HCHC Senior Trip 2011 – Constantinople

The seven days I was in Constantinople/Istanbul was the most moving, exhausting, and colorful part of the pilgrimage. We arrived by bus and went for lunch at the Phanar. Then we visited the small Church of St. Nicholas, one of the 75 still functioning Orthodox churches (served by just 24 priests) in Istanbul. The single men stayed at the Halki Seminary on an island in the Bosphorus. Halki was closed in the 70’s and the Turkish gov’t refuse to allow it to be reopened. It still functions as a monastery where there is only a handful of monks and staff. The seminary was on top of a hill, and since there were no vehicles on the island the only way there was to walk or go by horse carriage.

During the course of the trip we visited a number of churches which had been turned into mosques, the most famous of which were Hagia Sophia and Chora. We also visited Agia Irini, a church which had been closed. It was on the grounds of the Topkopi Palace and had never been turned into a mosque. The church was opened on occasion for concerts, and the evening we visited the GOA Youth Choir was performing.

Our group had a very brief audience with H.A.H Patriarch Bartholomew, and we saw him several other times during services. Another highlight of the trip was, after a very long climb, we visited the Monastery of St. George on Princess Island. There was only a single monk who lived there. We arrived a little before it was time for vespers. Normally, he probably closed the chapel and did a reader service, as vespers cannot be done by a single priest. However, our group had several chanters, so he was able to do the full vespers service. He even left the doors open and several people, likely all Muslims, stayed to watch the service.

After that there was a trip to the Grand Bazaar where one of my classmates wives helped me buy a scarf for someone special, and the next day we left Halki for the last time. Except for me and one other person, all the rest of the group went to the airport to return to Boston or to go on to some other place. I planned to spend two and a half more days in Istanbul to catch up on the sights we didn’t get to see, and mostly to rest and just be alone for a little while before going on to Romania.  Now on my own, I spend a few lazy days visiting one sight per day and working on my photos. And eating and drinking whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it.

Those photos took me over a month to finish processing, but I have 242 brilliant pictures from this part of the trip. Descriptions and explanations are in the captions of several pictures. Enjoy!


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