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Turkey, May 6, 1998

Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque

Before Turkey, I though Russia had cool churches!

For 1500 years, the largest enclosed space in the world
The Hagia Sophia
You make the choice, I couldn't
The church or the city?
Look at the big picture and count the Russian oil tankers in the background
Beats Sophia on the outside
In 537 AD, the Emperor Justinain I completed the Hagia Sophia as a testament to the power of Christianity and place Istanbul (then Constanople) had in that realm.

The church has an immense interior dome which was an architectural feat then, and still impressive today. Huge windows all around the church allowed light to pour inside, giving it a completely different feel than the claustrophobic canyons of European cathedrals. It is one of the largest domes still, and the only one with millions of gold mosaic tiles covering the inner surface. The whole interior of the church used to be covered in breathtaking mosaics depicting biblical scenes, but when the Muslims took the city and converted the church into a mosque, they covered the mosaics with plaster.

Now the church is a museum, but you can still se the Muslim influences in the church though the huge Arabic disks hanging from the walls and the Sultan's elevated private prayer room in the middle of the floor.

When I walked into the church, some 1500 years after it was built, I felt just as impressed as the first worshiper. I wanted to fall to my knees in awe at the wonder of the edifice and its survival through several earthquakes and owners. I walked all around the church, including the second floor where I saw graffiti dating from the 1600's.

Justinian was not arrogant in placing a mosaic of the Virgin choosing between the church offered by him, and all of Istanbul offered by the founder of the city, Emperor Constantine.

A thousand years later, a Sultan tried to rival the Sophia and built the Blue Mosque next door. He achieved his goal from the outside, with a plethora of domes leading your eye to the heavens as you ascend the stais to the main square in front of the mosque. Once you enter the mosque, you realize that it is not the Sophia, or anything close to it, but it was good to see that it is still in use.

Turkey, May 5, 1998

My Turkey Travel Companions

Ya gotta have a cool crew to travel right! Claire, Arthur, Ann Mmmm! Any trip you take might be shaped by the place and tim, but it is defined by the people you travel with or meet along the way. My trip to Istanbul was defined by three people really,...

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Turkey, May 4, 1998

Turkish Lira Fun

You think you can add fast? Try math with seven zeros on each number! The Turks have a crazy money system, even crazier than Russia's New Money. See, there are 240,000 lira to the US dollar, and falling fast. So many zeros make it hard to figure out what your...

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Istambul's City Fortifications

For 2000 years, only twice did the city walls of Istanbul fall! A section of the wall The city of Istanbul has stood for two thousands years, falling only twice to invaders. Since it sits on a peninsula, the only way to attack the city was a land march along...

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