To get some idea to the overall plan and layout of the palace complex, you can take a look at two scale models that are located on the right after you enter through the Gate of Salutation (where you pay admission into the palace). The first picture shows the scale model of the inner part of the palace (2nd-4th courtyards) whilst the second scale model shows Seraglio Point with the whole Topkapi Palace complex.
Turkish: Ayasofya, Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia) is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum, in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Medieval Seville Cathedral in 1520.
The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 AD on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots). It was designed by two architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. The Church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 50 foot (15 m) silver iconostasis. It was the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000 years.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building to be converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over. The Islamic features - such as the mihrab, the minbar, and the four minarets outside - were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans. It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the secular Republic of Turkey.
For almost 500 years the principal mosque of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia served as a model for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque of Istanbul), the Şehzade Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.
Although it is sometimes referred to as Saint Sophia (Greek for wisdom), the Greek name in full is Church of the Holy Wisdom of God Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας - and it was dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God rather than a specific saint named Sophia
Kokoreç, oh my, Kokoreç! :) Sold on many street corners throughout Istanbul, it is basically a flattened sandwich on toasted bread, with sheep intestines and a little pepper and spices. My friends, who are native Turks, decided to play a little trick on me one night, and tell me we would get some street food, that was made of beef. When we got some kokore? at a local street vendor near Taksim, I began eating it, and thought it was quite delicious. I never even suspected I was being dooped! :) After we finished, my friends informed me of what I had really eaten! After my initial gag reflex went away, I was like, "Hey, whatever it was, it was pretty good!". It is definately a great tasting fast food choice while in Turkey. But the question is, do you know what you are eating?!! :)
The Chora Church and its mosaics
The Chora Church (Kariye Camii in Turkish), is one of the gems of Istanbul. It is well outside the main tourist area, but definitely worth a visit to see its beautiful 14th century mosaics.
The Chora Church was built in around 1000 AD, and then redecorated in the early 1300s under the sponsorship of Theodore Metochites, a wealthy senior Byzantine official. It was at that time that its frescos and mosaics were added. After the Ottoman conquest, the church was converted into a mosque, and much of its Christian artwork was painted over or removed. It is no longer an active mosque, and many of the mosaics and frescos in the outer sections of the church have been uncovered and restored. Unfortunately, no significant art survived in the nave of the church. However, what has survived in the outer rooms of the church is still beautiful and definitely worth seeing. The Chora Church's mosaics depict various scenes from the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as well as their ancestors and some of the apostles.
The terminus of the fabled 'Orient Express' train...inexorably linked with Agatha Christie......opened in 1888 and a fantasy of domes, minarets and wonderful stained-glass windows.
How could one not pop in when passing?
Modern trains leave from a modern bulilding adjoining the old terminal (designed by one August Jachmund, a Prussian).
But the old terminal is still there, and you can poke your head inside the beautifully-panelled waiting-room (with, when I visited, several apparently homeless men sleeping comfortably in its warmth). You can look at the lovely stained-glass windows, and wander round the fron to the original entrance to get a good look at all the oriental opulence that Jachmond designed.
And, best of all for railway fans, there is a small steam engine standing just outside....and that's all I can tell you, because I'm not that type of railway fan! :-) The photo might tell you a bit more.
And there is a rather elegant platform cafe too, although I did not indulge myself on this visit.
Worth a wander down the hill from Topkapi Palace (follow the tramlines) to see this rather lovely evocation of a more elegant past.