Istanbul Highlights #1

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The highlights of Istanbul for a first-time visitor are:

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, immense, vast and vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive, superlative dome practically floats above the wide-open enormity below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble. Continue reading

Istanbul Highlights #2

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

the Grand Bazaar – If you’re a serious shopper, you need a full day or two here and a guide or a map and a compass. For most of us, a few hours is more than enough. One of the oldest and largest traditional covered markets, there are more than 4,000 shops on over 60 streets and they are not laid out on a grid, much. As long as you have an ultimate exit plan and plenty of time, it’s a wondrous place to get lost in. Just about everything you can think of is for sale here, but leather, gold and silver jewelry, ceramics, textiles and carpets are good buys in Turkey. Shops selling similar items are grouped together. Merchants in the Grand Bazaar can be quite aggressive. If you’re shopping for a big ticket item, you should go in with some knowledge about quality, firm resolve and a sense of humor. Continue reading