Today, my father and I took a guided tour around Istanbul’s most essential historical sites. The architecture itself was quite spectacular, though language problems and a certain lack of interest on the part of the guide, who did not seem to appreciate questions, made the tour itself less engaging than it might have been.
In the morning, we saw the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, as well as the reasonably unremarkable expanse of the Hippodrome between them. It used to be a stadium, but nothing remains of it save a couple of pillars and an open area. The Blue Mosque was certainly impressive. The elegance and symmetry of the domes, coupled with that of the tiles and calligraphy, make it an inspiring structure. It is a great shame that they have chosen to hang electric lights from thick black cables descending all the way from the dome high above: they diminish the grandeur of the space.
The Hagia Sophia was the day’s most impressive site. Ancient and gloomy in feeling, the inescapable particulate matter of the air here creates sharp beams crossing the vast space. First an Orthodox church, then a mosque, and ultimately converted into a museum by Ataturk, the great domed structure also seems to have a history worthy of further examination. On account of the low light, I was glad for my two Pound mini-tripod. I suspect the photos from today will make me less annoyed that it broke (fixably, but not without tools) during the first couple of hours of real usage.
During the rest of the day, we peeked into the Grand Bazaar, failed to have carpets sold to us during a sponsored pause in the tour, and visited the Topkapi Palace. We also saw a lot of bad traffic and, last of all, the day’s most elegant structure, ın the form of the Suleymaniye Mosque. In better shape than the Blue Mosque, as well as farther off the normal tourist path, the interior is quite stunning, with an intriging interplay of colours and geometry. Despite the broken tripod, I am excited about the photos I took there.
The next task is to pick up some dinner, followed by meeting my cousin Ivanka at Ataturk Airport. Tomorrow, we will probably be heading up the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. My plan is to pretend that I am on the way to the Yalta Conference.