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Monday, June 13, 2011

6-11-2011 The Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

After a well rested night at the Hotel Turkuaz we ventured out into the city of Istanbul to see the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.     
The Blue Mosque:                                                                                                                                                                      The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I (it is said that he was only 19 years old). His goal was to make it an even better place for Islamic worship than the Hagia Sophia. It was built facing the Hagia Sophia, over the site of the ancient hippodrome, a circus that was the social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, only a few fragments of the original hippodrome have survived (hippos: horse and dromos: path or way). Horse racing and chariot racing were popular pastimes, thus the name. The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616. Sultan Ahmet sadly died just a year after its completion at the age of 27. He is buried outside the mosque with his wife and three sons. 
 (This is the entrance I entered through)
A view standing from the main entrance into the central portion of the mosque. So many people were there. I was told I was going to have to were a veil for my head, but when I was in line the woman told me I didn't have too. When I was looking at everyone inside I noticed that women with short hair or with their hair pulled up didn't have a scarf but those who had long, loose hair had to wear one. It was interesting. Also, you have to take off your shoes to go inside and they provide you with little bags to carry your shoes in. The carpet was the softest velvet, but it smelled like dirty feet in there!! But the beauty of the place made the feet smell well worth it!

                       This is a picture of the soft, yet smelly velvet carpet.

 The designs were amazing...this is only one of many pictures I took of the design and architecture. This is the ceiling. And the picture below it I took because I thought it was funny to see a small vacuum in such a huge mosque...or to even think about vacuuming a mosque.

Hagia Sophia:

The first Hagia Sophia or Church of Holy Wisdom, was built by Constantine the Great in the fourth century for Christian worship. It was destroyed and his son Constantius and the emperor Theodosius the Great built another one in its place which was burned during the Nika riots of 532. Between 532 and 537, Justinian I rebuilt it and made it what it is today.
In 1453 Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror seized Constantinople and converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
The beauty of this place is remarkable and even though I loved the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia cannot be beat. Not only is it beautiful, but it is so intriguing to see all the different layers of Christian (Roman Catholic & Greek Orthodox) and Muslim symbolism in the art work and standing structures. I dont think I will ever be able to fully explain how amazing it is.

            The above and below picture are fragments of earlier portions of the Hagia Sophia
                The ceiling of the Hagia Sophia in the corridor before you get to the main part.
                                       Standing at the entrance, tons of people were there!!
                                                                     In the center
                                              Box located to the left of the alter
 This is the wishing stone, located on a interior pillar of the building. Thousands of people have worn away at this stone asking for their wishes to come true. You place your thumb inside and spin your hand around while asking for a wish. It is so smooth and worn down and their is a line to get near it.
 Look at this amazing building! The bar you see is one of the many supporting stuctures holding the Hagia Sophia together. I honestly cant believe people thousands of years ago built this and painted such intricate and majestic art on these walls.
                                                                    Cracking walls
 View from the upper level of the Hagia Sophia looking down towards the alter. You get to the upper level by walking up a steep incline made from cut stone, which is slick and uneven! Its a definite butt workout!
                                                               Christian Art
                                                          Another wall mural
Walking in Istanbul I saw so many cute shops! They have awesome clothes,seriously I cant wait to go shopping. I also found a new love! Its called Tamek and its a delicious brand of fruit juice that comes in almost any flavor. I don't know why its so good but it is! I love the peach and apricot ones!

TURKEY Lessons I've learned so far:
- You cant flush toilet paper down the drain anywhere because the septic systems are so bad. I am having a really hard time remembering this ... Sorry Turkey for my toilet paper contribution, I'm still learning!

- Bathrooms are sometimes free but mostly are about 1,00 Lira. Sometimes they are just holes in the ground and sometimes have toilet paper.

- Cats OWN this place!! They are everywhere!!! Dogs too, but mostly cats have free reign of every city. 

- People drive like maniacs! The streets here are very,very narrow, and sometimes very non linear but that does not stop a huge bus from speeding down the street. They don't stop either and wouldn't really care if they were to run over your foot.

- If you are someone's guest they are extremely hospitable and make sure you are comfortable and will provide you with anything you might be lacking.

I love it here! It is an amazing country, but defiantly not home.
<3 M


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