Sunday, 29 July 2012

Hidden Well-th

Visiting the sights of Istanbul, you would never guess that under the hill on which you walk is a cistern, a man-made cavern capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres of water. A cistern built 1500 years ago to provide fresh water to the Great Palace of Constantinople on First Hill. Stumbling down the narrow stairs, it's hard to imagine what to expect at the bottom for there's no grand entrance befitting of this engineering feat. As you reach the bottom of the flight, a seemingly endless cave opens up before your eyes. Illuminated in warm red lights, the classical grid of columns disappear into ambiguous light then inky darkness. As you wander between them, mirrored avenues open up, before blurring as the waters beneath your feet vibrate with life blurring the symmetry of the decreasing arches.

The surge of ravenous fish remind you of the stories of locals above catching fish in their backyard wells, wells which possibly penetrated the structure of the waterproofed roof and re-discovered a forgotten marvel. In one corner, two versions of Medusa's head support the roof. They lie at angles, sideways and upside-down, supposedly to negate the power of the Gorgon's stare though this is the first I've heard of it. 
The dim red light there produces a kind of eerie romanticism, but don't look too closely for the red light hides the film of green algae that accentuates the features of Medusa and brings into contrast the patterns of the 'peacock-eyed' column.

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