Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Palace and the fabulous Hagia Sophia

The Topkapi Palace was impressive but the crowds visiting it even more so, particularly after a day of closure.  We bought the Museum Pass at our hotel and avoided the line up for tickets at least.  As our hotel was just around the corner from the Palace, we got there early and thankfully visited some of the exhibits without having to peer over shoulders.  I was particularly awed by the mould with the footprint of the Prophet and a hair from his beard, strung and carefully encased.  We ended up seeing the same thing again the following day at the Museum of Islamic Arts without having to jostle the crowds.  There must have been as many relics of the Prophet as there were hairs on his beard!

It was a scorching hot day and the crowds didn't help.  At one point we had decided we would skip the Treasury exhibit for which there was a long line up in the sun.  But then the line started  moving and so we caved in and joined the crowd.  We were flabbergasted when after a half hour in line, we ended up in a one room exhibit and the crowning glory here was the so-called Spoonmaker's Diamond, an 86 carat monster, which while impressive, was really not worth the long wait.  The only gratifying offshoot of the lineup though was the ample people photo opportunities afforded by the wait.

Entrance to Topkapi Palace - looks like a fairy tale castle

The Imperial Council Building

Gorgeous tile work and stained glass windows throughout

Mihrab, depicting the Holy Mosque in Mecca

Inside the Harem

Outside the apartments of the Crown Prince

The spectacular hollow tree outside the Treasury where there was a constant lineup to see the treasures, including the 86 carat diamond

We spent the rest of the day at the Hagia Sophia, once more thankful for our Museum Pass which enabled us to skirt the lineups - it's worth every lira!  And having read so much about this epitome of Byzantine architecture, it was awe-inspiring to be standing under that magnificent dome, with its architecturally next-to-impossible windows.   We almost missed the climb up to the upper gallery where we got a closer view of the dome and some of the mosaics.  It was almost a relief to exit the overwhelmingly magnificent structure - it was too much to absorb in one visit.  Breathtaking, to say the least.

The mix of Christian imagery and Muslim calligraphy that stemmed from the building's history as both an Orthodox Church and a Mosque.

Awesome marble walls in the church

Huge stone urn inside entrance

Marble stone threshold - worn down by 15 centuries of footsteps...

Closer to the dome - from the Upper Gallery

Closer to the mosaics - from the Upper Gallery

Little girl captivated by the child-sized mannequins in the stores outside the Hagia Sophia

The Arasta Bazaar selling hand crafts and of course, carpets on the way to the Mosaic Museum

One of many mosaics in the Mosaic Museum

The Obelisk in the Hippodome and the Blue Mosque, glowing in the last rays of the setting sun 

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