Meeting New Group and Visiting the Hagia Sophia

Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
Trip End Jun 06, 2010

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Sunday, May 9, 2010

A rocky start to our tour, Jacqui woke up with a bad headache so she decided to sleep in and miss the morning tour with the group.  We had a meeting with our group last night and got a chance to meet nearly everyone (a few are on late flights and will not be with us until the morning).

Our group has two women from the USA, a couple from Australia, two women from Singapore, a man from Brazil and 8 Canucks.  We have a nice mix and seem to be able to tolerate each other so far.  We head off with our guide, Ali, to visit the Hagia Sophia.  The Hagia Sophia was also know as the great church of Constantinople.  This once Christian church, then mosque and now museum is a truly impressive structure.  Ali told us that the huge dome inside was one of four largest in the world.  The church was built in five years and completed in 537 AD.  It had great mosaics and fabulous marble.  The mosaics are largely gone but they are trying to protect and preserve the remainder

In 1453 the conquering sultan from the Ottomans, was impressed by the building and protected it by converting it into an imperial mosque.  All the faces were ordered covered as it is not permitted in Islam to depict the face of a person and since several of the Catholic icons are also revered in Islam, the faces were covered.  One of the faces has just been uncovered during the restoration work going on today.

In 1935 the new Turkish Republic converted the place to a museum.

From the Hagia Sophia we travelled over to the Blue Mosque and the Egyptian Obelisk.  After that the group was released into 'free time' to explore Istanbul on their own.  I had lunch with Deb, from Maine, and Flavio, from Brazil and returned to the hotel to see if Jacqui had surfaced.  With Jacqui feeling better we walked around the hotel area a bit and had some iced cappuccinos unlike any I have had before, good though.

We met up with Jim and Susan from Vancouver and Deb for dinner and got ready for the overnight train to Ankara, the Turkish capital.
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