10 Must-See Sites in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia is a 6th-century Christian basilica, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, now a museum. If the word awesome still had meaning, I would use it to describe the Hagia Sophia, temple of Holy Wisdom. It set the standard for Byzantine architecture, though it was 1,000 years before another cathedral surpassed its size. From the outside, it’s a red-orange mountain that seems to anchor the city to the Bosphorus shore. It’s not particularly beautiful but the air of greatness can’t be missed. On the inside, it’s vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive dome practically floats above the wide-open space below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble.

 

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Istanbul

The Sultanahmet Mosque is just down the way from Hagia Sophia. Together they are like bookends to the Hippodrome (Roman entertainment center). The Sultanahmet Mosque is commonly called the Blue Mosque after the 20,000 hand-painted tiles on the interior walls. It pairs well with the Hagia Sophia, not only in proximity but also as a complementary experience. While Hagia Sophia draws the attention upward, the Blue Mosque induces inward reflection. Hagia Sophia makes me go Wow! Blue Mosque makes me go ahhh. Inside the Hagia Sophia, I feel small. Inside the Blue Mosque, I feel peace. There’s a lot happening on the walls, with all the painted tiles, but the atmosphere is light and serene. Continue reading

Foto Friday – Merry Christmas!

Church of the Visitation, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Church of the Visitation, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Chora Museum, Istanbul

Chora Museum, Istanbul

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Church of the Holy Sepulchre , Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Church of the Holy Sepulchre , Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Jerusalem Old City walls, photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Jerusalem Old City walls, photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Chora Museum, Istanbul

Chora Museum, Istanbul

Chora Museum, Istanbul

The Chora Museum, also known as the Kariye Museum or Church of the Holy Savior (or St. Savior) in Chora, is a Byzantine church in the Edirnekapı neighborhood near the Byzantine walls, about 3 miles from Sultanahmet (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hippodrome etc.)

The building itself is unassuming, you might walk past without even noticing it. Please don’t! In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best sites in Istanbul, and that’s saying a lot. Inside is a collection of the best Byzantine art in Istanbul and among the best anywhere.

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NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 79

The fresco pictured above is one of nearly 50 vivid biblical scenes that wrap the interior walls, domes and vaults of the Chora Museum (originally a church, then a mosque) in the largest city of our mystery country. The existing 11th-century structure was built on the remains of a 4th-century Byzantine church. When the original church was built, it was outside the city walls, hence the name Chora, which means “country” in ancient Greek. Most of the frescos and mosaics are from the 14th century. After the Ottoman conquest, the church was converted to a mosque and the figurative art, not allowed in Islam, was covered in plaster. Restoration of the mosaics and frescos began in the 1940s.

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Foto Friday Favs

Dhofar, Oman

Dhofar, Oman

Amra Castle, Jordan

Amra Castle, Jordan

camel races, Oman

camel races, Oman

Chora Museum, Istanbul, Turkey

Chora Museum, Istanbul, Turkey

Deira, Dubai

Deira, Dubai

Ya'lla group at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Ya’lla group at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

El Aqabat in Egypt's Western Desert

El Aqabat in Egypt’s Western Desert

Fez medina, Morocco

Fez medina, Morocco

Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

on the Nile in Egypt

on the Nile in Egypt

Foto Friday – Zoom 4

Chora Museum, Istanbul

Chora Museum, Istanbul

Cienfuegos, Cuba

Cienfuegos, Cuba

Athens Acropolis

Athens Acropolis

Fez, Morocco

Fez, Morocco

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem - photo by Noam Chen, courtsey of Israel Ministry of Tourism

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem – photo by Noam Chen, courtsey of Israel Ministry of Tourism

Knossos Palace, Crete

Knossos Palace, Crete

Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene, Jerusalem - photo by Noam Chen courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene, Jerusalem – photo by Noam Chen courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Spice Bazaar, Istanbul

Spice Bazaar, Istanbul