Friday morning, my sister Lizz, her friend Amy, and I headed to the Marathon Expo which was at the Sinan Erdem Dome. One of the many reasons my sister came to visit Istanbul while my family and I are living here was to run the 15K race as part of the 35th Istanbul Marathon.
Getting to the Expo was not easy. The arena is way out West, near the airport. It’s near a mass transit line, the MetroBus, but from where I live, it would take a very long time. Which would mean less time for eating and enjoying historical sites. So we hired a taxi to take us there.
After a half-hour taxi ride, we were dropped off in front of the arena. Following the thin crowd, we walked to the back of the arena to get inside. We retrieved our packets from the pickup area. It included a luggage bag, shirt, bib, timing chip, and various brochures which were in Turkish.
Race packets in hand we decided to check out the expo. One store, OutRunner, had a sale on a wide variety of running clothes and shoes. My sister and I browsed but as we were not in need, we didn’t buy anything. The rest of the booths at the Expo were uninteresting. At one booth two guys were playing ping-pong. Not sure what that was about. My sister and I did take the time to have Amy take our photo in front of the sign.
Our next stop was the Chora Museum in the Edirnekapı neighborhood. “Chora” is an ancient Greek word meaning something along the lines of “country” or “outside the city.” The Chora Museum is no longer outside the city. It’s well within the city of Istanbul, in an area that unfortunately is not well-served by public transportation, making it difficult to find and get to. On the museum’s website they recommend you take a taxi from the Sultanahmet area (which is where many tourists stay and visit).
Outside the Marathon Expo, we hired a taxi to take us to the museum. Before we had left the apartment in the morning, I had printed out the address and a map. It came in handy to show the taxi driver.
The Chora church was first built under Emperor Justinian, destroyed during the Latin Invasion in the 13th Century, then rebuilt and restored. The mosaics date from the 14th centuries. Roughly 60 years after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the church was converted to a mosque. The vast majority of the mosaics and frescoes were not defaced or removed. Thankfully, they were simply covered in plaster and then painted. When it was turned into a museum in 1945, the plaster was chipped away, revealing the mosaics and frescoes underneath.
Unfortunately, the Naos, the main body of the church, was closed due to renovation.
But the mosaics and frescoes we were able to see were extraordinary.
The Chora Museum is definitely off the beaten path of the usual Packaged Tourist Trail. But if you happen to be in Istanbul, you should make the effort to go there.