The Basilica Cisterna (or the Yerebatan Serayi in Turkish) is Istanbul’s largest ancient water filtration system all the way back from the Byzantine Empire (6th century!) that is said to be built by 7,000 slaves! Ok, enough of the serious history (yea, I know, I’m a huge history buff).
This underground cistern (Figure 1) is nicknamed the “Sunken Palace”, and you can probably see why. Formerly filled with gardens, I thought the columns really add to the perspective. Unfortunately, even this photo cannot do it justice.
I found that this was a perfect place to play around with my aperture priority settings and exposure times. Regrettably, I wasn’t lugging around a tripod. So I found the next best thing: the floor. It worked out perfectly (Figure 2).
Although, it only has a couple feet of water filled with giant carp today, this still-functioning (but unused) filtration system is definitely worth the visit, even if it is just for the weird Medusa head columns way in the back that are, for whatever reason, turned every way but right side up (Figure 3).
- Just 10 lira to get in, so I’d suggest to go in there without a tour so you fully enjoy this awing experience.
- If you take photos, use the floor as a stabilizer, but make sure you check for puddles first!
- Tons of people want to look at the Medusa columns, and these structures are surrounded by walkways that are too narrow for the number of people so be careful to not fall into the water.