Published: May 16th 2009May 14th 2009
Courtyard of the Blue Mosque
I am too lazy to look up the proper Muslim term for what this area is called in Sultanahmet Mosque.
Two Behemoths of The Golden Horn
We had to get it out of the way, the two most important sites in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia Museum. Each among the most stunning works of religious architecture in the world, each competing only a few hundred meters from each other for the glory of their respective interpretations of God and his worship. The Blue Mosque was built later and its cohesiveness and execution give it a perfection that the much older and somewhat tattered Hagia Sofia cannot keep against on a "looks" basis alone. But the story of Hagia Sofia is the story of Constantinople and Istanbul; so as much as one can admire the geometry of Sultanahmet Mosque, Hagia Sofia, with careful study, reveals a rich and tumultuous history for a city effectively at the center of the civilized world, at least for the first half of the second millenium. I will let the pictures do the talking on the physical aspects.
An aspect not evident in the photos but of further relevance to our contemporary world relates to the tourists that come to visit Hagia Sofia. There are two groups, the Turks and the foreigners, the
Sultanahmet's Main Dome
The most beautiful interior of any mosque we have ever seen.
first paying a discounted rate, the second a reasonable rate for what we are visiting. Hagia Sofia ceased to be a mosque at the founding of the Republic in 1923 however many especially young Turks still come in there not to snap every angle of the mosaics as the foreigners do, or to read the history of the christian basilicas that were erected on this site, but instead to singularly take photos and marvel at the Muslim aspects of the building, proudly taking photos in front of the huge medallions with Arabic script that adorn the four columns that support the central dome. We are all visiting the same place but each group comes to see there own meaning and ascribes their own beliefs and importance to the place. In some ways this is sad, in other ways it is great that we can all come to this place and peaceably share in our own experiences, hopefully Jerusalem will one day become more of that type of a place.
Treasures of Topkapi
I have fond memories of this old palace of the Sultans as the treasures very professionally displayed within the harem of the palace are absolutely amazing
The Blue Mosque with its six minarets.
and comparable to those we had so much enjoyed in less of a formal setting in Romania. Photos were not permitted so I suggest looking the various items up online as they are amazing. One piece which either did not exist or we simply skipped is the section on Muslim artifacts of the Sultan. Much like or relics of the Saints, every holy item relating to Abraham, his descendants and the prophets. I wish I could have spent more time in here but between the schoolchildren groups and throngs of tourists, it was unbearable to devote the appropriate time to study everything. On that note, it is overwhelmingly French, Spanish and Italian tourists that were visiting Istanbul, so many so that I was often approached in Spanish in the bazaars. Very few Americans, British, or Germans, but a few Dutch. Not sure what that says about the economic "crise".
One of the unfortunate things about Topkapi is that the palace kitchen was closed and that, more importantly, there is no proper effort made to reflect palace life, rather each room, like the Louvre, has been converted into a place for showcasing. I would prefer that treasures be shown in
He Makes and Sells Hats
St. Nicholas WAS born in Turkey after all, this guy was good, you knew exactly what he did because he yelled it out loud repeatedly.
the bland Dolmabahce and that this instead be given period furnishings.
This is my favorite expression to my Turkish restaurateurs when I think another Turk is running some kind of a BS game, and I am not wrong to be using this line. Kapali Carsi, the Grand Bazaar, is a thorough tourist trap, a rip-off and waste of time if you want to really get a reasonable price on something that is only somewhat Turkish. That said, the Grand Bazaar is an absolutely mandatory destination on any visit to Istanbul as it is a very old structure and the behaviors exhibited on the surface give great insight into the merchant culture that has existed in the city for millenia.
IF you absolutely must buy something Turkish, then please go to Tulumba
which offers the best selection of Turkish items ANYWHERE. In fact, three fourths of the merchants I spoke to in Kapali Carsi indicated
knowledge of Tulumba, which mean the rest for either lying or didn't understand. If you really want something and money is tight, please feel free to contact me as I have a wholesale account on there and can get you a
Hagia Sophia's Minbar
Essentially the imam's pulpit.
30% to 40% discount on the marked prices.
There are more photos below