Ayasofya & Grand Bazarre

July 24, 2007


For 1000 years, Ayasofya was Christendom’s largest church and triumphant symbol of Byzantium and is so large that the Statue of Liberty would easily fit inside with the top of the torch not grazing the domed ceiling. It is also called the Church of Holy Wisdom as well as Hagia Sophia, Sancta Sophia or Saint Sophia. The giant dome is about fifteen stories high (184 ft. or 56 m.) and 102 ft (31m) wide and gold mosaics cover the entire interior. At its peak Ayasofya’s gold mosaics covered four acres of space!

Mark Twain called it “the rustiest barn in heathendom” and it does feel ancient, but its still very impressive and magnificent, especially in the interior. It truly must have been awe inspiring centuries ago, when it was covered in gold mosaics.When the Emperor Justinian had it completed by 537 A.D., his intention was to design and build something that far surpassed any edifice ever constructed as a monument to God and it is amazing that it can still inspire today.

In 1204 it was desecrated and robbed by the crusaders which divided the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Then in 1453 when Mehmet II conquered, his first act was to declare this great house of worship a mosque. It was converted from a mosque to a museum in 1935 by Ataturk after painstaking restoration to rediscover all the previous whitewashed or defaced mosaics and icons (which are not allowed in mosques).

There was an interesting presentation going on inside when we were there called “Being a soul in the lodge of divine love” about Sufism and the heritage of humanity which added to our visit. It was like a museum inside a museum. There are so many wonderful churches in Europe, that I am hard pressed to pick a favorite, but this one would be high on the list.

I went back to the room to handle some internet business with family, while Mozart (our ultimate shopper) and her Dad went on to the Grand Bazaar. My sweet step father is suddenly battling cancer and doing chemotherapy, so he and my mom are always on our mind and in our prayers as it is a rough road. 
I would not be able to do much more if I was there, but I do like keeping in close contact which thankfully has been easy so far in Turkey.

I can not say enough about the wonders of Skype and webcams and how much they help us stay connected to family for free, which is even more needed in a situation like this. I was a little nervous about coming to Turkey because of this situation and fear of not being able to stay connected, and have been very happy to find it to be one of the best countries we have been in for great wifi connectivity (usually for free). My step dad and mom are such sweet people, I hope you feel moved to say a prayer for them or send good vibes their way.

The Grand Bazaar or Covered Bazaar is Istanbul’s 450 year old market that looks a little like the covered market in Barcelona only much larger with all kinds of wares. It is on a grid system like Barcelona, but the craziness is more like the souks in Marrakech. There are over 4000 small shops and 20,000 employees and everything is sold from jewelry to carpets. With 500 goldsmiths and each paying high rent for a tiny spot, competition is high and bargaining is part of the fun and way of life.

Mozart is up for looking at and buying everything, but her father had a mission. Turkey is a great place to buy gold or silver jewelry and he has been looking at such things all over Greece (which is another place big on jewelry). He has been wanting to get a special “Soul Travelers 3” ring to commemorate our first year on the road and he saw just what he wanted in Rhodes.

There is a simple Byzantine style one that would be appropriate for all three of us and they each have three small stones and he was thinking of using our birth stones, in different arrangements for each. We will have lived this entire year on just about twenty five thousand dollars (much less than we would spend had we stayed home!), while also doing well with investments, so thought it was time for a little splurge and celebration for our accomplishments. 

He did not find the kind of ring he was looking for, but they did enjoy their tour and Mozart made out like a bandit including a small silver ornate mirror and a silver dolphin necklace with an evil eye on it.

They met a seventy five year old man that gave them a tour and did show them to some very interesting shops like one with some magnificent tiny jack knives (one in gold) and a sweet coppersmith with a shop jammed full with things.

It is the ultimate tourist trap, so of course Mozart loved it from the jewelry to the material and every useless knick-knack she saw. The many treasures of this land will have us talking Turkey for a long time to come!













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