Wednesday May 20th
Sites Visited: Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii), Ayia Sophia, Yeravatan Saray (Underground Cistern), Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque
Where did we stay tonight?: Istanbul
Leaders: Ben Kahn and KT Holroyd
Today we woke up bright and early in our beautiful Istanbul hotel and were pleasantly surprised by the extensive and delicious breakfast extravaganza laid out for us. We all traipsed up to the roof garden to complete our background assignments for the day. Though we had a great view of Aghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque the wind was raging. Our guide for the day, “Bartch,” met us at the hotel and gave a brief introductory lecture to Istanbul and the sights we would be seeing.
We then took a short walk to the Blue Mosque very close to our hotel. We walked into the large courtyard and received a lecture about the history of the building and Islam. As we entered the mosque everyone was in awe of the impressive blue tile-work and painted designs along the ceiling. Perhaps dwarfing the artwork, however, was the great excitement of the group to finally see a definitive pendentive (not a squinch). After wandering around for a while we made our way across the park to the infamous Aghia Sophia. We had another lecture in the courtyard before entering the massive church-turned-mosque-turned-museum. We were all amazed by the massive open interior space and the domes looming above our heads. After taking the time to examine the Byzantine mosaics we made our way out to find some much needed sustenance. While some chose to try the Turkish version of the gyro, others dined upon pasta, rice balls, or shish kabobs.
After lunch, we descended into the looming depths of the Yerebatan Sarnici, or cistern basilica where we were confronted with over 300 columns lit up in a dark pool of water. At the back of the chamber we even found two upturned Medusa heads that had been reused in the construction of the cistern. Reluctantly returning above ground, we headed to the Sokulle Mehment Pasha Mosque which is now partially used as a religious school. As we got our lecture in the courtyard there were several young boys playing ping-pong and the Imam even came by to let us in personally. Unlike at the Blue Mosque, which was “tourist friendly” the ladies were required to put on head scarves, some worn more gracefully than others (Dallis may have had a little trouble with her bandana turned doo-rag turned yaya scarf). After admiring the beautiful tile work in the mosque we walked to the site of the ancient hippodrome, passing by four large monuments including a 1500 year old Egyptian obelisk, the serpent column (used to commemorate the Greek’s victory at the battle of Plataea), and a German fountain given to the Turks in the early 20th century. We said good-bye to our tour guide and all departed to work on assignments, rest, and prepare for another long day of sightseeing tomorrow.
Into Ayia Sofia:
Impressions of Ayia Sofia:
The evening call to prayer:
Day 60 Photo Gallery: