Istanbul's Byzantine Hippodrome was
the heart of Constantinople's
political and sporting
the scene of games and riots through
500 years of Ottoman history
as well (map).
now a city park called
the At Meydanı (Horse
Grounds) because of its function
in Ottoman times.
When I first visited it in 1968,
it was ringed with Volkswagen minibuses
driven by Hippies on their way to
Kathmandu. Today it is ringed by
giant motorcoaches ferrying hordes
of tourists of all ages to the principal
sights of Istanbul. In high season,
the buses form a solid wall around
the Hippodrome, which is an unsightly
The Hippodrome has free
Wifi Internet connection,
offered by the city government.
beneath the little park at the
northern end of the Hippodrome.
Above the hidden cistern is a stone
tower that was once part
of the city's system of aqueducts.
the stone tower is the Milion, all
that remains of a triumphal gate
that served as the zero-mile-marker
on the road called the Mese (now Divan
the Roman road
between Constantinople and Rome.
(Hagia Sophia) is across the
street from the stone tower, Topkapı
Palace is just beyond Ayasofya,
and the Istanbul
Archeological Museums are next
to Topkapı, down the hill bordering Gülhane
a visit in 1901, Kaiser Wilhelm
II of Germany erected an elaborate
temple-like fountain near
the northeastern end of the Hippodrome
as a gift to the sultan and his people.
one another across the Hippodrome are
the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet
Mosque) and the Museum
of Turkish and Islamic Art.
the Hippodrome include
the 3500-year-old Egyptian granite Obelisk
of Theodosius, brought to Constantinople
by Emperor Theodosius in 390 AD.
also see the spiral
bronze base of a three-headed
serpent sculpture brought from
Delphi in Greece (the serpents'
heads are in the Archeological
Museum just down the
the southwestern end of the Hippodrome
is the bare stone Column
of Constantine Porphyrogenetus, dating from the
Just west of the Hippodrome is the
Binbirdirek Cistern ("Cistern of 1001
Columns"), worth a look.