Turkey Day 2 - Hoyia Sofia, Hoyia Sofia Tombs, Basilica Cistern & Gulhane Park

Grandma, Julianne & Robin outside the amazing Hoyia Sofia.

Today was like a normal day on holiday with lots of stuff being visited and with it being a full on day with not a lot of rest – but with lots of cool stuff being done. First up was another NZ breakfast of wheet-bix and porridge that we brought with us from home before heading up to the Hoyia Sofia.

There was a long queue which took 20 minutes to get inside which gave me a change to go back to Coskun House and get jackets, I love how close we are staying – the walk back to Coskun House was about the same length as the queue just in a different direction.

I have always said that Hoyia Sofia was the most impressive building I have ever seen from the hundreds I have visited in the past so going back was going to be interesting to see if it lived up to what I remembered after 6 years – and I must say it most certainly did.

The Hoyia Sofia is just massive and to think it is 1600 years old! With most people in 400AD living in really simple situations seeing this huge building back then would have simply being mind blowing.

Hoyia Sofia

Plus I always find seeing the early Christian mosaics combined with Muslim art is incredibility beautiful and shows we should all be working together.

Mary mother of Jesus mosaic flanked by Islamic art & writing. 

Very unusual Islamic writing in the form of a mosaic.

It was great fun showing Robin the Hoyia Sofia - his reaction at 5 is quite cool. I wonder what he will remember if anything in years to come. 

Robin and I inside Hoyia Sofia.

Robin showing his climbing skills to get the good views.

Julianne and Robin dancing around Luke and Grandma.

I also really enjoyed showing it to my Mum, who would have thought that was going to happen?

Grandma beside a huge marble jar.

Grandma beside a huge bronze door over 1000 years old.

Grandma beside some even older 2000 year old remains.

We ended up spending a good 3 hours inside the Hoyia Sofia.

Inside Hoyia Sofia.

Viking graffiti inside the Hoyia Sofia, those Viking's really got around!

After Hoyia Sofya it was back to Coskun House for lunch, and then heading out to tombs of Hoyia Sofia; which are the tombs of 5 sultans which were built in the grounds of the Hoyia Sofia. After the crowdedness of the main building the tombs were very quiet with very little people plus it turned out to be free. It was quite different seeing the way Muslim Sultans were buried with their families compared to the English monarch’s I have seen in England in Westminster Abbey. Each tomb had impressive tiled artwork and lovely surrounding patterns on the surrounding walls but only fabric over the actual tombs.

The tomb of Sultan Selim ii – with this wife & family from 1577.

Julianne chasing Luke inside the tomb of Sultan Mehmed iii from 1603.

The outside of a purpose built Ottoman Sultan tomb.

Tomb of Sultan Murad iii from 1599.

One tomb was inside the old baptistery of the Hoyia Sofia which they reckon is actually older than the old church. We saw the outside of the baptistery when visiting the Hoyia Sofia in the morning, so it was neat to actually be inside the building.

Luke making friends with people who were visiting the Hoyia Sofia, a lot more crowded than when we were there in the morning.

After the tombs we popped around the corner to see if the Basilica Cistern queue was not too long and it wasn’t so we joined in. Again this is one of the most amazing places I have already seen and I was keen to get back down into it. The Cistern is a huge underground water reservoir right under the middle of Istanbul built by the Roman’s which still has water in it. It is just mind-blowing to see this huge under-ground waterproof brick work from so long ago. There are over 300 pillars holding this huge place up. Grandma didn’t really understand why I insisted that she visited the cistern, but once she was inside it she and could see what I was talking about – you have to see it in person to believe it. 

Robin inside the Basilica Cistern.

A very hard to see family shot.

Basilica Cistern going into the distance.

there are fish living inside as well.

impressive roof even.

We then walked up the road to a book shop that we visited last time and found several books that we were keen on, one on Gallipoli from the Turks view point for me and one on patterns for Julianne.

Tea was a small local cheap kebab shop which is just want I needed. It filled my belly and was not expensive to make up for the previous night and was a real simple Turkish fare eating with locals and the staff not speaking English which is always interesting.

It was then back to the room briefly to warm up before heading down to a park with bridges and flowers that Robin and I stumbled upon earlier when getting water & milk. The Gulhane Park used to be the outer garden of the Topkapi Palace (home of Sultan’s). As such it is almost magical with tulips everywhere (flower of the Ottoman Empire) with bridges & fountains.

At one end of our short little street is the amazing Hoyia Sofia and the other is the magical Gulhane Park – great place to stay Coskun House.

Julianne and the boys headed back to the room while Grandma and I walked down to watch the Whirling Dervishes. The walk down was nice and we popped into a shop to buy a range of Turkish Delights as nibbles for the drive tomorrow, self-selecting a range of flavours (rose, mint, coconut, lemon etc.).

The Whirling Dervishes is a very interesting and special experience to be able to see; it is an Islamic order that use music to pray and which includes a dance where they spin on the spot for minutes at a time. It’s amazing to see as they shut their eyes and spin non-stop and move around the small space and around each other spinning the whole time with eyes shut and with no bumping into each other, very surreal.

Then it was a walk back to the Coskun House.

Adam Weller