Monday, April 04, 2011

The Cisterns of Istanbul

Istanbul has an exceptional number of historic sights above ground. One (or rather several) is (are) located below the surface. Those are the old cisterns built to store water, but they rather look like interior of churches or a mosques than giant water tanks. Many dates back 1500 years, to the city's Byzantine era.

You can explore some of these impressive subterranean structures, that dates back as far as the 6th century, by foot. We did not, but we were given a chance to see one of the storages, when dining the last night at Sarnic, close to the Hagia Sophia.

Sarnic Restaurant is located in an extraordinary building with the high domes supported on six stone piers situated at the top of the hill at the end of the row of small hotels in the narrow street immediately behind Hagia Sophia.  It was orginally built, more than a thousand years ago, as a cistern. Until recently it was used as an automobile repair shop.
It is located close to the Basilica Cistern (Turkish: Yerebatan Sarayı - "Sunken Palace", or Yerebatan Sarnıcı - "Sunken Cistern"), the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. It was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and also  located close to the Hagia Sophia.

Sarnic is a pricy place to eat, and the food is decent but not top class. The room does, however, provide a historic atmosphere, in which to enjoy a meal.  So, in spite of the price, I still recommend this unique historic restaurant for a unique  subterranean meal.

View Istanbul A-Z 2009 Updated January 6th 2010 in a larger map


1 comment:

Susi said...

Such a beautiful restaurant and a very nice meal as well, even though it was expensive.