Tuesday 6 October 2015


Perhaps because I’ve been to both Aya Sofya and the Cistern before, I noticed the people more than the buildings this time. Which is not to say that they didn’t impress me again: especially the Aya Sofya, huge, complicated and dominant from the outside, seeming even bigger on the inside, and a fascinating mix of Christianity and Islaam (first a church, converted to a mosque, now a museum). Almost more than the beautiful gold-tile mosaics of Jesus and his pals, their expressions so delicately rendered, I was fascinated by the shiny marble pavers – ordinary, cracked, irregular, but polished by thousands and thousands of feet over the centuries, and speaking volumes about faith and devotion.

Today, though, it seems so many people going there are just posers. Honestly, the selfie sticks and portraits! All that history, religion and art seen (not really seen at all, actually) as a backdrop, no more. Tch. Said she, whose camera never got turned off the whole time she was in there… But I did spend time not looking through the viewfinder, and I did recently watch an entire Nat Geo documentary about the building (points, please).
At the Cistern it was even worse – commercially approved, with people dressing up in colourful robes and holding props like fans and swords for professional photos. Plus it was disappointing that a German man observed my sneezing fit and then said Bless you when I was all ready to reply Danke schön to his Gesundheit.

But dinner was lovely: nice food eaten sitting outside with a super-focussed cat beneath the table, well aware that there were jumbo prawns involved. 
It was pleasing to pass a whole herd (?) of cats on the way back, in the Hippodrome, all tucking into a mess of chicken innards some kind person had thrown down for them. Very heart-warming – and then, when the muezzins did a duet in the velvety black night from the spotlit Blue Mosque and the nearby Firuzaga Mosque? Magical.

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