Monday, November 7, 2011

Long walls and Short walls

There is a group in Turkey called FARIT, Friends of the American Research Institute in Turkey:  They support some graduate students, maintain a library of scholarly works, host lectures and lead tours.  I have been on two tours with them in the last two weeks, and both were about walls. 

Last week, the first time I joined a tour, it was to the Anastasian wall ( which was ~56km long and cut off Thrace from the rest of Europe, from the Marmara to Black Seas.  It was a gloriously clear and sunny day in Istanbul, but after quite a bus trip out of town it was a grey day with even a few sprinkles.  I couldn't find a good map that had the city of Istanbul and the wall in it, but we came from about as far off the right edge of this map as the wall is to the left, or using the scale on the map, about 30km farther east.  This wall was built in the 5th century to keep the barbarians out, but it didn't necessarily do a good job since it was hard to man and supply so far out and so long. 
Taken from the bus, part of the Anastasian wall.
 There wasnt much of it left for us to see and when we did go along side of it on the bus, we didnt' stop to get out and look at it. I am not sure what I would have done if we had stopped, but it might have been nice to get a good picture or two.
If you look really hard you can see trees that are just a little bit higher than the others, they are growing on the wall.

We got out to walk a little bit at a place we should have had a good view of the wall, but since it was so over grown, we were left imagining the slightly higher ridge where trees had grown on the wall instead of next to it.
The Black Sea. 
The ruin of a church at the Black sea end of the long wall. 
 Next, we drove all the way up to the Black sea to find the end of the wall, but it was gone. We did see the sea (which isn't black) and the ruin of a chruch from about the same era. The mud was incredible on this bit of the hike. It was very sticky and heavy. I felt like I was carrying 10 extra pounds on my feet. We did the best we could to get it off before getting back on the bus, but there was really no hope. The driver had put down newspaper to protect the carpet in the aisles, but again, it was a losing battle.

It felt like 10 punds of mud stuck to my shoes.

We stopped for lunch somewhere that seemed like the middle of nowhere, but I think it was the best food I have eaten in Turkey.  There were mezzes, salads and fresh bread on the table when we got there and then the main course which was roast lamb with rice.  I am not a big lamb fan at home, but I had been warned to give it another try here where people know how to make lamb and I am so glad I did.  It was delicious.  We had fresh fruit for dessert and then cay (tea) before getting back on the bus for our final stop, the aquaduct.
Middle of nowhere but very tasty.

Mezzes and salad.

Lamb and rice.

Along the way we saw some people making charcoal and we stopped the bus for a bit of a cultural lesson.  These forests are responsibly managed such that one area can be forested this year, and another next year, etc so there is a cycle to it, keeping the people happy and the forest healthy.  When they cut down a tree, maybe 5 inches in diameter, the cut it into 4foot lengths and pile them in a circle around a clearing.  It looked like they then took a chainsaw and cut all of the lengths in half before starting their pile. 
The wood is placed around the clearing and then carefully added to the pile by hand.

The pole in the middle will be removed to start the fire and provide ventilation to the pile while it cooks.

Covered in straw and then earth, the pile is left to smolder for two weeks.
The pile contains 7 tons of wood in a hemispherical shape.  The pole in the middle is used for support at first but will be removed when the pile is finished to allow some air to get into it.  They cover the mound with rice hay (which doesnt burn as easily as other hay, although where they grow the wheat is unclear) and then with a layer of mud.  They light the mound but putting a lit piece of charcoal down the center and the moderate the flame by opening up vents on the sides from time to time.  It takes 15 days for the wood to be converted to 1 ton of charcoal, which then feeds barbeques, wood stoves and rural fireplaces.  It was cool to stop and find out about this. 
Stuck in the mud.
 We hadn't gone too much farther before the bus got stuck in the mud and we all had to get out. We tried pushing, we tried putting rocks under the wheels, but the bus just kept sliding, so we ventured out from there, and left the driver and the tour coordinator to find a tractor to get them out. 
Fellow FARITs crossing the stream to the aquaduct.  Libby is the four legged friend.
 Our last hike of the day took us up and down hills, over a stream and through a field to find four towers remaining from a Roman aquaduct that brought water to Istanbul back in the day (~5th century). The top had fallen off, but it was still quite striking to see the structure that remained. 
Ruins of the Roman aquaduct that brought water to Istanbul 1600 years ago.
After the hike back to the bus (which was back with the charcoal guys) we were back on the road for home.

Sunday October 30th.

