Aaaah…. I truly enjoyed myself at amazing Hagia Sofia, one of the jewelled crowns of Istanbul.
I have always loved Byzantine churches with their icons, mosaics, and vaults. Unfortunately, my only opportunity to visit some were during a trip to Bethlehem and Jerusalem a couple of years ago and my experience was not very good. We were on a private tour and our guide was rushing things. Unfortunately, none of my companions seemed to care about art and architecture so the guide’s really bad narratives were ignored. It went something like this, “This church was built on so-so. Around it are Byzantine icons. Look. Ok? Let’s go.” I was so disappointed. I couldn’t even take pictures as we were really rushing. So at the Hagia Sofia, I took my time enjoying every bit of the place in spite of the crowds.
The church was under restoration so certain parts were not open and a huge scaffolding was at the centre. Fortunately, the apse was visible.
The Virgin Mary on the dome above the apse.
Of course, the beautiful ceilings.
On the rear are stone ramps that climb to the second level. It’s a bit claustrophobic as it’s like walking through a tunnel. If it weren’t for all the people all going up, I would have liked to walk slowly, imagining myself as a medieval monk or a Muslim cleric back in those ancient days.
Seeing the church from the second level, you get a clearer sense of its enormity and its layout.
As expected, there were long lines at the ticket counter. Make sure you have the Museum Pass. It allowed us to simply head to the entrance.