Follow by Email

Friday, May 1, 2009

Istanbul

A city of 14 million inhabitants, Istanbul is a feast for the senses. The sites are simply magnificent, the smells of kebap and other Turkish delicacies surround you, and the sound of traffic, trains, and street cars can be dizzying. I love Istanbul. It is a great city, with lovely people and is quite easy to navigate. We are staying in one neighborhood that overlooks the Golden Horn, one of three waterways that surround the city. The other two are the Bosphorus Straight and the Sea of Marmara. Close by are streets filled with vendors and restaurants creating a bustling market atmosphere well into the night. And if you've had enough of local flavor, Starbucks lurks around the corner, for better or worse.
We spent Friday visiting the major sites of this great city. Hagia Sofia, second only to St. Peter's in Rome in size has an interesting history. First a church, then a mosque, now a museum honoring both religious traditions that have worshiped there. It is beautiful and huge but also a dissonant mixture of Islamic and Christian symbols. The mosiacs on the wall are Christian in nature, with depictions of Mary and Jesus often as the center piece.
From there we visited the Blue Mosque, named so for its ornate and gorgeous blue tile work. We had to remove our shoes before entering. When of hundreds of tourists remove their shoes all at once, the resulting sensory experience is not pleasant! I carefully covered my head with my pink pashima scarf and entered into this place of worship. It is so beautiful. The gigantic pillars are indeed impressive.
Both Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque have these amazing domes that are ornately decorated. Again, it is staggering to consider how all of these wonders were built way back when!
I'll continue on with my adventures in Istanbul in a later post. I have to run now. Thanks for checking in.