While our new friends Alp and Serap went to Istanbul Modern, Hanane and I decided to head back to Sultanahmet to see some of Istanbul and Turkey’s ancient history. Our first stop was the Istanbul Archaeology Museum which is located near the Topkapi Palace inside Gulhane Park. The museum has more than a million objects in its collections many of them from Byzantine, Greek, Roman, and even earlier civilizations.
This visit was not the most exciting part of our trip, especially for Hanane, but she enjoyed the incredible collection of statues and the ancient sarcophagi, some of which date back as early as 400 BC.
As you enter the museum grounds there is a statue of a lion which comes from one of the ancient wonders of the world, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
It’s nice to see some treasures in their countries of origin instead of seeing them all in the British Museum.
The museum is massive. It took us nearly half a day to stroll through the main collections at a rapid pace.
The sarcophagi are definitely worth seeing, though I was disappointed to read that the Alexander Sarcophagus is actually the tomb of a king named Abdalonymous.
Another nice find was the snake’s head from the Serpentine Column in the Hippodrome. I thought the serpents looked rather headless. The Museum of the Ancient Orient was closed for renovations while we were there, but that just means that I can go visit another time. I think Hanane is alright with missing my museum visits.
If you want to visit the museum you will find that the hours are Tuesday – Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is 10 lira.
After this exhausting morning, I decided to buy us ice cream and though we got a ten lira discount after the fact, the initial $16 per ice cream cone was a good warning about always asking the price for even the simplest things in Sultanahmet. Alp later scolded us for eating ‘dirty’ ice cream.
After our dirty ice cream, we visited the Basilica Cistern. The amazing thing about this massive underground reservoir is that it was undiscovered for so long. People in the area never thought to wonder why they could simply put a hole in their basement floors and then get all the water they wanted. Some people were even catching fish! Finally, a scholar heard about this oddity and dug a little deeper and found the 5th century cistern sitting just as it had been built.
The medusa heads supporting the columns in the back were disturbing and intriguing. The trashy looking art floating in the water was disturbing and sort of ruined what would have otherwise been a beautiful ancient site.
After this a ferry back to Kadikoy and a visit to the outlet mall where Alp and I looked at cameras and Serap and Hanane looked at shampoo. The girls bought, but we men didn’t. Then a visit to the food court where I had Spicy Ahi Sushi, Alp had Arby’s with Horsey Sauce, Hanane had chicken and fries, and Serap had some chips. Man that sushi was good! It might be the main reason I fell in love with Turkey.