Istanbul: Final Day
We began the day at “Chora Church,” a smaller Byzantine church with impressive but more recent mosaic iconography. This was the oldest iconography in a church where we have been able to take pictures freely.
We then headed toward Hagia Sophia, but we walked through the garden below Topkapi palace, now a park, where the tulips were literally in full bloom.
After a stop for lunch where we sampled lahmacun (“Turkish pizza” the guide called it), we arrived at the Hagia Sophia. Perhaps the best way to describe this massive structure is to say I had a very hard time finding a place where I could capture even a significant fraction of it, inside or out. When Western Europe was on the verge of entering the dark ages, Justinian built this awe-inspring church in Constantinople, the largest structure of its time.
The interior of the building is under constant restoration and one half of the nave was occupied by scaffolding. Much of the structure was still visible, though, including some of the restored mosaics. We entered through the imperial door where hundreds of years of guards stamping their feet had worn grooves in the marble. After a tour through the central part of the church, a few of us were able to go up to the second floor of the building, reached by ascending a long winding ramp at the corner of the church.
Much of what we discovered at Hagia Sophia will simply have to wait for another time. After the church we strolled through the site of the ancient hippodrome with monuments the Romans and Byzantines imported from other regions of the world.
Finally we wrapped up the trip with a stroll through the Grand Bazaar and a ferry ride across the Bosporus for dinner. Those of us returning are in the Franfurt airport now. Watch for additional posts from Tina and others in Cappadocia.