When Jen came to visit Istanbul – over a month ago, as hard as that is to believe – she had one major goal for what she wanted to see in the city: the Aya Sofya. Although Istanbul is a magnificent city worth much more than it’s well known tourist draws, Jen was right to have that be her goal. One should not go to there and not bother seeing the Aya Sofya and the old city where Constantinople, and Byzantion before that, once stood. So, on Jen’s last day in the city, we set out to see the touristic Istanbul.
Pressed for time – we had to leave for the airport for a flight back to Malatya that night – we immediately headed to the Aya Sofya and were, stupidly, shocked by the length of the line to get in. Luckily, it moved fairly quickly and we were in before we knew it. Although the waiting may have set us back more than expected in our schedule, it was well worth it for the lighting once we were inside the old church turned mosque turned museum. From the upper gallery of the building, you could see beams of golden light filtering through the hundreds of small windows at the base of the dome.
Across from the Aya Sofya stands Sultan Ahmet Camii, or the Blue Mosque, which was constructed under orders from Sultan Ahmet. Although truly a beautiful building in it’s own right, and definitely an amazing piece of craftsmanship, I find it harder to become excited about the Blue Mosque than the Aya Sofya. Whereas the Aya Sofya seems to have a grandeur around it won with time, Sultan Ahmet seems almost pompous; having said that, it is still a must see.