A Walk In The Neighborhood

A Walk In The Neighborhood

Since we’ve covered the basics of the Old Town and New District, it was time for us to venture out into the surrounding neighborhoods. Senem, our food tour guide, had recommended the Fener neighborhood, which is close to the Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi).

Chora Church/Kariye Müzesi

We were told to take a taxi to Chora Church. However, being from the city and growing up with public transportation, taking buses and metro become second nature. Luckily, Istanbul’s transit system is pretty comprehensive and efficient. All we needed to do was to take the #87 bus from where we are to Chora Church. With the help of Google Maps, it’s easy to figure out where to get off at, language barrier be damned!

Similar to the Hagia Sophia, Chora Church was built during the Byzantine Empire and later converted to a mosque during Ottoman rule. The interior of the church is adorned with exquisite mosaics depicting the life of Jesus and Mary. However, when it was converted to a mosque, the tiles were plastered over (causing damage to the mosaic) as iconic figures are forbidden in mosques.

Sections of the church are undergoing renovations for obvious reasons
The variation of the tile colors gives the robe a 3D effect
There must be tens of thousands of tiles adorning the dome
These are not fresco, but all tiles
Here’s a close up
Here’s my favorite – Jesus healing a leper (the chunk of mosaic depicting Jesus is missing, but notice the man in the left lower corner with spots all over his body)
Unfortunately, Erdogan recently ordered the museum to be converted back to a mosque (like Hagia Sophia) in November, which means these beautiful mosaics may again be covered over.

For an entry fee of 65TL ($8.55), this was worth it.

Along the Walls of Theodosius

After the church, we followed Rick Steves guide to walk along the ancient city walls that used to protect Constantinople. The walls, unfortunately, fell into disrepair during Ottoman rule.

Old and new – you can see the skyscrapers in the distance

We saw signs for Tekfur Palace, the only surviving Byzantine palace, but weren’t sure where it was since, according to the 2016 guidebook, only the facade remains, and that it was undergoing renovations at the time of writing.

As we walked past the Tekfur museum, the security guard stopped to tell us that entry to the museum was free. Who doesn’t like free?

Located inside the museum entrance is the palace facade that has undergone renovations! Notice some new materials (windows and glass doors) mixed in with the old.
View of the city from the palace grounds
Some of the earthenwares that were excavated from the site. I particularly like the handle on the white replica cup 😉

Last stop along the ancient wall is the Egrikapi gate before we turned eastward toward Balat and Fener.

Surdibi Cemetery, outside the ancient wall, is a burial site of a few of the companions of Prophet Muhammad.

Balat & Fener

The quaint little neighborhoods of Balat and Fener were the perfect places for lunch after a walking tour.

But first, I had to hunt down this little block of cheerful colored houses on Kiremit Caddesi (street).
Lunch at Forno, not before we paid for over priced pomegranate juice again (30TL/$4)
80 TL ($10.50) for a spicy turkey sausage, and a mixed sausage with beef pide – Turkish version of the pizza

The initial plan was to walk back to our apartment, which would have taken another couple of hours. However, Joe was having some mysterious stomach issues, so we opted to take the #55T bus back. Apparently, it was a false alarm, but it did allow us an afternoon coffee break.

Turkish coffee with almond rocha flavored cake for me
Lemon cheesecake gelato for Joe

Deserts and coffee – 40TL ($5).

And later at night – 2 tantunis from the Ayla fast food joint for dinner (36TL)

Total for today – $43.

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