There are a few places in the world where the fabric of history stretches very thin, and it seems like you can peer through it and connect with the people from Eras Long Ago. It doesn’t happen very often because most of the time the ruins and relics seem too much from another era- I really enjoyed the Roman Forum, for example, but the fact that Caesar walked there seems more an intellectual exercise than reality- but every once in awhile you come across something that reminds you that history is filled with people just like you instead of just a story or abstraction.
To cut to the chase, the Hagia Sophia is one of these places. It was the reason I wanted to get to Istanbul, a task it lived up to as I got tears in my eyes at some points taking all of it in-
Istanbul is beguiling. I spent several days here over the long Easter break (on the grounds that I knew nothing would be shut here unlike the rest of Europe) and while one often comes up with several words to describe a city for Istanbul I always kept coming back to this one. After all what else do you use for a city that straddles two continents, who was the capital of two major world empires, where all the cultures of the worlds mix together?
I’d have a drink at sunset on the rooftop terrace bar of the guesthouse I was at (Bahaus Guesthouse, seriously recommended), gazing at Asia across the Bosporus ahead with the spires of the Blue Mosque behind, listening to the haunting calls of the muezzins to prayer from all around the city. There was no other word for it except for beguiling, except perhaps “enchanting” or “all around awesome, thanks for asking.” Continue reading