Reflections on the Trip of a Lifetime: Day 15 (and 16) Istanbul

 Istanbul

IMG_8499This is quite a town!

It has twice the population of the largest city in Australia. The road rules seem to be taken as no more than a set of suggestions, and the place has a throbbing sense of irrepressible life about it that’s hard to describe.


 

Chora Museum

This building was built initially as a church, later turned into a mosque, and is now officially a museum. One of the fascinating things about the place is that when the Muslim community turned it into a mosque, they actually preserved the frescoes and mosaics in a remarkable way: Mosques are not adorned with icons in the same way that Roman and Greek churches are, so when the Muslims took over they plastered over the top of all of the decorations without harming them. In the process they provided a wonderful barrier against the elements. As a result, the museum has absolutely stunning frescoes and mosaics, because they have been removing the plaster to reveal the frescoes.

This is the only site where I purchased a book. I knew that I would need to refer to it in order to reinterpret my photos! The frescoes are arranged to tell the gospel stories, and other traditional and biblical accounts.

IMG_8387Ironically, this is what the building looks like from the outside…


 

Topkapi Palace

The palace of the Sultans in Istanbul is surreal. It is vast, lavish, historically fascinating, and picturesque… it’s actually like a small town, all by itself.

I suggest playing this audio while cruising the photographs. It is the Call to Prayer from the local mosque, which was happening as we were leaving the palace complex.

 

The best bits were not allowed to be photographed, but here’s a taste of parts of the palace:

Hagia Sophia

The church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom / Wisdom of God) was built in 415AD. This is pretty significant. Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the only legal religion of the Roman empire in 393AD. Less than twenty years later, Theodosius II built the Hagia Sophia church!

Unfortunately it burned down and was rebuilt, but this is a church site which has connections to some of the very earliest Christian times of the Roman Empire. The church which stands today dates from 537AD!

IMG_8632It is huge, amazing, and like the Chora museum, started life as a church, was converted to a mosque, and is now a museum. In the same way, the plastering has preserved many beautiful frescoes.

One of the fascinating features is that the central dome of the building is so immensely heavy that there are pillars in the church which lean over, and solid granite and marble floors that are buckling from bearing the weight of it. After all, it’s been there for like, 1500+ years!


 

It is impossible to depict the immensity and scale of the place with photographs, but here’s a few anyway …


 

The Blue Mosque

IMG_8650We went into the Blue Mosque between prayer times, just across the courtyard from Hagia Sophia. Mosques are, I gather, built to a fairly set formula.


 

IMG_8663There is an entryway…


IMG_8666into a large forecourt. This mosque has six minarets (those spires that stick up). Most have only one, and some have two. Six is extremely unusual. There is only one other in Turkey.


 

IMG_8673It was interesting, but difficult to photograph inside.There is a massive chandelier hanging from the very high ceiling, but it hangs at just above head height, which renders photography very difficult!


 

IMG_8670This is what I ended up with…


 

The mosque has a few rules, which amount to cultural norms. One of them is that everyone must remove their shoes. This sounds lovely and pious, but the process itself, and the fact that everyone is then carrying their shoes, means that the result is an omnipresent odoure de foote.

IMG_8669Another cultural norm is that women have their head covered. Thanks for modelling this for me, Kim! Just quietly, I found that the way the girls wore their head scarves was very pretty, as you can see from Kim’s example (my apologies for a blurry photo). Well done, ladies!


The Grand Bazaar

2014-01-25 09.13.26The next morning we took a visit to the Grand Bazaar. Everyone did their souvenir shopping before we headed for the airport to go home.


 

It was like something out of a movie (literally… James Bond’s “Skyfall” included a scene filmed at the Grand Bazaar)

2014-01-25 09.17.402014-01-25 09.19.33

I followed Bariş down some lane ways, around some corners, through tunnels and stairs, and we suddenly arrived at a small shop, completely concealed from any casual observer and impossible to find unless equipped with a white rabbit. It was his friend, who was in a position to offer quality, genuine fake Rolex and other items. Ian, our group leader, wanted to buy some gifts…

I didn’t have the chance to stop and take photos, let alone figure out which way we were going. I just followed. This is one courtyard. From here we took a hard right, and ducked into a hallway!


 

8598_10202026734781465_30013255_nI didn’t get much shopping done. I was having coffee with these awesome fellas instead, talking about faith. What a treasure that time was. Priceless.

Thanks, guys.


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Reflections on the Trip of a Lifetime: Day 7 Mevlana Museum, Pisidian Antioch

Posted on Jan 16th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

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Posted on Jan 17th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

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Reflections on the Trip of a Lifetime: Day 9 Philadelphia, Sardis, Kusadasi

Posted on Jan 18th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

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