P?lgr?mage stop No. One: Hag?a Soph?a – Day Two of the Turkey Tr?p

I prayed for you all ?n the great Church (sorry-Museum) of Hag?a Soph?a th?s morn?ng. Really. If I know you, I prayed for you.

What a bu?ld?ng. There ?s h?story and sanct?ty ?n every stone–worn smooth by centur?es of worsh?ppers of the God of Abraham. Yes, the place has h?story, and not all of ?t joyful. Nevertheless, as I knelt before the mosa?c ?con of the V?rg?n and Ch?ld ?n the ma?n sanctuary (sorry, there I go aga?n — I was tak?ng a photo and try?ng to get a better shot on my knees…) I was ?n rapturous joy. Emre had a d?ckens of a t?me f?nd?ng me some hours later…

They have had to have a m?nder on me all day. I keep wander?ng off. Got to stop that. Got to learn to look left rather than r?ght when cross?ng the street too. M?ght get myself k?lled otherw?se.

I started the day by walk?ng back up to the Fat?h Mosque prec?nct to s?t ?n a park, watch the cats and the early morn?ng worsh?ppers, and smoke a long awa?ted p?pe.

Then ?t was back to the Hotel Berr to get on the bus w?th the others and head off to the Old C?ty. F?rst we went to Sulyman the Magn?f?cent’s Mosque. Qu?te an awe ?nsp?r?ng place. A great v?ew of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn from the wall.
We could see both As?a and Europe ?n the one glance.

We spent about 2 hours at Hag?a Soph?a (I took p?ctures but haven’t been able to download them for the blog–I w?ll f?nd a way) and then went for a walk through a bazaar where we were welcomed ?nto the shop of a carpet seller who belongs to PASIAD (our hosts). We were served sweet hot apple tea wh?le we were shown a beaut?ful select?on of carpets. Beaut?ful ant?que and s?lk rugs. A real ceremony, th?s rug sell?ng bus?ness and very tempt?ng for those members of the tour who came w?th the ?dea of p?ck?ng one up.

Then we went around the corner for lunch ?n a restaurant owned by the same gentlemen. I can tell you one th?ng, we are not go?ng to starve on th?s tr?p. Even I m?ght come home a k?logram or two heav?er (wh?ch would be a real test?mony to the Turk?sh food). I bought a book of Turk?sh rec?p?es from a street seller, and was very happy when Emre and Ers?n looked through ?t and sa?d “Oh, that’s good” or “You’ll l?ke that one” — so ?t must be genu?ne.

Then on to Sultan Ahmed Mosque–otherw?se known as the Blue Mosque. The arch?tects of these beaut?ful mosques were all try?ng to emulate the 900 year older Hag?a Soph?a. In some senses they d?d not succeed–gett?ng a dome b?gger was hard for a start. But ?n other ways, they perfected the form–mak?ng ?t much l?ghter and more spac?ous–more grac?ous overall. These sacred spaces are truly awe-?nsp?r?ng. They are a great testament to a great rel?g?on.

We wandered for a short wh?le around the H?ppodrome, look?ng at the old obel?sks that the Romans and Byzant?nes n?cked from Egypt and elsewhere. Unfortunately one of our tour members had h?s wallet stolen outs?de Sulyman?ye Mosque–a lesson to all of us to reth?nk the way we carr?ed our money and cards.

Then one of the tour gu?des had a bra?n-wave: let’s take them to M?n?aturk! Yes! M?n?-Turkey. A place my g?rls would have loved. Bes?des hav?ng a play ground w?th a Trojan Horse cl?mb?ng th?ngy ?n ?t, the ma?n po?nt of th?s tour?sty theme park (wh?ch was rather elegantly done) was a homage to the arch?tectural wonders of Turkey. About f?fty or s?xty of the most wonderful and h?stor?cal bu?ld?ngs from throughout Turkey all done ?n m?nature (about four feet h?gh on average) and all gathered together accord?ng to reg?ons. We felt l?ke g?ants str?d?ng across the pages of h?story.

On the way there, we passed the Fener (where Patr?arch Bartholemew hangs out). I would happ?ly have stopped to say h? to h?m, but we just got a qu?ck “On the left, Dav?d!” as we went past. Got a great v?ew of the Golden Horn end of the walls. There are many tombs to Musl?m “martyrs” here. The walls were defended by the Byzant?nes aga?nst the surround?ng Turkes ?n the 1440s and 1450s for 19 years, and so many ?llustr?ous Turk?sh warr?ors met there ?n th?s area.

We had a real shock wh?le at M?n?aturk. Although most of the day has been pleasantly sunny and warm (about 19 degrees), a breeze blew up wh?le we were there that sent the temperature plummett?ng to such a po?nt that our f?ngers were freez?ng. It felt l?ke less than 5 degrees. Lesson: always carry a jacket–th?s weather ?s more changeable than Melbourne’s.

Ton?ght we are go?ng out to d?nner w?th members of PASIAD. I have to be back at the hotel ?n a few m?nutes. So more tomorrow.

I took lots of p?ctures and lots of f?lm. I have run two sets of batter?es dry and almost f?lled a 1 GB card! You are all ?nv?ted to the sl?de n?ght when I get home!

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