Monday, October 29, 2012
Hagia Sophia and More
We decided to take a Context Travel three-hour seminar/tour of Hagia Sophia, the stunning Byzantine church turned Ottoman mosque turned museum. It was barely long enough to cover everything there is to see and understand about the place the guide called "one of the most important buildings in the world." I have to admit though that I couldn't pass a test on it if I had to. Just too much to swallow in one gulp.
The Ottomans tended to cover and add rather than destroy. Stunning mosaics have been uncovered beneath the plaster and the work is ongoing.
The Blue Mosque, just across the plateau, was visible through openings in the walls.
I had heard of the cisterns hidden beneath the streets and insisted on visiting one, the Basilica Cistern. Roman and Greek columns had been reused to prop up the ceilings, making the watery chamber look like something the Phantom of the Opera might have felt comfortable with. There are now walkways around the space and many of the columns are dramatized with uplighting, but our guide told us of her first visit as a child, when one took a boat through the cistern, with torches for light.
And back above ground, everywhere one looks the slender minarets carry the eye toward the sky.