Sunday, December 1, 2013

Haiga Sofia - October 19, 2013

Hagia Sofia has been a place of both Christain and Muslim worship for many people throughout the ages.  At present it is a museum. Click here to learn all the fascinating history. 

The outside of the building looks to me like something a child might create with giant brick-colored Legos. Huge, bulky, totally ungraceful are descriptors that come to mind, but that Lego look is recognized by those who know their business as one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture.

In the interior, relics from both Christain and Muslim worship, world-class art, and the complexity of its structure make this building a wonder on many levels.

The following is a sample of the photos I took inside Hagia Sofia from the ground level.

From upstairs, the views were just as impressive.

At one point, this green circle was the spot for the king/emperor to sit while enjoying the religious feasts of his choosing.

The mosaics are incredible. It's hard to imagine the kind of patience it takes to create a pattern with such tiny tiles.

The icon mosaics have been treated in several different ways. This one is partially restored

 This one is less completely restored, but with a small image showing what the original was.

And finally some, like this one, are completely restored.

 This picture shows two of the great medallions that decorate the building. The name of one of the great men of Islamic history is painted on each of the eight medallions.

Back on the ground floor, I found three things of great interest: The marker for Mecca. Knowing it was important for Muslims to align themselves with Mecca for prayer, I couldn't imagine how they would know which direction to face in this round building. Now, I know. Look for the mihrab.

The muezzin's loge. Considering all the singing he does during the day as he calls the faithful to prayer, this special place to rest and meditate was a nice perk!

And the spot for coronation of Turkish kings and emperors.

A word about visiting old buildings: maintenance!  It is forever on-going. At this visit, one entire end of the building was shrouded in scaffolding. Of course, it is distracting, but when you consider the building has roots back to 537 it's not surprising.

All in all, it was a great day for making dreams come true! These two buildings had been on my wish list for a long time.

Now, for the downside. The Grand Bazaar was closed. I was disappointed, but in all honesty, I was so tired by this point, I would not have enjoyed a tour had it been open.

Outside, through the spray of the great fountain, Hagia Sofia had a different look.

And a short while later, as we walked by again, it was beautiful!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Blue Mosque - October 19, 2013

After a delicious Turkish breakfast (more about that later), we were off to the Blue Mosque.  Click here to read all about it's history. My duty here is to tell you through pictures and a few words how incredibly beautiful this building is.  

First of all, it is huge!

The interior columns are gigantic!

Everything is in shades of blue, but the most impressive blue material are the tiles which cover the walls casting the entire building in a lovely blue light.

The windows are perfectly placed to capture light and bounce it from wall to wall.

The carpet underfoot adds yet another element of blue. 

 Ladies have their own praying area, but we did see a woman in Western dress leading an educational seminar.  The variety of dress we saw women wearing as well as their roles in the community was astounding.  Obviously, this is another area where stereotypes can be very deceiving.  There doesn't seem to be a "typical" Muslim. 

Speaking of the dress code for women, we saw very few burkas complete with the eye covering.  A few more women were wearing the style seen above, and many others wore plain coats in varying lengths with colorful scarves.  Most women we saw were wearing clothes that would be equally at home in the United States. 

All in all, the building was spectacular, but the human interest story was even better. 

I am so sorry this picture didn't turn out better.  You will just have to take my word for it that even though the guy on the right has my heart forever, the one on the left was one of the best looking men I've seen in a while. His job was to befriend tourists on the street and offer to show them a secret way to enter the Blue Mosque, therefore avoiding the loooooooong line at the main entrance.  Of course, I was game. 

As promised, he took us to a side entrance and showed us how to enter the line discretely.  We were inside the building before you could say, "Peace by with you." 

When we exited, he was there waiting for us. "Now," he said, "would you like to see my carpet shop?" There was only one answer.  Certainly!  We would love to visit the carpet shop.

 One last photo and we were on our way.

We looked at hundreds of rugs, but none intrigued me as much as watching this woman at her loom.

Her smile was enchanting

We finally agreed on a small tree-of-life rug, paid for it, and we were on our way to Haiga Sofia.

Istanbul - October 18, 2013

Arrival at the Istanbul airport was quite a shock to my system. We had just left Zagreb, the capital of Croatia and its largest city with a population of fewer than 800,000 people. Istanbul is the second largest city in the world by population. The latest census counted 13.9 million people, and I don't think anyone has moved away.

We were met by a representative of the hotel who escorted us to our shuttle and off we went to the Hotel Romantic.  Again, we had decided that everything we wanted to see in Istanbul was in Old Town and the Hotel Romantic was a great place to start.

If didn't take long to explore lower levels of this tiny hotel, but once we reached the roof-top terrace, we were spell-bound. This was our view from one window,

And this was the view from the opposite direction.

After settling in, we went for a walk around the neighborhood,

Found a great restaurant

Featuring fish so fresh they were still wiggling.

By the time we finished dinner, it was already dark.  Back to the hotel. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Zagreb - Day 3 - October 17, 2013

We spent the morning on Ulica Tkalcica, a famous street lined with shops and coffee bars.  So much to see! Take a look!

It's hard to over emphasize what a pleasant morning this was.
One of the best shops was a small gallery of Croatian Naive Art.
It was a great place to buy prints!

These young ladies were all dressed up for Halloween.  A little early perhaps, but they were drumming up enthusiasm for a Halloween party.

A name like Dona doesn't show up very often - at least not outside of Mexico.  In Zagreb, I saw it twice.  I need to find out what it means.  I'm sure it's something sweet.

This was our third visit to Zagreb, but the first two visits were limited to the train station.  We had had the idea that Zagreb was a big dirty city, light on attractions and heavy on industry.  What a nice surprise the Old Town was! We will definitely plan to come back, but for now it was time to get back to the hotel and pack up. Tomorrow we will be on our way to Istanbul!