Sound advice from an experienced traveler.


Hagia Sophia Istanbul Turkey today

In 1994 Art and I traveled to Istanbul Turkey. We spent a week in the city, I attended a conference and after hours we toured the city. We took advantage of trips on the Bosphorus, picnics on the Asian side, tours of the Domabache and Topkapi Palaces, and other sights. We had a friend with us who had lived in Turkey and knew how to find interesting places inside the city that most tourists would not find.

It was an exciting and exhausting week. One day we toured the famous Blue Mosque, just across a square from Hagia Sophia. Afterwards, we sat outside in a café looking at our next place to visit, Hagia Sophia. The longer we looked at the site the more comfortable we became just sitting and enjoying the street scene. It had been a week of non-stop meetings and touring and we were wearing out fast. We looked at each other and decided to tour Hagia Sophia on our next trip to Istanbul; we bought a post card and took a taxi back to our hotel and left the next day.

What a missed opportunity! We haven’t been back and are not putting Istanbul on our return list.

From the Washington Post July 13, 2020 “Hagia Sophia, built by the Emperor Justinian I in 537, was once the largest and grandest church in all of Christendom and remains at the spiritual heart of Orthodox Christianity. …It was converted into a mosque in 1453, when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul, with minarets placed around its perimeter, its byzantine mosaics covered in whitewash… A 1934 decree by Turkey’s secularist modern founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, made Hagia Sophia into a museum that commemorated the depth of this countries history, which predates the advent of Islam. It became a monument to a universal legacy that transcends religion and underscored Istanbul’s place at the heart of different cultures and faiths…Until Friday, when the Turkish president announced that Hagia Sophia would be a mosque again, with Muslim prayers resuming in the compound in two weeks. Turkish officials said the site would remain open to all and that its Christian icons and mosaics would not be damaged.”

Well, it is hard to be confident that things will go as stated above. Based on this experience, I urge fellow travelers to overcome inertia and fatigue and see the sights when you visit places. Don’t wait until next time, there may not be one!

Contributed by:  Jackie King

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3 thoughts on “Hagia Sophia, a Missed Opportunity

  1. That was sad!

    Another tired traveler could have missed Notre Dame in Paris before the fire. That would have been sad as well. There must be many other examples. So the advise is well taken.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. So sorry you missed it, Jackie. The world is filled with a treasure of historical sites. Visiting them often fills me with that sense of history that opens my heart and mind to the journey other lives have taken, perhaps an opportunity to grow in understanding. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Istanbul is in an active earthquake zone. Since it was built in 537, Hagia Sophia has been damaged, propped up, repaired, fitted with structural bracers, etc. many times, Last year (2019) in September, they had a 5.8 quake. It is a wonder it has survived as well as it has. It is awesome. The paintings, the mosaic tiles, the size and arrangement of the interior spaces.
    I tried to add a picture to this reply, but it does not take pictures. I was there in 2002 with someone many of you know, named Valerie.

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