Rain, Ruins and Alcohol

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Sohbet ettik

On a cold and rainy January morning, the four of us set out to explore the byzantine relics that are less commonly visited. Underneath Balkapanı Hanı there is a Byzantine era basement that was and is still used for the storage of foodstuffs coming into the port nearby. Unfortunately we were not allowed to see it. There is a heavy metal door and a very unfriendly man guarding the ancient basement.

 

So we went to the Theodosian walls to look for a the oldest standing church in Istanbul. It was once the Monastery of St. John the Baptist Studius, was converted into a stable, then Mosque and then converted into ruins by earthquakes and human neglect. Unlike the land walls, however, this place is well protected and surrounded by a thick wall of its own and barbed wire. I had expected it to be nearer to the water in a quarter of town that that consists of ruins of many eras, 19th century ruins, 18th century ruins, etc.. .and with the church 5th century ruins. But alas, the church/monastery, turned stable turned mosque is in the middle of a respectable neighborhood. So we could not go inside and crawl on stuff. Second plan thwarted.

We then decided to walk back up to the walls. The Theodosian land walls run from the Sea of Marmara near Zeytinburnu to the Golden horn near the post-conquest neighborhood of Eyüp for about 5.5 kilometers. Our plan was to meet with Atila in his crypt and get drunk with him.

IMG_4638To get there we walked along the top of the walls for about a kilometer, at times crawling over very dilapidated section, at other times just squeezing past a crumbling tower which had left us only a tiny and very rain soaked ledge to pass by. When we got to the end of the continuous surface of the walls, just a few meters from the gate that leads to the crypt and so to the last stairs we discovered that they had been closed. So we walked back to the last set of stairs we saw and retraced our path back to Silivrikapı, this time on the road below.

Before going to see Atila we had to get some booze, so we went to the nearest Tekel (liquor shop) and bought what turned out to be the cheapest alcohol we have ever found in the city of cities. Seven liras fifty is all that the bottle of red wine cost. The brand of the dionysian drink is Ottoman, as in English, literally: Ottoman. I asked the shop keepers if they knew Atila. The response was broad smile of affirmation. On a hunch, I asked if he was a regular customer and if Ottoman was his preferred drink. Indeed he was and it is.

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