Toady I was on my own as my partner has managed to catch a nasty bug. So, send all your vibes for a speedy recovery!
I started about 9 this morning and, since it was a nice day, I decided to walk instead of hitting up the tramway or ferry. My goal was the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate which is the most recognized headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the home of Bartholomew I, the head of the church. With only a 2% Christian population in Turkey, I was curious to see what sort of presence the church has here.
On my way to the church I stopped at the Fatih Mosque which is in the Fatih portion of town (funny side note: I’d always read that as Faith, and only today realized I was incorrect). An interesting thing about the Fatih section is that it ia known to be more conservative than other parts of Istanbul. And, sure enough, I noticed right off that the vast majority of women were wearing headscarves, and at least half of them were in coverings from head to toe. It was also a part of town where I got a lot more funny looks whenever I brought my big camera out. In fact, in the market just outside the mosque, one of the stall owners stared me down with what seemed to be open hostility.
But, more on the mosque. It was built as an imperial mosque but has gone though several renovations due to various natural disasters.
I was there somewhat early and when I entered the mosque I realized that I was one of three people there and the only non Muslim. It was serene. See, mosques don’t have seats or pews as all the praying is done on the ground, so the whole floorplan is very open. Having that openness to myself in such a large expanse was tranquil and allowed me a moment of reflection after a busy sidewalk and roadway walk.
After leaving the mosque I continued my journey to the church. I knew it wasn’t a large building (because of some Ottoman code that kept non Muslim buildings from being larger than mosques) but I had a rough idea of where I was going.
One thing I’ve learned about Istanbul that I didn’t realize before I came is just how hilly the place is. Also, just what a maze some of these streets can be. It’s a wonder the Ottomans conquered anything without GPS. All that to say I took my proper right to get to the church and began heading down some steep and serpentine roads, all while fruitlessly checking my map and Google map GPS. Eventually, I found myself here:
I assumed that this has to be the place, seeing as the Eastern Orthodox pope lives here and all. Now, how to translate that into a front door…
After winding and weaving my way past speedy cabs, food sniffing stray dogs, and at least two bemused looks from passerbys, I found the church. I mentioned that I was expecting an unassuming façade, and I was correct.
Besides the church there are some dark wood buildings that house what I assume to be the offices and living spaces of the church’s employees.
But while the outside might not be much, they certainly make up for it with the interior. For a small space, these guys pack in a LOT of opulence. From the giant chandler to the gold gilded icon screen, this place is wall go wall gilt.
It was interesting to go from the huge expanse of the mosques that have no images to the confined and icon heavy church. It was also interesting to see the two hugh tour groups of Russians as they interacted with a church they felt wholly familiar with and also revered as a very holy place.
After a break to grab some lunch and do for the sick half of the Team Istanbul what I could, I decided to take a dusk walk to the Hippodrome and the two famous mosques; the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. I didn’t actually go in any of the buildings, but it was cool to see everything in the light of the setting sun. Well, except the Hippodrome, as there is hardly anything left. But, the mosques are beautiful as the sun sets and the lights begin to shine all over the building’s exterior.
And then, just after the evening azan, the sun dipped into the Sea of Marmara and the whole world got a little more beautiful.