June 28, 2012
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Walking through the giant entrance doors is both humbling and breathtaking. There is a crumbling faded beauty here. Along with the peeling paint and missing mosaic tiles, there are graceful arches, intricate wood carvings and ironwork, and sunlight filtered through high windows. Close your eyes and imagine the electric bulbs suspended from the ceiling were once thousands of candles.
From the outside it’s easy to confuse the Hagia Sophia with just another mosque in a city which has hundreds. There’s a big dome and minarets flanking the four corners, but walk inside and it’s another story all together. In fact, many times I found myself looking at the skyline from a distance and wondering …”which is which?”
The Hagia Sophia was first a christian church built mostly as it stands now, giant dome and all, in the sixth century. When the Ottomans took over in the 15th century it was converted to a mosque, complete with minarets and changing the orientation of the apse to face Mecca.
Now, both the church and the mosque have been deconsecrated and the building is a museum open to the public Tuesday-Sunday, check for summer/winter hours and admission prices.
It’s hard to gain perspective on the center dome from photos, but from the floor to the top of the dome is 184 feet. Keep in mind this was built in 537 AD, long before the likes of St Peter’s in Rome.
The photo above shows the mihrab, placed offset at the end of the apse, indicating the exact direction of Mecca. They could not change the orientation of the church when it was converted into a mosque which is why the mihrab is not symmetrical to the rest of the structure.
Upstairs in the gallery are a number of mosaics. We went in search of one listed as “Emperor …
June 26, 2012
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I can’t say “I’ve always wanted to go to Turkey.” In fact, in thinking back to our trip around the world in 1998-99, it wasn’t even on the radar then and I have no idea why. My interest first peaked back in 2006 and for a while my mother and I were planning a trip there but in the end we chose to go to Central Europe instead.
This year, Turkish Airlines started flying nonstop from Los Angeles and offered some tantalizing deals for a 13 hour flight. I’m a sucker for any flight which will get me to my destination without having to change planes. The timing worked with David’s spring break so we jumped in and bought the tickets.
The positives: Great seatback video on demand system. Decent, edible food. Nonstop flights. Turkish Airlines offers free tours of the city, including lunch, if you are doing a stopover in IST for 24 hours or less. We didn’t do one of those tours but they look great if you are stuck with a long layover anyway.
The negatives: Horribly uncomfortable seats in Economy class, to the point where we upgraded to their version of Premium Economy (Comfort Class) on the way home. The seat pitch is so bad David could not put the tray table fully down onto his lap when the seat in front was reclined. Forget about reaching anything under the seat in front of you. In addition, it took 2.5 months to get United Mileage credit despite given them our FF numbers and there’s a definite lack of English with staff both in LAX and at International airport in Istanbul.
Arrival at Istanbul International was fine though it took quite a while for our luggage to arrive and when it did …