Bettany Hughes Treasures of the World episode 5: The historian visits a dig in Istanbul containing artefacts from multiple eras, and follows in the footsteps of one of her heroes, Byzantine empress Theodora. She visits the restoration of the 6th-century Basilica Cistern, a marble-columned water reservoir under the city’s streets, Topkapi Palace, and Europe’s largest wooden building, Prinkipo Orphanage, which was once home to more than 1000 children.
Few cities capture the imagination of history-lovers like Istanbul, so it’s no surprise that Bettany Hughes has headed here to conclude her treasure-hunting tour. And once again, she’s heading under ground. In the city’s metro system she joins an archaeological dig uncovering details of Istanbul’s earliest inhabitants, and she gets a rare chance to walk on the floor of the stunning marble-columned sixth-century Basilica Cistern during its restoration.
Above ground, she explores the great Hagia Sophia, which has recently been re-dedicated as a mosque, and enjoys the opportunity to film in the jewel-like Ottoman wonderland that is the Topkapi palace. And she takes to the water to the less well-known Prince’s Islands, and the extraordinary wooden Prinkipo orphanage. In this episode, Bettany Hughes visits some of the most fascinating and ancient sites in Turkey, such as:
- The Hagia Sophia, a magnificent church that became a mosque and then a museum, reflecting the religious diversity and tolerance of Istanbul
- The Basilica Cistern, an underground reservoir that supplied water to the Byzantine palace and was featured in the James Bond film From Russia with Love
- The Blue Mosque, a stunning example of Ottoman architecture that was built by Sultan Ahmet I to rival the Hagia Sophia
- The Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, where Bettany haggles for carpets, spices and jewellery
- The Topkapi Palace, the lavish residence of the Ottoman sultans for four centuries, where Bettany explores their treasures, harems and intrigues
- The Galata Tower, a medieval landmark that offers panoramic views of Istanbul and was used by an Ottoman aviator to fly across the Bosphorus Strait
- The Chora Church, a Byzantine masterpiece that contains exquisite mosaics and frescoes depicting scenes from Christianity
- The Suleymaniye Mosque, a masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture that was designed by Sinan, one of the greatest architects of all time
Bettany Hughes Treasures of the World episode 5
Bettany Hughes also travels to other parts of Turkey to discover more about its rich heritage and diversity, such as:
- Cappadocia, a fairy-tale landscape of rock formations and cave dwellings that was home to early Christians who carved churches and monasteries into the stone
- Ephesus, one of the most important cities in ancient Greece and Rome that boasts impressive ruins such as the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
- Troy, an ancient city that was immortalized by Homer’s epic poem The Iliad and excavated by Heinrich Schliemann who claimed to have found Priam’s treasure
Bettany Hughes also meets some of the people who live in Turkey today and learn about their traditions, customs and challenges. She joins a whirling dervish ceremony inspired by Rumi’s poetry; she samples Turkish cuisine from street food to baklava; she witnesses a camel wrestling festival; she talks to refugees from Syria who have found shelter in Turkey; she learns about Turkish coffee fortune telling; she visits a women’s cooperative that makes pottery; she explores modern art galleries; she celebrates Newroz with Kurdish people; she joins an archaeological dig at Catalhoyuk; she watches shadow puppet shows; she listens to Turkish music; she rides hot air balloons over Cappadocia; she swims in thermal pools at Pamukkale; she marvels at Mount Nemrut’s colossal statues.