December 11, 2011

Turkey : Istanbul (part 2)

Continuation from here...

You wanna know how long the journey from Nevsehir to Istanbul was?

It was 12 freaking hours!! My ass hardened from the sitting T_T 

Well actually it won't take that long. Supposed we would arrive in Istanbul by 8am but as I told you, it was the end of Qurban Bayrami holiday so the road was all jammed up. 

As soon as we stepped down from the bus, I was relieved. We had a few pit stops along the way but still, it was very tiring. We then took a minibus to Sultanahmet and checked into our previous hotel, Cordial House Hotel.

Refreshed ourselves, had lunch and we were out and about in Istanbul again.

First on the agenda was Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya as it is known in Turkish. The building was originally built as a church, but after the Ottoman conquered the city from the Byzantine, it was proclaimed as a mosque in 1453. For almost 500 years, it remained as a mosque until 1931 when Ataturk, the then president of Turkey, converted it as a museum. 

infos and history of the museum

entrance to the main hall

It definitely has a history that can be described as unique. Inside the main hall, the Islamic calligraphic make a fascinating religious contrast with the Christian mosaics.

main hall

During my visit, some areas were being restored, thus the scaffolding inside there.

9th-century mosaic of the Virgin and Child, the oldest of the surviving mosaics in Hagia Sophia

mihrab, which is a niche indicating the direction of Mecca

You can go up to the mezzanine level, where some of the best Byzantine mosaics are in place. 

Christ with Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus and Empress Zoe

Virgin and Child with Emperor John II Comnenus and Empress Irene

the Deësis Mosaic

Vestibule of the Warriors and the Mosaic of the Donors

the Mosaic of the Donors

The museum is open everyday except Monday. 
Visiting hours are from 9:30 to 16:30.
Entrance fee is 20 TL including visit to the upper gallery floor. 
Direction: Take Zeytinburnu-Kabataş Tram Line (T1) and stop at Sultanahmet.

Just across the street from Hagia Sophia is the Basilica Cistern, an underground waterway previously used to supply water to the Great Palace. Since it is hidden underneath the street, you can look for the entrance to the cistern opposite the yellow building of the Tourist Police in Sultanahmet.

After descending underground via a flight of stairs, you can walk along the concrete walkways, enjoying the reddish lighting and watching fish swim!  

If this place looks familiar to you, it is because this cistern was once featured in one of the James Bond movie, From Russia with Love. Remember the scene when Bond is rowing in a small boat through a marble of columns? Yeah it was here.

Walk all the way to the corner of the cistern, and you'll find two Medusa heads positioned weirdly. One upside down and another one tilted to the side. Both heads are used as column bases but why their positions are like that remain a mystery up till now.

The cistern is open everyday. 
Visiting hours are from 9:00 to 17:30.
Entrance fee is 10 TL.
Direction: Take Zeytinburnu-Kabataş Tram Line (T1) and stop at Sultanahmet.

Just a short walk from the cistern, is the Million Stone.

Though what remains now is only a pillar, it used to be the very point where distances of the major cities of the empire from Constantinople (former name of Istanbul) was calculated by.

Done with the sightseeing, we went for dinner and went back to the hotel. My sister was going back to Turkmenistan that night. Back to being #foreveralone. 

hahaha... no lah.. I didn't cry. 

Anyway, part 1 is here.


fatt said...

i suka baca sume cerita psl turkey ni...tgh jogging dari previous entry..more to go..yay!!

byk benda yg misteri psl turkey & baca dr cerita yg u kongsi rasa mcm semakin eager nak tau & tengok dgn mata kepala sendiri. selama ni i ingt hagiya sofia tu mmg masjid so now barulah i tau yg ia dah beberapa kli di convert & lastly jadi museum...wlpun confuse sebab decoration involve both islam & christian, i still rasa tmpt tu menarik...and thanks a lot for sharing :)

rara said...

fatt: yup.. turkey ni macam banyak sangat history and mystery.. very interesting!

i kalau ada duit n time, insya allah nak repeat lagi.. banyak lagi nak explore..