To catch you up to speed check out earlier posts about my trip:
My travels around Israel
Istanbul I: Exploring The City + Suleymaniye + The Blue Mosque
Istanbul II: Topkapi Palace
After seeing Topkapi Palace, we high-tailed it over to Ayasofya (or Hagia Sophia) hoping to get find a short line. All the popular historical sites are walking distance from each other, so it makes this jumping around pretty easy. We also used the metro system once while we were there, and it was pretty easy and handy.
Above is the Hagia Sophia from the mid point between this mosque and the Blue Mosque. See how close they are?
You can see this former mosque (and church) is currently being repaired. It’s no longer a mosque and instead a museum, so they charge admission. When telling people I went to Istanbul, everyone asks about this place. I liked it, but I also really enjoyed the Blue Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque a lot. In fact most of us agreed the Suleymaniye was our favorite Mosque. It was quieter, less crowded, up on a hill with beautiful views and the building was equally as gorgeous and well maintained as the Blue Mosque. Be sure to visit the Suleymaniye.
Back to the Ayasofya. Once tickets were purchased we made our way in.
Just as we got inside, my camera said “card full” so of course I was freaking out and furiously erasing earlier blurry photos and unfortunately some video so I could photograph this day’s sites.
This late morning timing made for excellent light in the structure. I love the yellow of the light and the blue of the stonework.
An important note is that this building wasn’t just a mosque but also a church. It was a church in 360 (it’s crazy old), and then a mosque from 1453-1935.
It’s such an unusual architectural mix, to see the layout and structure so iconic with mosques and yet there are jesus murals and mosaics all around.
After leaving the museum, we made a quick stop at another site from my tour book, as it was just across the street. We went to the Basilica Cistern. It was pretty inexpensive and worth seeing at least once. This is how water was moved throughout the city and was built in the 6th century.
It’s a great place to take photos as it has a Venice water-ways feel to it. You just walk the paths, take photos and look at the koi fish below.
There are 2 Medusa heads as part of columns in here. Since this was underground, built by slaves in the 6th century, and not meant to be seen as a museum, but as a functioning part of the city, when it was built they recycled these old Medusa heads to be part of columns within it. They weren’t even placed right-side up- they were just put in because their dimensions fit the bill. It’s a popular spot to photograph down here.
The Cistern is also seen in several movies (James Bond + Inferno) and written about in novels.
Next up: My LAST post of the trip, as our time here winds down. I’ll cover Taksim Square, The Grand Bazaar, and oh yes, my first trip to ASIA!