Monday, April 12, 2010

Aya Sofya / Hagia Sophia

Aya Sophia was first constructed as a Church and then became a Mosque under the Muslim rulers of Turkey. Now it is a museum with a curious mixture of Christianity and Islam. Our visit to the Aya Sophia was very short and hurried. One requires more time to take in the differences between that and the Blue Mosque even since my memories are already getting mixed up! Actually, I could have easily spent another whole week in Istanbul and still not have had enough time to take in the sights! All the pictures of Christ and other Christian symbols were painted over when the Cathedral was converted to a Mosque. The Islamic things like the mihrab and minbar were added during the Ottoman reign. The large dome was typical of the Byzantine architecture.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Galata Tower

The Galata Tower in Istanbul was built in 1348. It is a stone structure and is 219 feet high, with an observation deck and restaurant on top. One can get a beautiful panoramic view of old Istanbul, the Bosphorous and the Golden Horn from the observation deck.

To reach the Galata Tower, we first took a train from the main downtown area (which was about a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel) to the Eminonu station.

Then we walked through the underground market and across the Galata Bridge. There was a lot of activity there. Fishermen lined the bridge and there was a constant stream of boats and ships going by.

Some of us were a lot colder than the others! After crossing the bridge, it was steep hike up to the tower.

Amma decided to sit in a nice coffee shop at the base and wait for us. We had to rest a couple of times on the way up.

But once we reached the top of the tower, the view was certainly worth the climb!

We browsed through the gift shop of the Galata Tower before leaving the place.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Blue Mosque

Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Sultnahmet Mosque, the Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I, by the  Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa. It got it's name because of the blue tiles lining the walls inside the building. It is still a working mosque. Besides the thrill of being able to go inside a mosque, it was quite fascinating to see the interior - the atmosphere was really nice, and put one in a very thoughtful mood.
It was quite cold there and we all had to bundle up well since there was a lot of walking involved.