Kucuk Aya Sophia Camii
Well, I didn't make it to Suleymaniye Mosque...I just got plain worn out on Friday ( it was dark by 5), so I went to bed from 7.30pm-7.30am (I woke at 5.30 with the muezzin). All my ambitious plans sticky notes, and arrows on the Lonely Planet map to visit here and there, walking from here to there, collapses in the confusion of getting lost, traffic, and aching knees.
I was also positive that I had overpaid with lira somewhere on the way - the mix of bills, old, and new is confusing. I was getting tired (lonely?) of having no-one to talk with. Though I'd miss a few things, I sent an email to Viv in Jerusalem to see if I could change my reservations. Fortunately, I didn't change my reservations, and just kept ploughing ahead on the cultural forced march.
I went back to the Church of SS Sergius and Bacchus (Kucuk Aya Sophia Camii) - I found it straight away!! It was still closed, and there was a bunch of annoyed Germans there too, with a Turkish guide, so I went to the Sokullu Mehmet Pasha mosque up the hill - again, navigating myself there was difficult, but I managed to communicate with a doorman outside a revolting pink 'restored' apartment house - he had a great Ottoman handlebar moustache too. There are pretty amazing Iznik tiles inside, fragments bits of the Kabbah stone or meteor in the minbar and over the door. I am not sure if it was a Sinan mosque, but it has a lovely courtyard of rooms around it, and sabil/sadirvan (washing fountain) in the middle. There is a graveyard all around the exterior of the mosque.
At the rear of the mosque, behind a wall, is what looks like an ancient chimney. Maybe it is Byzantine.
Then I got into trying to find my way back to the Church, but I got lost again, even though it was only 300 metres away!! So I started walking, and walking, and walking...through neighbourhoods of leather workers and shoe makers. Tiny shops on steep streets, a few human carriers with big leather and fabric supports to strap over their backs (like the ones that old Jews from Salonica used have lying against the wall in a side street just off Zion Square Jerusalem).
Shoes...shoes...shoes...I can't remember how many. And like the area around Aksary, lots of stuff for Russians.
Actually, later in the day, staggering back from the Fatiye mosque (?) I came across an old restored stone marketplace two stories square with a courtyard in the middle (the old market?).
Well after getting lost earlier the morning, I set off to find the Church of St Saviour in Chora (Chora for short), the Kariye Camii. I took a bus (#90?), from the Beyazit bus station after visiting the Grand Bazaar next by. Despite the grandness - another understatement of the architecture, with its huge arcades - and what appears to be a little minaret in one- the hustle and bustle and aggressiveness of the merchants was a turn off (Go to the Beyazid page for more information).
I eventually figured out how to purchase a bus ticket from a booth, found the right bus in the jumble by the market and stalls, an d hope for the best. I should have got off at Constantine's walls and paid more attention to the sign on the bus (I forget the name of the neighbourhood I was supposed to get off at - Kariye, the same as the name of the mosque/Church) , but it was not the last on the list), but the ride, grimy windows and few passengers, past the walls and into the dreadful dreariness of working class semi-industrial megalopolis was well worth it.
Workshops, mosques, hammams, apartment buildings a few stories high just seemed to go on for ever along the wide highway, covered in grey smog. I eventually got off, and got a taxi to back to Kariye. The driver didn't know where he was going in the neighbourhood either, but was honest, and then, in the middle of the neighbourhood by the walls, there is was, surrounded by a few tourist shops and cafes. If I had got off at the walls it was only a few minutes in from Fevzi Pasha Caddesi, the main road leading out. But there were no signs (or they were hidden, which seems pretty typical of Istanbul.
Kariye Camii is pretty nondescript from the outside, but inside - just simply stunning, a combination of the most elaborate Byzantine mosaics (and story line), with frescoes that could be Italian in the 13th century. I am glad I had the Blue Guide to explain the complex narrative, otherwise it would have been a tiring few minutes worth, and in fact, many tourists only seemed to spend a few minutes craning at what they did not know what - "oh, another bloody mosaic", I suspect they were thinking.
My favourite mosaic, and one that appears in many books, is the mosaic of the builder, Theodore Metochites, in the entrance to the church, in a wonderful, exaggerated headdress, presenting a model of the church to Andronicus III, the emperor.
I saw how much of the Old Testament was reworked in the mosaics as evidence for the destiny of Jesus through substituting Bible stories' characters by Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The fresco of Jesus above hell - the Anastasis, or Resurrection - was just amazing. Art books and explanations tell it all, but the context, in the middle of a grimy neighbourhood, is something that has to be seen to be believed.
I spent about two hours in there, just being overwhelmed by the beauty.
Then I set off by foot, on another adventure, to find the Fatih Sultan Mehmet mosque....