Thursday, July 22, 2010

Secret Cisterns

When people think of Istanbul, the first thing which comes to mind is probably the Ottoman Empire. The roots of Burnt Amber go back to 12th century (see The Seed), but for this post I go all the way to the 6th century and the Yerebatan Sarnici.

Alternatively known as the Yerebatan Sarayi, or sunken palace, the cistern was built by Emperor Justinian I as part of a system to supply Byzantium’s palaces with fresh water from the Belgrade Forest.

Aqueducts and other cisterns can be found in unexpected places throughout the European side of the city. You can walk right by the unassuming entrances if you don’t know what’s right under your feet. The only way the Ottomans discovered them was because people were selling fish from the “wells” under their homes.

Carp swim around the columns still, and James Bond paddled around in From Russia with Love, but I thought it was a great place for an encounter with a djinn.

NB.  The cistern was also featured in The International, but producers decided it should appear under the Blue Mosque.  And The Bachelorette was there recently too.

If you have the time, the best virtual tour can be found here.
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