5 Mar 2017 18:35
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
[personal profile] gridlore
Just home from seeing "Kedi", a film we've been waiting to see for over a year, a time usually reserved for the next Star Wars or Marvel movie. But this was special. We discovered the existence of the movie while researching our trip to Istanbul in late 2015. That was when we discovered the unique cat culture of the city.

Istanbul, you see, is overrun with cats. Not feral, not house cats, but owned by no one and loved by almost all. The cats come and go as they please, and locals chip in to feed and care for them. The film examines the lives of several cats and the people whose lives have been changed by their interactions with the cats. Kedi is Turkish for cat.

But seeing the film made Kirsten and I only more determined to return to the ancient city we fell in love with about a year ago. We spent a week in the Queen of Cities last April, and were just getting good at it when it was time to leave. We had figured out the food, the taksis (taxis), the local public transit, and of course, the cats. We needed a few more days! Mainly because we discovered that it was insane to think you can do Topkapi Palace and the Archaeological Museum complex in one day. You need three. It's that big.

It's not that we missed a lot, it's that we never got into anything in great depth. We skimmed our way through places that deserved loving attention. Our mistake. But we did see a lot, and more importantly, we experienced the city. It's more than seeing the sites and listening to guides explain which Sultan built which mosque, it's more.

Istanbul, which was Constantinople up until the turn of the 20th century and Byzantium during the early Roman Empire, is an ancient place. The Old City, still mostly protected by the wall of Theodosius and the sea walls built by Constantine has been a city since the 7th century BCE. It was captured by Alexander the Great, absorbed by the Roman Empire and became its capital in 330 CE, before becoming the seat of the newly-forged Ottoman Empire in 1453. Our hotel stood on the street that had been the Silver Road, a Roman road that lead out of the city and headed north into Dalmatia.

Just walking down the street you were immersed in just how immortal this place is. It's a feeling. Almost as if the restless spirits of the city want to share their stories, and show you that the currency exchange with the flashing signs and digital display of exchange rates was doing the exact same job when it was sailors off the galleys and dhows that needed good Roman coin to spend at the wine shops and baths (both of which also still exist.)

The one place that really cemented the feeling of age for me was the Kariye Müzesi, also known as the Chora Church. This is a hilltop church built in the 4th century CE, filled with some spectacular frescoes and mosaics dating from 10th-11th centuries. It's spectacular. Now, when you think of hot tourist spots, you probably think of car parks, and spaces for the buses to offload hordes of camera-packing tourists. Not here! To get to the Chora your taksi driver takes you up a series of increasingly narrow roads, paced in cobblestones, finally stopping at the junction of four alleyways. He them points down one say "Kariye" before driving off. Because this isn't some thing that was built with greatness and access in mind. It's a local church that served the nearby residents . . . 1,700 years ago. Let that sink in.

One funny thing about that place. "Chora" means "in the fields", which made sense because when it was built it was outside the walls erected by Constantine. Barely a century after the church opened, the great walls built under Theodosius II were built, and the church was no firmly inside the walls. But everyone still called it the Chora. People never change, do they?

Yeah, we need to win the lottery and go back. We still have things to see in the Imperial City, and, if money allows, in Cappadocia and the Mediterranean shore as well. We might even learn a little more Turkish for the trip, although my mastery of "thank you" got me many smiles.

So go see Kedi. Marvel at the Queen of Cities, and the cats who rule it.
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gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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