I was able to have lunch yesterday and breakfast this morning at home. You may take this for granted if you are in the land of Ralph’s, Gelsons, Bristol Farms, Food City, or WalMart. It was quite a feat here. Since I am in the “city center” there are none of the big shopping venues and everything must be purchased from smaller vendors. The supermarkets are not really all that super, and many of you probably have living rooms that are larger than many of the markets.
English is spoken less here than any of the countries that I’ve visited so far, even including Australia. On one shopping trip I bought what I thought was laundry detergent only to find out that it was fabric softener. Turkish is a difficult language but the folks here seem to get by with it just fine. There is hardly any words that are recognizable to us foreigners. I did, however, see one word today that I knew: “ofis.” It was wasted knowledge though for I could clearly see through the plate glass windows the desk, chair, computer, and telephone. I knew it was an ofis.
Now that I’ve learned to read a word in Turkish I felt brave enough to venture out for the first time and use the public transportation system. The sun was shining beautifully and I wanted to see an area of the city know as the Old City or Sultanahmet. It is in this part of the city that some of the iconic Istanbul sights are located. I specifically wanted to see The Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya Church (later a mosque) today.
The Blue Mosque, built in the early 1600’s is stunning. The scale is massive and it looms large on the Istanbul skyline. While beautiful inside, for my money it was the exterior that was truly eye catching.
The next place I visited was the Aya Sofya church, known as Hagia Sofia in Greek, Sancta Sofia in Latin, and Church of the Devine Wisdom in English. Where the Blue Mosque impressed me from the exterior, it was the insided of this church, built in AD527, that made my jaw drop. My guidebook tells me that when the architect entered the building for the first time he exclaimed: “Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work. Oh Solomon! I have outdone you!” and he was probably being a little modest.
Over the centuries, as Istanbul became more Islamic the building was converted to a mosque but much of the old Christian art and artifacts still remain even after all this time.