The Basilica Cistern as a tourist spot at the tourist-infested Sultanahmet area of Istanbul seem to have always been overshadowed by the more grandeur, more magnificent and more historically ornate Sophia Hagia and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). All these three spots surrounding the Sultanahmet Square are within short walking distances only.
But the Basilica Cistern seem to have always been the last choice that tourists would go to if the 3 places to visit in Sultanahmet would be Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Cistern Basilica. This is why it dawned in me that it would be smarter to start with the latter before heading to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Making the Basilica Cistern my first spot to visit would make me avoid the hordes of noisy and annoying tourists who later in the day would flock the underground treasure of a place after their respective visits to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
My temporary smartness actually paid off. On the morning I visited, there was actually only one Caucasian and a family of four Chinese tourists inside the cistern. The rest of the tourists that morning I suppose were at a long queue at the gates of both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Without seeing yet and not yet been overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Istanbul’s icons (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque), I was able to fully grasp, value and appreciate the historical richness and structural splendor of the Basilica Cistern. I was at awe as soon as my eyes were able to adopt to the underground darkness.
One mini-highlight was the Hen’s Eye column. It is the only column of the site engraved with what looks like numerous eyes which appears to be weeping as dripping water from the ceiling runs down to this column. The dripping water has left its mark over the years, turning this specific column into a medley of blue, brown and green hues. The Hen’s Eye is also known as the weeping column which is said to be engraved in tribute to the thousands of slaves who died during the construction of the cistern.
And since I had limited time to read about Basilica Cistern prior to going to Turkey, only when I reached the end of this ancient water reservoir was I surprised to realize that this place houses the head of my co-villain Medusa! After giving some imaginary greetings and salutations to the giant Medusa heads, I never missed my chance of taking a photo with her.
Now I understand why Dan Brown has chosen this Byzantine-made murky, eerie and creepy expanse as the final site in one of his famous novels. I truly marveled at the sheer engineering magnificence of creating such an expansive underground cavern below the colorful ancient city of Constantinople (now Istanbul). I was so thankful that there were few tourists around for I really got to see, smell and digest the beauty and richness of the place. It made my Medusa and Basilica Cistern visit such a very gratifying and enriching experience.
Nagkamustahan bigla kami ng gagang Medusa!