Saturday, August 13, 2011

Byzantium 1200

If I were to recommend an itinerary for anyone visiting Istanbul today, I would definitely insist they start their tour with a visit to the Istanbul Archaeological Museums - not just for their incredibly interesting and rare collection of artifacts from antiquity but to visit the exhibition, Byzantine Palaces in Istanbul, that is on display right now til October 2 2011.

Istanbul Archaeological Museums situated on Osman Hamdi Bey yokusu, the slope  between the Topkapi Palace and Gulhane Park, is a complex that houses 3 different museums, Archaeological Museum, Ancient Orient Museum and Tiled Kiosk Museum, on its grounds. It has an amazing collection of marbles from civilizations from antiquity that can rival any in the world.

Unfortunately, I didn't have much time after my long visit at the Hagia Sophia and all I could manage was a quick stroll thorough the main floor of the Archeological Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum which is one of the earliest examples of Seljuk civil architecture that has a very nice collection of Turkey's famous tiles and pottery from Iznik, Kutahya and Canakkale region from 11th  to the 20th centuries.

Fountain of Life

Having just visited the Hagia Sophia, I was in a Byzantine state of mind, so I literally dragged my aching limbs up to the second floor to check out the 'Byzantine Palaces in Istanbul' exhibit.  At first, I was a little confused since the glass display cases contained few examples of artifacts from the period with some of the most incredibly impressive photographs of what appeared to be Byzantine palaces.  As I walked around I noticed names I was familiar with... the Great Palace, Tekfur Palace, the Hippodrome... but as far as I knew these places were nothing more than ruins with no hope for any kind of a reconstruction.  Once I started to read the labels, I found out these were all computer reconstructions of the Byzantine monuments that were present in Istanbul in 1200 AD.  It was actually a part of a fascinating, ongoing project called Byzantium 1200.  The very impressive website is worthy of a followup for any student of Byzantine History.  I wish I had time to cajole my sons into seeing this exhibit - it would have been a once in a life time opportunity to visualize Istanbul during the most impressive era of the Byzantine Empire. Oh well, maybe next time...
The museum has a lovely garden and an outdoor cafe for a brief break to sit and ponder all the civilizations that have past thorough these lands, leaving behind their mark in some way or another.  Before I left, I decided to sit and have a cup of coffee amidst ancient ruins, overlooking one of the side paths of the Gulhane Park.


Overall, a visit to this museum is an otherworldly experience from its serene gardens to the quiet galleries full of arresting remains from ancient civilizations.  It is also a great deal that should not be missed with an entrance ticket costing only 10TL.

Istanbul Arkeoloji Muzeleri
Alemdar Cad. Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu Sok. 
Sultanahmet - Fatih
Istanbul / TURKEY
Tel:  +90 212 527 2700

Open everyday except Monday
9.00am - 7.00pm (Summer) 
9.00am - 5.00pm (Winter) 

Transportation:  you can take the T1 tram to Gulhane stop, pass thorough the stone arches and walk up the hill on the right side. - link has all the pertinent information including a map.

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