12 dollars. Our eyes were a bit too big, we loaded our plates up, leaving very little room for the hot food that follows the salad bar. But that didn’t stop us from ordering a wide variety of dishes. The food was good, but the fun of meeting fellow Americans who share our love of travel was refreshing.

Turkish restaurant on the Asian side of istanbul

21 tl worth of Turkish Salads

 

Crispy chicken skin stuffed with rice and nuts, very good!

Berkley got to hold a baby bunny, also gets her fortune read after our meal was over.


Cappadocia

We figured that we’d pop a Lunesta and sleep for the 10-11 hour trip on our night bus, and save a bunch of money in lieu of taking a plane.  That was optimistic.  The night bus was extremely uncomfortable and not well suited for sleeping.  Aside from the discomfort, there were strong odors surrounding us, threatening our nostrils.  One seat behind us was a woman with two young children, and a loud cell phone that she would allow to ring till it hit voicemail.  She’d stuff her children with sugary treats at every stop we made which resulted in the children becoming amped up then cranky, fall asleep, get woken up by the cell phone and cry, then start the cycle all over again.  Seth was able to feel some of the effects of the pill and was able to sleep a bit.  I did not sleep more than 20 minutes the entire trip.  And it was not 10 hours.  We began our journey at 6:30pm and didn’t hit the final bus station until about 9am. 

Needless to say, we were absolutely exhausted.  But, we arrived at our cave hotel with 10 minutes to ‘freshen up’ in the communal bathroom in reception before heading out for our all day tour.  Luckily, our tour began with a hike.  Oh man.  That was rough.  And I think our mood detracted from the beauty of the area.  Sandstone formations shot up into the air to make for an interesting landscape.  The formations originated from volcanoes so the colors of the rock varied from whites, to rose, to blacks.

cappadociaScarf

rockHouse

Our day passed us in a haze, stopping at one destination here and a panoramic viewpoint there.  The highlight for us was an elaborate underground city comprised of tunnels and rooms that even connect across different towns throughout the vast region of Anatolia.  The Christians used this underground city to hide when under attack from the Romans.  They could live underground for a couple of months at a time.  The cave system was elaborate, going down 8 floors, with ventilation systems and everything.  

undergroundBerkley

undergroundBerkleyBW

airShaft

We ended up making friends and going out to dinner in town at Sofra Restaurant.  Though I’m not sure of it’s name, both Seth and I ordered a regional special.  Mine was with lamb and his was with chicken with peppers and tomatoes.  It went great with Efes, the Turkish beer.  We ended off the night with a game of Farkle.  Yes!  Somehow Neil won, after Farkling a million times.  Beginner’s luck!

Our second day of tour was a bit better because we were well rested, but we were still dealing with our bad choices from the Istanbul market. Remember the ice cream, yogurt, and pickle combo? Our stomachs were still not 100% better.

The Open Air Museum was pretty cool.  It is a series of churches built into the stone formations.  After a few descriptions from our tour guide, we decided to explore on our own, and it turned out that we made a good choice.  The people who stayed with the group only saw like 4 churches, while Seth and I saw a ton.  

We eventually made our way to another place where we were free to explore all the cave like structures on our own.  Seth and I went clambering up to the tops of as many structures as we could.  These were like homes carved out in the middle of large rock formations.  Kind of hard to explain, so I hope the pictures do them justice.

climbingAround

rockSideways

rockCastle

By the evening our stomachs were finally better, so we got a recommendation from a local in town and had a really good dinner at Micro Restaurant, once again.  Seth got the Ottoman Special, and I can’t remember what mine was called.  His was chicken with gravy and a garlic yogurt sauce atop a bed of shoe string french fries.  Mine was eggplant topped with a yogurt garlic sauce and lamb.  

We went back to our cave to sleep.  I mention this, because the area is known for its caves.  The history of the area is as a cave culture.  The people still build their homes into the mountain side.  The temperatures in a cave are such that they are fairly stable, making it cool in the summer, and warm in the winter.  So our hotel was a cave hotel.  Our room was pretty cool.

caveHotel

Since our experience on the night bus was so unpleasant, we decided to book a flight back to Istanbul.  We had already had a miserable day due to lack of sleep and we didn’t want to mess up a day in Istanbul too.  Plus, we didn’t want to get sick.  Since we were trying to book our flight so late the availability was pretty slim.  Only two seats left on the plane, and one of them was business class.  When we got off the plane I asked Seth how his in flight snack was. “Snack?” Seth had gotten a meal.  Which brings me to something I’ve been meaning to mention.  Some of you may remember a time when you received a meal for free while flying.  If it was a short flight you received a snack.  Well, they still do that outside the United States.  On every flight we’ve been on since we left the US we’ve received a meal, and they’ve been decent and quite interesting, and they don’t charge you a cent.  They are usually representative of where we are flying in some sort of way.  For example, Turkey is big on yogurts, and my snack included a yogurt with mint.  That was pretty good.

