[10 MARCH 2016, THURSDAY]
Coming out from the Topkapi Palace, my next stop was the Hagia Sophia [Ayasofya]. The two places are actually very close to each other, so the walk was short.
While I was making my way to the main entrance, I noticed this side entrance. The signboard reads [Ayasofya Museum: The Tombs of the Sultans].
Huh… I thought the Hagia Sophia was a church, so to have tombs of Sultans here, it was quite intriguing. So I entered to check things out.
I wonder if many people are aware of this tomb section. The place was deserted… bar me and another nerdy looking Korean lady who kind of (I think) followed after me after she saw my curious face from the outside.
Actually, I wonder if these are actual tombs. As in, whether the sarcophagi of the Sultans and the royal family are really inside these green coffins. I would’ve expected greater level of security and scrutiny by permanent staff for actual royal tombs. 🙄
Anyway, let’s get out and get to the main entrance of this church.
As I had the Museum Pass with me, I was able to skip through the queue at the tickets counter (not that there was a long queue at that time anyway) and walk right in. Individual ticket for the Hagia Sophia costs 40 TL (as of 2016).
It was interesting to go through the history of Ayasofya. I thought this is just a very famous church in Istanbul. And I was wrong. Ayasofya was first built in the 3rd century. It was originally a church, but when Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul (Constantinople) in 1453, he ordered this place to be turned into a mosque. Then in 1935, when the Turkey as a republic was borned, Kemal Ataturk transformed Ayasofya into a museum instead to prevent Muslims and Christians in Istanbul to fight each other for the rights to the building.
Ayasofya is a museum that used to be a mosque that was converted from a church. Yeah, the fact that it is what it is, is enough justification to merit a visit.
By the way, Sultan Mehmed II might not sound familiar or interesting to you. What if I tell you he is also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman Sultan who defeated Vlad the Impaler and forced the latter to make a bargain with the devil to become Dracula?
Okay, the italics are all myth rather than historical fact, but still… the Sultan who defeated Dracula’s human incarnation, isn’t that intriguing?
The Ayasofya is made up of two levels. Before I explore the ground floor, I went upstairs first…
See the small picture on the bottom right? That’s what they think the original mural used to be…
To be honest, there wasn’t much to see upstairs, so I went back downstairs through the same treacherous ramps…
I did not get the audio guide here, but when I was near the altar, there was a tour group right next to me, so I got to listen to the story of this altar. And the story is as such:
The building was originally a church, so the main altar windows were facing east. But Muslims need to pray facing the Kaaba in Mecca. So they erected a mihrab to replace the altar and it is slightly angled because that is the direction of Mecca.
And it was time to leave for my third stop of the day…
I think this is a nice place to visit and go into. But I do think that 40 TL is kind of… expensive. Sure, 40 TL is like, 14€, but they have visitors from all over the world, not just from rich European/American countries. I think it is very unfair for them to charge a European price for entry. 🙄