What a day we had today! Our VERY reliable "local alarm" woke us up at precisely 5:36 this morning, and we had our coffee and breakfast while planning our day. It was pretty soggy today, so we chose two (mostly) indoor places to visit. A little rain won't stop us!
The beautiful Hagia Sophia in the misty rain:
A little history: The Hagia Sophia was built and dedicated in 360 AD, and served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople until 1453. (During the years between 1204-1261 it was converted to a Roman Catholic Cathedral under the Latin Empire.) The building then served as a Mosque until 1931, when it was secularized and opened as a museum in 1935. What an incredible history for one building!
The line wasn't too bad at 10 am, and soon we were inside. It was interesting right from the start!
Old architectural elements:
The outer hall had pretty painted ceilings:
The view as we entered the main room:
This is the second story area, I was wishing we could go up there:
There is a HUGE chandelier in the very middle, it's surrounded by several smaller chandeliers.
Detail of one of the many columns:
There are even a few stained glass windows:
As we were looking around, I noticed people walking around the upper levels! Yaaay--we can go up there! It was an interesting walk up--the floor was very rough stones, and it just spiraled around and around up to the top level--it was quite steep!
But the biggest treat were the incredible mosaics! They were STUNNING!
Close up of Jesus' face:
There were several small windows on this level--pretty views over the square:
From another window we could see clear to the Bosphorus Strait:
Detail of Virgin and Child:
Detail of Jesus' face--this was just stunning!
Another view from the upper level:
After a couple of hours admiring the Hagia Sophia, we made our way out into the drizzle. We passed an area with yet more artifacts--this is a marble capitol from the 7th century.
As we left the gates of the Sophia, we saw a vendor selling this hot drink; we were a little chilled, so decided to give it a try. It's called Sahlep, and is milk, honey, orchid buds, vanilla, cream and cinnamon. It had a delicious flavor, but the consistency was like thin wallpaper paste--Glug, Glug!!
We tried our first Turkish coffee--it's REALLY strong stuff! The nice owner patiently explained to us ALL about how to make good Turkish coffee, down to the last detail--including correct water temperature!
We walked the short block or two to our next stop: Topkapi Palace. This Palace was the primary residence of Sultans of the Ottoman Empire for about 400 years, 1465-1856.
Here's the main entrance:
Interior of window alcove:
There were many "Galleries" of displays of relics from the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in ANY of these galleries! If you "Google" Topkapi Treasury, you can find some pics n the web.
I can't even begin to describe the treasures we saw--but I will say that I've never seen so much gold in one place. Jewels? Oh, just a few thousand! Literally piece after piece set with emeralds, rubies, pearls and turquoise. Tens of thousands of them! There were vases, bowls, etc, and even a large gold throne set all over with emeralds and rubies! Did I mention diamonds--thousands and thousands of diamonds--even one that was 84 carats! Yes EIGHTY FOUR!! AND--it was surrounded by "smaller" diamonds--oh, maybe just three to five carats each! There were rooms and rooms of such treasures, really too much to process......
The last area we explored was the Harem.
There was room after room of beautiful tile work:
This was one of my very favorites:
More amazing tile work:
The Privy Chambers of Sultan Murad III--beautifully detailed ceiling:
Fireplace--many rooms in the Palace had fireplaces like this, several were covered with tile:
There were even a few stained glass windows in the Sultan's quarters:
Sultans room--notice the "heater" in the middle!
MORE tile work:
This is the prettiest window we saw, the colors are so vibrant:
It had a very ingenious floor drainage system--and it was beautiful to boot! There were small channels all around the courtyard leading to this one central drain:
Here you can see the drain hole--I couldn't see where it drained to, though.
We wandered our way out, exiting on the opposite side through these big, beautiful doors:
Lovely view through the doors:
It was a quick walk home in the misty rain. We made one stop to pick up dessert, and then we had dinner "in" tonight. Same as last night, and we enjoyed every bite all over again! Especially that WONDERFUL, best ever blue cheese.......
Dessert was a chocolate creation--this bad boy was filled with chocolate cream, two slices of chocolate cake and topped with glazed raspberries. We ate it just for you, Jeanne!
Tomorrow we are flying off to Cappadocia for three days. We have some fun adventures planned, so please keep your fingers crossed for good weather!