Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Day two of Istanbul:

Instead of waking up to another beautiful sunny day as we did the day before we were greeted loud winds, chilly rain and immobile grey clouds. Because of the poor weather we decided it was more sensible to explore indoor out of the weather places of tourism :P

First stop of the day was the Hagia Sophia. Even with the view blocking scaffolding put up for the latest of renovations the interior of Hagia Sophia was still very stunning! The ceiling was gorgeous with its yellow, red and blue ornate designs. In Fact some of the Turkish patterns of the ceiling seemed to me to be similar to Native American designs. The subject later became the basis for an interesting discussion between a friend and I on the possibilities of there being an exchange of artistic influences between the Ottoman Turks and the many Native American tribes during the years of colonialism.

Hagia Sophia
People of means would bring items that signified their wealth and status to the "New World" and Turkish rugs were highly coveted symbols of wealth where as the European courts would have presented exotic gifts from the Americas to impress the Turkish court via the diplomats. Its an idea, no real basis to go on except noticing that many cultures seem share similar traditional folk art patterns. One of the most interesting characteristics of H.S. is the discovery of old Byzantine era Christian mosaics juxtapose next to Islamic elements. It made visual the long history of the building from its beginnings as a Byzantine church to its eventual cross over as a Mosque in 1453. I was told that there are still many more mosaics still covered by the plasters, but I am unsure if they will be re-exposed.
Byzantine Mosaics at Hagia Sophia
To remove the plaster covering the mosaics would be damaging some of the Turkish decor which is just as impressive and priceless as what is underneath. What I did see that was also interesting and made me very curious was the symbol of Pi and circle with a dividing line carved into the upstairs floor near one of the mosaics of jesus. I wondered how long has it been there. I have seen the same symbols on old marble stones in Ephesus. They didn't look recent, but I can't imagine that a simple almost unnoticeable carving in a highly trafficked floor could be so old and still exist. Hard to tell and I haven't found anything on it through the internet. I tried to take a picture, but the light was too low for my camera. :(

There was much to explore in Hagia Sophia. We didn't pay for a tour guide but it probably would have been a good idea considering there are several little quirks and details through out the building that are not explained through plaques on what their significance is.
Hagia Sophia
However Sem and I are not very patient with tour guides, we like to wander off on our own and explore, then find each other within the chaos :P.


Next stop for the day was the Topkapi Palace.

The Topkapi Palace is located near the Hagia Sophia. It was the Sultan's primary residence and center of government affairs, but is now a HUGE museum displaying the history and wealth of the Ottoman Empire. There were several displays of beautiful tile work, textiles, carriages, weapons and collections of items owned and used by the many sultans. One of the most impressive collections were the many porcelain plates, dishes and vases sent via the old silk trade route from the far east. Much of it was the traditional blue and white porcelain ware favored by the sultans, but my favorite were the ones with a little more color.
:P another impressive collection was that of religious and sacred objects collected by the Sultan Selim I sometime during the early 16th century. We didn't venture into the Harem court because it was an additional fee to get in and by the time we saw everything else we were exhausted and hungry.

The architecture of the palace and landscaping of the courtyards are amazing and worth the trip. I really wish that the weather was better then what it was. Even the indoors of the Palace were very chilly and there were few places to rest. There was a great view of the surrounding city from the palace and again on a clearer day the view would have been even more amazing.

After the palace we ventured to get something good and warm to eat and decided to make it an early day with the hopes that the next day would be nicer :P

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Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Byzantine Mosaics at Hagia Sophia
Byzantine Mosaics at Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia - marble vase. Carved…
Hagia Sophia - marble vase. Carve…
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
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Byzantine Mosaics at Hagia Sophia
Byzantine Mosaics at Hagia Sophia
Byzantine Mosaics at Hagia Sophia
Byzantine Mosaics at Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Semih with Hagia Sophia
Semih with Hagia Sophia
Me with Hagia Sophia
Me with Hagia Sophia
street dogs playing on the green!
street dogs playing on the green!
I couldnt get a clear pic! but it…
I couldn't get a clear pic! but i…
I really like this piece!
I really like this piece!
kitchen!
kitchen!
view from the palace! you can see …
view from the palace! you can see…
wider view from the palace
wider view from the palace
Istanbul
photo by: Memo