Istanbul Highlights...

There are so many things to see in Istanbul alone. The spice bazaars, fisherman fishing off the bridges and paved edges into the Golden Horn or Bosphorus, museums and ruins from Byzantine and Ottoman times. Serkan has been the best guide ever, and it's so much nicer to travel with someone than alone. I can't say one way is better than the other. But sharing what you see with someone rocks, and I like it more. Happy that we are traveling together. Some highlights so far...

The Basilica Cistern may have been one of my favorite spots if it weren't for the hordes of school children who entered, only about 10 minutes after we did, chatting and laughing so loudly, especially for a museum field trip, and smithereening the peace with the echoes of their yells. Teachers? Parents? They were there but apparently unable to stop the mini-riot. The Basilica is a huge underground vault held up by 336 columns. You walk down into it to the sound and echo of dripping water and holy music. It was laid out under Justinian I around 532 AD. The Ottomans hadn't discovered it for like a century after they took over, until supposedly people started collecting water and sometimes fish by lowering buckets from their basements.

Ayasofia, also amazing. Sheep friezes outside from ¨recent¨excavation. The building itself burned down twice. Originally it was a Christian church, then the Ottomans turned it into a mosque. Most of the old mosaics have fallen down and the cross tops etched in the stone have been scratched over. It´s a hodge podge of religion and now a museum, which incidentally houses the largest chandelier in the world. That wasn't on display for us, however, because the edifice is undergoing some pretty major restoration.

I think my favorite museum was the Archaeological museum with some amazing Egyptian statues, doors, pieces of wall, mini sphinxes and a ton of sarcophagi. In fact the museum´s original purpose was to house sarcophagi. Also some amazing artifacts from Sumeria, the birth of writing at its finest. Best receipt ever, carved into a tiny stone tablet: sale of four sheep and some corn in exchange for an exorcism. They evidently wrote receipts for everything. In Turkey, you don´t really get a receipt for anything so far, and since I'm not so good with the numbers, that can be troublesome. I guess it is kind of nice to receive receipts for every piddly thing in Chile, but nobody´s receipts can rival that of the Sumerians, nor will they be around for as long.

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