Istanbul: Standing on the East and West

The Bosphorous and Atatürk Bridge in Red
The Bosphorous and Atatürk Bridge in Red

Istanbul is a city in 2 halves divided by water and facing Asia gleaming on the opposite bank of the Bosphorous sea. The old and the new city are joined by bridges; the Gallata Bridge, the Ataturk and the Metro bridge which carries people and trams. There are also tons of ferries that carry people and cars to and from the Asia side with an enormous bridge a ruby  necklace joining the last of the “West” and the entrance to the “East”.

The Gallata Bridge connecting the old and new city of Istanbul
The Gallata Bridge with fishermen connecting the old and new city of Istanbul

Everyone is on the move, not racing like NYC but going at a comfortable rate. Turks know how to pace themselves in everything it seems.They walk slowly up and down hills, eats meals, drinks tea and strong coffee, smokes cigarettes, relax in cafes and restaurants, or loll about in Hammams as if time were an annoying fly to be shooed away or just ignored.

Ayasofya Mosque with murals to Mohammad and Allah in the same place...
Ayasofya Mosque with murals to Mohammad and Allah flanking Mary and Jesus in the same place…

It’s also a city of some of the greatest wonders of the world. The Topkapi Palace, home to Ottoman kings since the days the country was ruled by King Constantine and called Constantinople sits high on the opposite hill near Ayasofya, the oldest known mosque that dates back almost 600 years, only then becoming a mosque as it originally was a wooden church built by the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian. When the turks took back the city it was burned to the ground and rebuilt in stone 2 more times on the same site. The last reconstruction was completed by 10,000 men in only 5 years.

Mosaic of gold and precious stones at Ayasofya Mosque
Mosaic of gold and precious stones at Ayasofya Mosque

Its interiors are covered by millions of mosaics depicting Christ, Allah and Mohammad, all in one place. An anomaly that boggles a modern day mind. The tiny mosaic tiles are all in gold and precious stones. What’s green are emeralds, red are rubies, blues are sapphires and on and on. It’s restoration is an ongoing process that will take years as they are removing dirt, plaster and grime that has covered much of the murals. Their aim is to remove the dirt and not to repaint or replace the original works. The Hagia Sofya sits next to the Ayasofya and is the final resting place of ancient members of the many royal families that lived and ruled in antiquity. The Blue Mosque is another architectural wonder nearby.

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

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