2012 April 6 – Day 26 – Istanbul, Turkey (Day 2) (Part 2)

On the second day in Istanbul we went on the second half of our Istanbul Deluxe tour. We spent the morning touring the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.  The bus picked us up again after we finished at Topkapi and took us to the Green House Restaurant for lunch.  I had a quick bite to eat and then wandered around taking photos of the lovely flowers. After lunch we went to Hagia Sophia (pronounced ai ya Sophia), once the largest Christian church in the world.  Emperor Justinian ordered construction to begin in the sixth century.  The unsupported domes have withstood centuries of earthquake and war and though they have been repaired several times, they have never fallen.

Construction began in 532 AD and the church was completed in 537 AD.  It continued as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral until 1453 when it was converted to an Ottoman Imperial  Mosque on May 29, 1453 , and then became the main seat of Islamic worship until 1931. In 1935 Hagia Sophia (meaning Holy wisdom in Latin) was secularized and was opened as a museum on February 1, 1935.

The place was absolutely massive.  Look how low all the light fixtures  (which are way above our heads) are compared to the height of the building.  The top of the dome is 55 meters high (180′) and 36.5 meters (120′) across. There was a very interesting juxtaposition of Christian and Islamic images.

The Mausoleums of several princes and sultans are located on the grounds. 
The tour ended at the Grand Bazaar for a carpet demonstration and some shopping time.  I spoke to our guide and told him we would be walking back to the ship from the bazaar as we did not want to go shopping.  When other people heard about what I said only four of the people on the bus wanted to stop at the Grand Bazaar.  So we did a short stop for them to hop out and then all the rest of us were taken to the port and we rested our weary feet once back on board.  And it was an early night since we had another tour the next morning.

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