The metamorphosis of Hagia Sophia and Istanbul. (April 2012)

Before leaving Istanbul and Turkey, there were a couple of boxes that needed ticking.

The first was Hagia Sophia.

The current basilica of Hagia Sophia, built by Roman Emperor Justinian 1, was inaugurated in 537 and apart from a few changes, especially to the dome, is largely intact.

The emperor had building material brought from all over the empire, including Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Now I know where they went.

It held the title for being the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years and was a marvel of architecture and engineering.

Hagia Sophia was firstly a church, then a mosque and in 1935 was secularised, by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and is now a museum.

The signs of its transformation are everywhere.

The biggest problem with the ongoing restoration, is what part of history do they remove in order to reveal another?

In many ways Hagia Sophia symbolises Turkey and especially Istanbul, with a foot planted firmly in both the east and west.

Our final trip was up the Bosphorus, the famous stretch of water that divides Europe and Asia and is the lifeline to the Black Sea.

It’s the May Day long weekend and our boat was packed with tourists, all clutching maps, city guides and their well worn Turkish editions of Lonely Planet.

On the Bosphorus a long line of cargo ships headed north to the Black Sea in the morning and in the afternoon they swapped direction and sail south to Istanbul.

I don’t know if it was coincidence but that is the same trip we made.


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