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.
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.
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?
Last stop along the ancient wall is the Egrikapi gate before we turned eastward toward Balat and Fener.
Balat & Fener
The quaint little neighborhoods of Balat and Fener were the perfect places for lunch after a walking tour.
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.
Deserts and coffee – 40TL ($5).
Total for today – $43.