Since the Hagia Sophia is on my Facebook The Travel List Challenge
, making it there while in Istanbul was a top priority! So when we set out on Saturday morning to sightsee, it was first on our list after a short visit to the Grand Bazaar. Since the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are very close to each other, some of the pictures aren't exactly in order - I got some pictures of the outside of the Mosque while waiting to get into the Hagia Sophia, and I got some pictures of the Hagia Sophia when exiting the Mosque.
Hagia Sophia was first built in 360 AD. The current building was finished in 537 AD since the first two were destroyed. It was the largest cathedral in the world from that time until 1520 and is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a Mosque and was used as such until 1931. It was opened as a museum in 1935. It was so neat to see a place that played a role in church history.
We had to time our visit to
the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) just right as we could only enter when it wasn't one of the 5 main daily prayer times (although a few in the mosque were still praying). It was built from 1609-1616.
From there, we made our way to a Turkish restaurant for lentil soup, kebabs, and iskender before heading to the crowded Egyptian Markey, better known among foreigners as the Spice Bazaar. Oh... and we made a stop along the way so I could buy beautiful copper earrings I had heard about. They were all so beautiful, so it's a good thing they were cheap!
The Spice Bazaar was a neat experience. We got a sample of Turkish delight. I'm told that, at less busy times, the merchants will even invite people into their shops for chay (tea), but we didn't get such an invitation. In addition to spices, teas, teasets, Turkish delight and other sweets, scarfs, purses, blankets, and lots of other neat little things can be found.
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