I recently had the chance / was privileged enough to spend a few days in Istanbul last month, and it was incredible! We ended up there sort of by accident, after finding cheap airline tickets to Rome and Athens that went via Istanbul. And at that point, so the thinking went, why not stay a few days? After all, it’s not like we’re in that part of the world on the regular, 13 hour flight and whatnot.
My only regret is that we didn’t stay longer! It is truly an amazing city, in so many ways. From millennia of history and culture to a vibrant society to such warm, welcoming people you’d be hard-pressed to find a more remarkable spot.
I’ll start with 2 of the biggest sights that the city has – the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. These are practically on top of each other in the Sultahnamet area, only separated by a small park; maybe 100 yards, tops.
The mosque is gorgeous, inside and out, and given that I’ve never been in a mosque previously, I think I started in the right place. Note that the name comes from the blue tiles inside, see 2nd photo in the ceiling.
The Hagia Sophia, on the other hand, is a Roman cathedral, which was converted into a mosque, and then converted yet again into a museum. It’s got a mix of Christian and Muslim iconography throughout, and is truly stunning.
Here is the centerpiece (altar area, plus a nihrab pointing toward Mecca). The only place on earth you’ll find Jesus, Mary, and Gabriel depicted, plus the names of Allah and Mohammed. Fun fact: the original basilica pointed to Jerusalem, and the Muslim version to Mecca that’s off-center is only different by 3 degrees.
And here, a recovered mosaic of Jesus. This is a little unnerving in person – the eyes will follow you as you move around in front of the mosaic.
Lots more to come from Istanbul’s photo trip!
BTW, I have decided the Turks are dessert hobbits – there always seem to be 2 desserts with any meal, and probably chocolate besides. It’s a miracle they aren’t all diabetic … maybe the ever-present and delicious Turkish coffee is what offsets that?