Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern

Hi all,

Well, it's been a long day today, so I'm going to try to keep things brief (though this tends to somehow morph out of hand, so we'll see). I got up this morning at 7 to find out that HM had ended up in the hospital last night (food poisoning?) and only discovered this as I was walking out the door with the boys and U. The drive was a challenge to stay awake and U did not seem happy to have to take me into the historic downtown. This involved two subway routes, a funicular (which only sounds dirty), and a street tram ride. About 30 minutes from a 45 minute drive from home/20 from the boys' school. Unlike yesterday, U wasn't too interested in trying to communicate. I'd told HM he didn't have to hover and go to things just because I did, he could dump me off and do his own thing. So we tried to synchronize my "new" cell phone (set from when G visited the US - right hour, wrong minutes though...) and so he just pointed out a time 4 hours in the future and dropped me at Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia -Ayasofya - Church of Holy Wisdom
I actually read about HS before I visited it (pretty much a first...). It stood for almost 1000 years as a Christian church, built by Emperor Justinian, who was pretty darn pleased with himself. The dome is high enough to allow the Statue of Liberty to fit under (with some feet to spare!), and this was obviously an even bigger deal back in the day, when it would've dominated the landscape. However, Justinian turned out to be a cocky little dude, when the dome was damaged in an earthquake less that 2 years later. So, up went a new, smaller dome that had extra support and glass windows inserted to act as an early warning system. Ie: "Oh, my goodness...broken glass...probably should leave now...thump". Now, I'm going to use the guidebook to cheat a bit for dates. In 1204 it was sacked and leveled by the Crusaders (nice going, assholes) which had the effect of permanently dividing the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

In 1453, Mehmet II (look him up, I'm busy) plundered/robbed/conquered etc, slapped his head to the floor and declared the temple subject to Allah. So, all the beautiful paintings were covered (that whole graven image thing wasn't flying) and some nice tiles were smacked up. I took pictures, and you can hopefully see them...maybe. They did some renovation, added a Mihrab (indicating Mecca's direction) . Finally, Ataturk (mucho importanto for modern day Turks, basically accredited with leading them into the modern world) declared the church/mosque to be a museum. They've undertaken to rennovate it, so parts are partially obscured. Oh, and they let cats wander around in it.

I can recommend you take a good hour to poke around and study the restored/uncovered frescoes and mosaics (although most are just pictures of them in the upper gallery, which is beyond weird). I have some video of this, but blogger won't load them even though they're the right type and size. Sigh. Maybe try to web album.

For the rest of the 2.5 hours I had a snack (which turned out to be lunch), and people watched/poked around the outside. Then I met up with U and we went to the Basilica Cisterns.
It's probably not worth the 10TL to go to, but it was neat to see.

Basilica Cisterns
The Cisterns is a waterwork project that the Romans made. It is an underground cavern that collected water. There were 336 columns (mostly Ionic, but some Doric as well), and as you can see from the pictures, it was only dimly lit. There were fishes (and money) that live in the water though, and some of them were HUGE. The main highlight, however, was seeing the Medusa heads (pictures shown). Scientists aren't 100% sure WHY they were put there (although the general consensus is that it was to ward off bad omens - as apparently her gaze is deadly to them as well) but do agree that they were put upsidedown and at an angle on purpose.

One the way back to the car we passed a courthouse teeming with newscasters and with a strong show of police/military. I have no idea what the they were waiting for (a trial outcome or beginning) but it looked pretty serious. We got the boys on time, and I spent a lot of time outside with K. I've decided to stay home tomorrow to relax before the 4 day weekend holiday. Since Ramadan is ending, everyone gets Monday and Tuesday off as well. Going to be intense, but hopefully a lot of fun!
Hope all is well,


James Munson said...

You have no idea how jealous I am that you visited Hagia Sophia. I'm coming to visit you.

Strayling said...

You're welcome! Just give a heads up!

Erin said...

I will be in Turkey ASap!