Taking on a city of 18-20 million people with a baby strapped to my back is not exactly my idea of a great time. But we decided before we moved here that we needed to be sure to do some of the touristy things while we lived here. How sad would it be to live here for a year or two and never do any of that stuff?
So a month ago it was a gorgeous day and we ventured out with some friends to Sultanahmet, which actually is the Turkish name of the Blue Mosque, but generally is referred to as the area surrounding the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.
The Hagia Sophia doesn't look like much of anything from the outside (at least not compared to surrounding architecture).
We paid our 40 lira (20 lira per person) entrance fee to get into the Hagia Sophia. And we let our breath be taken away.
The view upon entrance: the Imperial Gate.
On ground level.
The view from the upper level.
The Hagia Sophia was an Orthodox church for almost 1,100 years. When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, it was turned into a mosque. It remained a mosque for almost 500 years until, under the presidency of Atatürk, it was transformed into a museum.
The dome, with 40 windows at its base.
One side of the Marble Door.
The Hagia Sophia is covered in mosaics. Practically the whole building has mosaics somewhere, although many of them are still partially covered (the Turks covered the mosaics in plaster when they transformed the church into a mosque). There were 30 million gold tiles just in the dome alone!
The Deësis (Christ in the center, Mary on the left, John the Baptist on the right) mosaic.
Mosaics of cherubs in the upper corners.
I, for one, do not generally enjoy museums. I don't like paying to look at all sorts of old stuff that means nothing to me. But when something is grand, when it's gorgeous, I enjoy it, even if I don't understand all the history behind it or appreciate the art or architecture for its time period.
The mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, is where the altar was originally.
Stained glass windows.
The Hagia Sophia is grand.
If you ever come to Istanbul, you should go. Even if you don't enjoy museums.