31 October 2006

Inside the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia

Hearing: Turkish TV.

So today started with a visit to the Blue Mosque. Visitors can only enter at certain times (non-prayer) but the entry is free. Remember to wear clean socks as you will have to take off your shoes.
Inside is amazing - really beautiful. There is Arabic (Koran) script everywhere and there is a reason that its called the Blue Mosque - all the tiles inside are blue although the interior in my photos looks orange. The lights are hung low and the whole place has a very peaceful vibe to it. A bit of trivia for you - apparently Mecca was the only mosque with 6 minarets and when the Blue Mosque was built with 6 also Mecca added another minaret to preserve its uniqueness.

The Hagia Sofia or Ayasofia is under renovation so when i went inside there was a huge scaffolding reaching all the way up to the middle of the main dome. There is an entrance charge of 10YTL which i assume goes to restoration or maintenance. This is one of those places where Islam and Christian or Catholic symbolism are found side by side as you can see from the photos. Another interesting thing is the mosaic work - a lot of it was covered up at some stage but some has been uncovered and though worse for wear, is still stunning. By the by, there is nothing wrong with your eyes or with my camera - that column is slanted all on its own a little nod to Pisa perhaps? Just another quirky thing about this fantastic place.

Next up was lunch, the food here is oh so, so YUMMY! The restaurant was very cosy and had a local radio station called JoyFm on in the background. My waiter Nazif was very professional being in the business 30+ years and very sweet helping an old lady into her coat giving the kids paper flowers he made. Then he came over to give me one but said he cheated and gave me a real little yellow flower! BTW that metal looking thing in the photo is actually a barbecue! Looks pretty funky doesn't it?

So first up was a cold appetiser - eggplant stuffed with veggies and tastes as good as it looks.

The main meal was a gamble called the Suleiman row boat of beef! LOL! So it had beef with mushrooms and apple pieces in a cream sauce - the apple was an interesting addition but i had to give it a try.

And as for desert...i asked Nazif to recommend something and he ended up bringing out a whole tray of dessert for me to choose from including baklava, several cakes, rice pudding and fig with tahina. I don't like tahina so i decided on the rice pudding (divine!) and black tea (BTW they love their apple teas here -and cube sugar- its very sweet, and I'm a new convert). The tea cups are glass and can get very hot so they give you a small napkin to wrap around the glass to keep your fingers from burning. Oh did i mention that Nazif gave me a free second tea?

I saw this family come in for lunch (the boy is wearing an Aussie t-shirt!). Apparently they are from Alaska and had been travelling around the UK for the past month and were now making their way through Istanbul, then onto Syria, Jordan and Israel for another month before heading home.

As if it wasn't enough that it was wet weather, there was also a very strong wind. When i left the restaurant i saw these kids with what was left of their umbrellas. Unfortunately as i took my camera out to take a photo of them my own umbrella blew out hence the blurry photo, but you can still see one kid with the wire and the other trying to use the little bit of material left of his. LOL! Just nearby this area is a fenced off remain of an old roman arch. This is such an amazing place - historical remnants are all over the place.

A very wet and windswept,

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