Thursday, June 18, 2009

Istanbul ~ Part 2 ~ Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace

We spent Sunday seeing the sights and relaxing. We ate street food most of the day and took many breaks on park benches and gazed at the water.

The Blue Mosque was first after strolling by the Hippodrome Square containing the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine Column, and Hippodrome. We both had never been in a mosque before so the experience of covering my head and taking off our shoes was a new one. The place has pretty plush carpeting and the walls and ceilings are covered in beautiful blue iznik tiles. They kept tourists behind a small wooden gate separating the worshipers from visitors. I overheard a tour guide saying there is markings in the carpet to show worshippers how to line up and keep proper spacing. The women's section was in the back (behind the visitor section) so that they can prey and show modesty. *me rolling eyes* The blue mosque has six minarets where the call to prayer is announced from. Legend has it that the architect misheard "six" instead of "gold-capped" which altered the original design of only two minarets. The two words are "altin" (gold) and "alti" (six).

Hagia Sophia was right across the street and had a 20 Lira entrance fee! Ouch! It was worth it and was our favorite monument of the day. It was built in 537 and was a Christian church for many years. In the 15th century it was converted to a mosque. There is really so much history and stuff to see here I couldn't possible cover it all. The place is pretty photogenic and has nice natural lighting shining in from the galleries. The must see items in it are the weeping pillar which people touch for healing powers and the coronation square where the byzantines thought the center of the universe was! There are a lot of biblical mosiacs including ones with Jesus and Mary. Odd considering it has been a mosque for so long and Muslims don't like to adorne their places of worship with figures of people. (They believe it distracts from worshiping the big main god).

After lunch we spent our afternoon trying to find and strolling around the Topkapi Palace. Another 20 Lira each entrance fee. and this time we felt ripped off. The main sight to see there is the Harem where the sultan's wives lived but it was another 15 Lira fee! We skipped it even though the guide book told us it was a must! The palace property is pretty huge and is located right on the "Golden Horn". We took some pictures of Asia as we felt like we were standing on the edge or Europe. We saw some jewels and some clothes worn by the sultans, nothing to interesting. The only remotely interesting thing was there was a small portion of the palace that you couldn't take pictures in. It contained some Islamic holy items including an impression of Mohammaed's footprint, a tooth, and about 7-8 containers of his hair! Apparently, when he died he told people to distribute him around.......... and now some is locked up in glass for tourists to see. The other holy items were swords, koran locks, etc. At the end of this building was a guy live in the flesh just reading the koran page by page. He was sitting behind a desk with a microphone and two large monitors played the words in Arabic and English. It kinda creeped me out.

The rest of the evening was spent in Beyoglu which is easily accessible by Tram and Inclinator. It is modern shopping area of town with charming side streets full of places to eat, have a drink, or smoke hooka. Lots of brand names stores and very crowded! We had some dinner and strolled along back to the old city and to our hotel.

Hagia Sophia

Inside Hagia Sophia - Double Collumnade


Blue Mosque


Blue Iznik Tile Work at Topkapi Palace


Turkey Traveller June 18, 2009 at 2:35 AM  

You are right about the Islamic tradition of places of worship not being adorned with pictures of humans, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia were plastered over when the building was in service as a mosque and painstakingly restored when Ataturk designated the building a museum.

About This Blog

Tina & Rob have relocated their lives to Geneva, Switzerland. This blog is a story of their adventure during the year and all the details inbetween.

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