I went again with a FARIT tour, but this time to more local walls.  The bus let us off right at the Sea of Marmara at the end of the Justinian wall, which at the time it was built (~5th century) was beyond the outskirts of Istanbul.  It was the fourth wall built to protect Istanbul in only a few hundred years, indicating that the population was booming.
My bad highlighting job shows roughly where the wall is.

  We walked the entire length with our guide who was not only very knowledgeable about the wall, but had thuroughly prepared for the day.  We each had a booklet with some background information and google earth pictures of the wall.

The best part of the ARIT tours are the people you meet on them.  There were a few overlaps from the week before, and it was good to strengthen those connections, and there were plenty of new people as well.  They are mostly foreigners, some long time residents, others fairly new.  Lots of teachers and dipolmats, some scholars or trailing spouses.  On this trip we had the American Consular General Scott Kilner and his wife.  I didn't know who they were, nor that the two Turkish heavies were their secret service until well into the tour.  I wish I had talk to them more, as he is from the bay area and went to Stanford, we might have known some of the same people. 

Anyway, these walls were built about the same time as the long wall in the late 5th century.  These were clearly more immediately important since the city was just on the other side.  In many places there were two walls, with a courtyard between them and even a moat on the outside.

If you look at the map above, you can see at least one and a half other places where previous walls had been.  The city had a time of fast growth and they kept having to rebuild the city walls farther and farther out over the course of just a few hundred years.  At its height the population of ancient Constantinople was about a million within the city walls.  Now Istanbul is enormous, with estimates of 15 million people living in greater Istanbul, which goes on and on forever.  The population density is intense, and kalabalik (crowded) was one of my first Turkish words. 

Back to the walls...The walls were pretty effective for almost 1000 years.  They were breached only twice while they were maintained, once by the 4th crusade in the early 1200s, and then again when they fell to the Ottomans in 1453.  This is pretty good since they were completed in a hurry.  There were a couple of big earthquakes that kept knocking the towers down but Attilla the Hun was lurking in the forest beyond, ready to invade, so the wall was finished in just two months.  Wikipedia says that the Ottomans' maintained the wall until the 19th century, at which time it was allowed to fall into disrepair and parts were even dismantled so the stone could be reused.  Much of it was restored in teh 1980s and it was in pretty good shape. 

Here are just a few of the millions of pictures I took.  Sometimes I feel compelled to take pictures and when I look back at them later, they just look like more of the same and I can't quite understand why I needed so many picures of old rocks.
This is the fortress at the Marmara Sea side (which you can see to the right) of the wall.

The road is newer than the wall, but you can see the very end of the wall on the other side of the road. 

There were several gates in the original wall, which are still used to get in and out of the city.  Since it is only wide enough for one car, this guard directs traffic to avoid head on collisions.

This is the space between the inner and outer walls, now used for gardens.

Some towers were square (easier to build) and others were octagons (stronger vs invaders.)

The back side of a tower no longer intact. 

Another gate through the wall.

The innner wall in the background, the outer wall in the middle and the moat (filled in) in the foreground.  All of Istabul is about 2 meters higher than it was back in the day.

Walking along the inside of the inner wall.

A brick stamp (in Greek) that indicated the maker? of the brick.  Not all bricks have a stamp but perhaps the top brick of any shipment would so the right brick maker could get paid.

Moat vegitables?  The view into the city from the top of the wall. 

Across the moat to one of the gates.

There used to be a plaque here that gave information about the gate. 

Actuall cannonballs that the Ottoman Army launched at the wall to breach it. 
 There were two highlights of the tour besides the people, one was lunch. We ate at a kufte (meatball) place just outside the wall. The other was the Panorama Museum. This museum's center piece was doomed room with a 3D mural depicting the seige of Istanbul by the Ottoman army in May 1453. I paid the 5TL for the audio tour and my headset knew where in the room I was and what I was looking at. The big deciding point in this battle was the cannons. Cannons were relatively new and the Ottomans (Ottomen?) kept making them bigger and bigger. 

Inside the Panorama museum, which has a dome that depicts in 360 degree mural the invasion of the Ottomans.

The Ottomans had cannons, but the Byzantines had Greek Fire.

It isn't exactly known were the breach was made.   There are at least two plaques on the wall which claim they mark the spot. 

A model of the Panorama mural.

This was the site that the wall was breached, not that other spot with the exact same plaque.

This was our leader, who did a great job

Proof I was there.
The tour ended after dark and I was tired.  It was a good day and a much better tour than the week before.  These tours are expensive, but if this second one was more indicative of the quality of the tour, I can see that they are worth while.

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