I had grand plans for seeing much of the city yesterday, but I ended up spending the whole day in Hagia Sophia. Once I got in, I had trouble making myself leave.
I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the interior of the building. But, to my surprise, it completely exceeded my expectations. Built as a church in 537, converted to a mosque when the Ottomans took over a thousand years later, and turned into a museum when Ataturk came to power, its central space, is vast, towering, and awe-inspiring. Judging by the exterior, I didn’t actually expect this space to be so enormous, and was shocked when I entered. It was a moving experience, one that I wish I could repeat.
In the evening, I met up with a friend of mine from college who is now living in Istanbul. We went out to dinner on the other side of the Golden Horn, and on top of catching up with an old friend, it was great to go out to dinner with someone. Meals are social events here, and it’s always difficult for me to show up to a restaurant by myself.
The photos are below. I’ll have another post later this evening or tomorrow morning.
The entrance to the church/mosque/museum is through these buttresses.
The narthex gives visitors a taste of what's coming. From here, you can glimpse the enormity of the space inside.
I walked around the space before stepping into the middle, trying to get a sense of its dimensions before being assaulted by its grandeur.
Stepping out into the center of the basilica was overpoweringly awe-inspiring. Is that descriptive enough?
Photographs really can't capture this space. Fortunately, however, there are plenty of scale figures around to give a sense of proportion.
I kept stepping back and forth center and the aisles, trying to relive the moment when I first stepped out there.
Fortunately, the Ottomans only painted over the old mosaics. The massive medallions with arabic script were added in the nineteenth century.
The original mosaics were uncovered when Ataturk made the building a museum.
Nothing brings back great travel memories like a video of a mosaic.
I can now understand why every Ottoman architect built mosques vaguely reminiscent of this building.
Sinan spent his whole life trying to top this building. I don't think he was ever able to do it, and it must have been incredibly painful for him to live in this city, and see Hagia Sophia every day.
If I had seen nothing else on my trip to Istanbul, this would have made it worth it.
"Look, kids! Another mosaic!" The exit is on the opposite wall of this passage. A mirror was conveniently positioned over the exit door to remind visitors to look back, lest they miss this last mosaic.
Those of you who know me well will know that this is my worst nightmare: a disgruntled clown, smoking a cigarette. I had to close my eyes as I snapped this picture.
My friend and I grabbed a beer at a rooftop restaurant with a view.
Meze: couscous, an eggplant dish, and some local anchovies (not salty).
The next course: these were stuffed with meat, and were covered with a yogurt sauce.
Fresh sardines. These were ridiculously delicious.
The streets in this neighborhood are filled with tables. This was the view from our ours.