A visit to Edirnekapı for a pleasant weekend
Wilco van Herpen ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily NewsLast Sunday I really felt like doing something other than hanging on my couch and watching a film with the family. So, together with my family, we decided to go to the St. Saviour Chora Church near Edirnekapı. Şira might still be a bit young for a visit to such a museum, but my motto is that when you start visiting exhibitions and museums at a young age you will later be used and, I hope, even like going to such places.
The Chora Church is a small church, but it is such a lovely place. The whole setting is perfect. Whenever I go I always have a nice cup of tea in the little square in front of the church. You see all the tourists coming and going, most of them accompanied by a guide who keeps an umbrella high up above his head so none of the flock suddenly finds him or herself without the group. The biggest fear for a tourist is to get separated from the group, especially in a jungle town like Istanbul. If they get lost they suddenly have to deal with so many things at the same time:
- The notorious traffic. For tourists this is a real nightmare - how to cross the street without being hit by a car or motorbike.
- The street sellers. Since they do not know the language people do not understand what the guy wants from them. Often he is just trying to say hello, sometimes he is trying to sell something.
- How to find the group again because Istanbul is big, very big.
So what you see is a group that, as a flock of sheep, tries to stay in the same environment of their shepherd. That’s where the colorful umbrella comes in handy. Watching these activities gives me a lot of pleasure and I can sit and watch for hours. Of course, it is nice to have something to eat as well before you visit the church, and sitting in the cozy little square surrounded by the old buildings you can always find a nice place in the shade. Big old trees give this square an even more nostalgic sensation.
Buying a museum card
If you happen to live in Turkey I would definitely recommend you buy a museum card. With this card you can visit most museums in Turkey for free. I am lucky, just waving my press card is generally enough, but how stupid I was this time - I forgot my card so Gonca had to buy a ticket for me as well.
Before entering the museum you have to walk around the church and this is a great thing to do. The lovely little garden has a beautiful view over part the Fatih district, and a lot of people use this place to have a small snack while enjoying the view of the impressive church. The church is not big at all, but looking from the outside all you see are massive walls, so thick that they have been able to withstand countless earthquakes. Being impressed by those firm outer walls you finally (if you are in a hurry it takes no more then a minute) enter the museum. Entering the church might be a bit difficult at first because a lot of people are overwhelmed by their first impression of the numerous frescos and mosaics and thus block the entrance and all stare up at the ceiling.
When visiting the Chora Church, the most fun part for me is the tourists. They all stair up with a device in one hand explaining all about the mosaics, and in the other hand a camera or mobile phone. In little groups - remember we are all sheep - they walk through the church and are impressed by the colorful and perfect handwork of the masters who made all those pieces of art.
Şira, in the meantime, was running through the church as if she was joining the Eurasia marathon; singing and calling for me when she discovered something new. It is funny - generally I feel very embarrassed, but here I did not feel too bad. After a while I took her outside where she had seen some kittens, and while I was in the garden Gonca and my sister and brother-in-law could enjoy the beauty of the church.
To stay in the mood of the “good old times” we went to Asitane, a restaurant of my friend Batur. It is located 50 meters away from the Chora museum and serves traditional Ottoman food. Batur greeted me warmly and came up with a surprise. Whenever there is a special day like Ramazan or Kurban Bayram (the Feast of Sacrifice) he serves a special menu. This time he offered me a special Kurban Bayram menu.
This menu was served in Topkapı Palace by Mehmet IV in 1650 to the Grand Viziers. Visiting the Topkapı Palace itself does give you an impression of the incredibly rich lifestyle of the different sultans, but how much closer can you come to feeling yourself a Sultan by eating his food? Well, I can tell you. That afternoon I felt myself to be Sultan Wilco I. Eating 12 different dishes served in the same sequence as how the Sultan and his Viziers ate it. It was a perfect ending of a perfect day that I can thoroughly recommend to you - if ever you have some guests, do what I did. They will never forget it.