I call it Part I because all my Istanbul posts will be called Istanbul, not Constantinople. You'd think it would get old, but it doesn't. They should just change the name of the city from Istanbul to Istanbulnotconstantinople. Because really that's what everybody calls it, right?
One of the fun things about Turkish Airlines, which we flew to and from Cappadocia, is that the captain will greet you as "Ladies, gentlemen, and dear children." While in Istanbul we stayed in the historical center of the city. The city was founded as Constantinople by the Byzantines in the 4th century, and in the 15th century was conquered by the Ottomans. Hence, Istanbul, not Constantinople; although it may surprise you to know that it was not renamed Istanbul until 1923, when the Republic of Turkey was born. The area is called Sultanahmet, and the Blue Mosque, Ayasofya and Topkapi Palace are located here. Our hotel was a few minutes' walk from everything, so despite their rather terrible customer service, the location was ideal. Here are a bunch of photos of the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii, in Turkish) and the Ayasofya (also, Hagia Sofia). Being very smart, I learned one word in Turkish: camii. It means mosque. You can see I have a knack for languages.
The Blue Mosque dates from the early 17th century, built by Sultan Ahmed I. Its name derives from the blue tiles that decorate the interior. When you walk in there, the thing is ... blue. It is an active mosque, non-muslims cannot enter during prayer, and when you go inside you have to cover yourself. Men must cover their legs and women must cover pretty much everything but their face. My dad was wearing cargo shorts, and they gave him a little blue skirt...
This is the view of the Blue Mosque from the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome used to be a horse racing track and is now a city square where, in the middle of June when it's 90F out, you can get roasted chestnuts and corn on the cob. Naturally, my dad and I shared some roasted chestnuts.
Here I am with the little blue hijab. The stupid thing (a) was really hot, and (b) kept falling off my head. Annoying.
And here's my dad wearing his little blue skirt.
This ramp was for the sultan - he would ride his horse right on up to his quarters. Nice life!
Then we walked across the Hippodrome to the Ayasofya.
I did not get a good exterior shot of the Ayasofya, so if you go here you'll see a lovely one by David Stanley. All the photos below are from the interior. I actually wished I had a tilt-shift lens while taking photos of these structures. Not enough to do anything about it, but it would have been cool to have one, even assuming I would have been skilled enough to use it, which is doubtful.
The guy kneeling is an emperor, the guy on the throne is Jesus. Or something. The Ayasofya was built in 537 and served as a cathedral until 1453. It was a mosque under the Ottomans until 1931, and then in 1935 it was secularized and opened as a museum.
This mosaic is the signature of one of the Ottoman sultans.
I look tired. Don't I? Still, pretty good posture, right?
More emperors and Jesus.
Up next: Topkapi Palace! Stay tuned.