If there's one thing I learned from this trip, it's this- traveling and touring with 2.5 kids can be really, really difficult. I needed to stop and take breaks almost as often as the boys needed to. We spent a lot of time sitting in cafes- resting, snacking and warming up. So before we tackled the Hagia Sophia, we stopped for sahlep and chips.
And then onward...
The Hagia Sophia, built as a basilica (the basilica of Constantinople) in 360 and turned into a mosque by the Ottomans in the mid 15th century.
The dome is enormous.
When the Ottomans came along, they plastered over the mosaics due to Islam's ban on representational imagery. They also added Islamic elements like the mihrab above.
Istanbul is full of well-fed stray cats and dogs. They roam the streets... and apparently the sites. Booker and Ike fell in love with this Hagia Sophia kitty.
The ramp up to the second level.
Don't be fooled. Booker made Ike cry, so this was a preemptive hug to avoid getting in trouble.
Some of the mosaics have been uncovered and restored.
Clark reading up on the Lonely Planet App.
The seraphim on the left has no face, the one on the right has a restored face.
The Hagia Sophia truly was amazing. Just ask Not-So-Easily-Impressed-Clark who admits it was his favorite thing to see the whole trip. Even with my kids running around playing soccer and acting like hooligans, I still had the spiritual experience I was hoping for. It's not everyday you get to see icons of Christianity sitting side-by-side with beautiful examples of Islamic calligraphy. It's something I will treasure for a lifetime. Aya Sofya, you did not disappoint.
Slideshow also seen here.