fivemack (fivemack) wrote,

Istanbul 3

I'd left the classic attractions of Istanbul to last; Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi palace.

When fifteen hundred years old I am, look so good I will not, but Hagia Sophia is feeling its age; there are about four gold-tiled mosaics left, which give no more than a hint of what it looked like when the five domes were covered with them. Also there was a huge arrangement of scaffolding holding up one quadrant of the dome, and the outside is propped up with many very large and solid buttresses, though a lot of those are the work of Architect Sinan in the sixteenth century.

Topkapi is a collection of large Ottoman pavilions, each containing a different museum. The tiling was impressive; the Chinese porcelain was fairly relaxing; the collection of Assorted Weapons, including seven-foot broadswords with crosses on the quillians and six-foot hand-cannons of inordinate calibre with the barrels inlaid with gold was quite striking; the spectacularly impractical silverware was amusing. The audience-chamber with its carpets embroidered with precious stones sat there as an archetype of oriental despotism; the three treasure-rooms, in which everything was huge, made of hammered gold, and set with emeralds rubies sapphires diamonds topazes ... made you understand why some might yearn for the silence of the desert, the blinding sun on the sand and the purity of sharpened steel.

After lunch overlooking the Golden Horn, and a weird Turkish dessert consisting of many kinds of dried fruit and beans cooked in apple-flavoured jelly, I left the palace, went to the Nurosmanli mosque (described as baroque, this had vertical walls rather than subdomes, painted (or even, shockingly, bare stone) walls rather than mosaic, and, outside, the last kitten of the trip.

Tags: istanbul, kitten, mosaic
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