I went back to Istanbul for three days on an extended layover to Moldova. I probably wouldn’t have planned this if I had known that I would visit there first with Amy, but it ended out working out alright, and was quite different this time around, since I was on my own, staying at a hostel in Sultanahamet. The first day I arrived at seven in the morning on two hours of sleep, so I took a nap and wandered around Fener until I found a Russian tour guide who directed me to the Patriarchate, which is unduly difficult to find. It’s fairly popular in Istanbul to surround large public buildings with high stone walls, so that a person can be right next to them and not know it. Then I took a long walk and went to a park.
The next day I went to the Patriarchate for Liturgy, which happened to be in honor of St Euphemia, who’s relics they have there, so it was very festive, and we venerated her relics during the service. In Protestant language, that means that they brought out her casket and we kissed the cloth they laid over her body. I walked over to Taxim, but it was too hot to do much looking, so I took a nap in a park ad went back to the patriarchate for Vespers, were I encountered an American monk who’s living there and coordinating their English-speaking ministries. He was very welcoming and gave me a book about the patriarchate, and a chrism-scented oil thing that’s made from the left over scented oil stuff in the chrism-making process. Then I hung out in the Topkapi Palace park again and wrote a bit.
My third day there I got up very late and visited the Masters exhibition in Taxim, which has a beautiful full-scale replica of Michaelangelo’s David and a lot of information about the Rennaissance masters and examples of their work, along with charming models of some of the machines they invented. It’d be a fabulous place to take an art history class, but also emphasized how Islamic empires didn’t have the same artistic traditions as Christian ones (most of the Istanbul museums show this), because of the prohibition on figurative painting and sculptures. As a result their figurative work is generally not seriously pursued by great men — isn’t done for the glory of God — and is not nearly so good, though their abstract crafts (architecture, tiles, carpets, etc) is excellent. From there I went to the Museum of Islamic Math and Science, at the Topkapi gardens. It’s quite nice and interesting, with a lot of good models, early clocks, astronomy instruments, and so on. I had meant to go to Miniaturk, but was too lazy to work out the public transport routes, and ended up next door at the archeology museum instead. It has a number of fine marble statues; emperor Alexander’s tomb is especially striking, as are some of the pagan idols and statues of the emperors up to the Byzantine era. In the evening they had several outdoor concerts in Sultanahamet; those at the archeological museum and in the Topkapi courtyard had sold tickets, but there were public ones in the hippodrome courtyard (with the giant Egyptian obelisk) and surrounding area, and so I listened to some European pop and caught the end of an international youth folk competition. I was just in time for the Russian and Georgian groups, which was delightful — I especially enjoyed stumbling upon Georgians doing a Svanetian dance with their big hats in such a context. Then I returned to the hostel for a few hours of sleep before catching an early shuttle to the airport.