Istanbul not Constantinople

Upon arriving in Istanbul’s airport, the feeling was instantly different from that of Cairo.  Even though it’s not officially a part of the European union, it felt so much more western than Egypt.  Not to say that a bit of culture shock isn’t warranted once in a while, but it’s always nice to ‘go home’.  Mind you, Turkey is still very different from the US, but the airport seemed much more organized and official than Egypt’s in that when some kind of detector beeped they checked up on it, where as in Egypt they waved you through.

It was a long hot ride on the metro to get to the center of Istanbul.  At one point the tram car was so packed that more people were unable to enter.  It turned out that we had, once again, arrived during the breaking of the fast.  When we arrived to Sultanahmet (the old city of Istanbul around the Blue Mosque) there were hoards of people scattered atop picnic tables and blankets breaking their fast.  It was lively.  There were stages set up, ready for music, and there was a semi permanent craft fair set up along one side.

istanbulLights

We asked around to find our hostel for the night.  Although it was in a pretty neat little area, just below the Blue Mosque, we were pretty happy we only reserved one night. See, what we’ve been doing is booking one night in a place that is cheap and seems good enough.  Then, we either like it and stay, or we find a better place the next day.  This was not going to be a place we stayed in.  The floors were quite dirty, the shower was awkward and kinda flooded the bathroom, you couldn’t put toilet paper in the toilet, there was a smell of sewage constantly emanating from the bathroom, and to top it off, it was really difficult to close the door.

Whatever.  We rinsed off and headed out to ‘break our fast’.  First, we found kebab.  Every place does it a little differently.  They all have the shaved meat, but the toppings and receptacle vary.  Here it was placed in a baguette like bread with tomatoes, a little lettuce, and pickles.  It was alright.  I liked the crunch of the pickles.

Then we made our way to the stalls. We hit up the little food and crafts fair, and there were many local treats for us to try.  We began with some artisan ice cream.  I noticed that it had a different consistency.  It turned out that it was made from goat milk.  I tried the vanilla and pistachio, while Seth ordered vanilla and caramel.  I think I liked the vanilla the most, which is uncharacteristic for me.

goatIceCream

Next, we found a traditional yogurt stand with interesting toppings.  It was not a sweet, thin yogurt like in the US.  This was a hearty savory treat topped with a honey and blackberry reduction.  Man that was so good!

istanbulYogurt

Finally, we happened upon some girls with an odd colored drink with what looked like cabbage in the cup.  We found the stall and came to find that it was a cup of pickles with a beet red pickle juice that you were to drink if you liked.  I liked.  The pickled cabbage was so crunchy and good.  And the pickle juice was a salty treat as well.

purplePickle

I’m not sure if  you’ve been keeping track.  Goat milk ice cream, cow milk yogurt, then a cup of pickles with pickle juice.  I think we made cottage cheese in our bellies.  Though they were all really good one at a time, they were not an ideal combination in our stomachs.  Oops!

The next day was really hot.  Standing in line for the Hagia Sophia was not that long, but felt like a torturous hell to me.  I think Seth thought it was funny how miserable I was feeling.  I was sweating buckets.  Once in the Hagia Sophia I cooled down a bit.  It is such an impressive mosque.

berkleySophia

We then went to the underground Cisterns.  The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred under the city of Istanbul.  It was built in the 6th century under the Byzantine rule of Justinian.  They were filled with water and fish and were used to sustain the walled city for months, if not years, while under siege.  The Cisterns were forgotten to the world for hundreds of  years, until 1546 a scholar in Istanbul researching antiquities came across some locals who were able to miraculously lower a bucket into their basement floors and come up with water, and sometimes fish.  The cisterns were found and eventually restored in the late 1950’s and were finally opened to the public in 1987.  This place has an eerie calm and quiet.  The lighting is perfect and there are fat fish in the water below the platform.  At the back of the cistern are two columns with interesting bases.  One base is a Medusa head upside down, and the other is of her head on its side.  There are legends as to why she is in the cistern and in such positions, but historians have only guessed.  But, they believe they were placed in that manner intentionally.

Cistern

cisternPillars

cisternMedusa

That evening we made our way to our night bus to Cappadocia.