Memories from my Weekend in Istanbul

1) Visiting a miniature version of the famous Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem in Miniturk. I visited the big one this past July. Just imagine miniature versions of every important building in the entire country in an area less than a square mile. From a distance it looks like a miniature golf course. I think every country should have this attraction. If anything, it saves people the trouble and expense of having to visit all of these places (not that I don’t want to try).

2) Seeing this giant Medusa head in the Basilica Cisterns near the Hagia Sophia and wondering what the hell a basilica and a cistern is. My art history and Latin teachers would be so disappointed… Although my Greek mythology teacher (if I’d ever had one) wouldn’t be upset because I remembered most of the Medusa story. If I could turn men to stone with just a glance, I would start with Mitt Romney.

3) The Hagia Sophia in all of its immense size and glory. There’s nothing like Christian iconography in peaceful (though somewhat awkward) co-existence with Islamic floral patterns and Koranic verses. My art history teacher would frown once again for my not taking the opportunity to talk more about the history of this one-of-a-kind church turned mosque turned museum, but I will leave that to the experts.

4) Playing three-person chess. I thought it was completely made-up when I first saw a picture of it on Facebook — but through some twist of fate, my host/friend for the weekend had it in her house. The two-player game just isn’t as interesting anymore. Plus the red pieces look really cool. The Red Army prevailed this time!

5) Watching seagulls eat pieces of bread in mid-air. This was a form of on-board entertainment while I ferried to the Prince’s Islands south of Istanbul’s center. I didn’t get this dude’s name, but if he’s reading this I hope he didn’t take offense to my comment that I would throw him overboard if one of the passersby decided to shit on my head — I didn’t realize he could speak English at first. Oh, and two other interesting things happened on the same ferry ride: I met a very friendly and beautiful Saudi woman with her family on vacation whom I mistakenly tried to speak Turkish to, and I got to watch two different traveling salesmen attempt to sell us the types of contraptions you might see on late-night television in the United States (the kinds of things that look cute but that you would never, ever actually buy). The Saudi woman used to live only a few miles from my apartment in D.C. I would say ‘small world,’ but it’s a boring cliche, and every true traveler knows that the world is pretty damn big.

6) The Orthodox monastery of St. George. The island itself, Buyukada, was a lot larger and more difficult to navigate than we had thought, but cheap bike rentals made it possible for us to visit the main attraction. It came with a spectacular view of the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul off in the distance on two sides (it’s a very, very large city). Other than bikes and pedestrians, the island is filled with horse-drawn carriages (there is no motorized transportation). I can still smell the horse shit as I write this, but it was a small price to pay for taking what amounted to a pilgrimage on a sunny Sunday afternoon to a relic from the Byzantine period. 



  1. Janis said,

    October 30, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Sounds like an awesome weekend! So glad you’re enjoying your new adventure.

  2. Patty Courtney said,

    November 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Matt! I love how you commented on your photos of the places/special sites you visited! I was totally taken in! I think somebody already beat you to turning Mitt Romney into stone, however.

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