Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aya Sofya and a Turkish Bath

This morning was rainy, so instead of the scenic ferry ride, we opted to stay indoors and visit the Aya Sofya. The Aya Sofya (also known as the Haghia Sofia) is Istanbul's most famous monument. Built as a Byzantine Christian church in 537, it served as a mosque during the time of the sultans, and now as part of modern-day secular Turkey, it serves as a museum. The building encapsulates much of Turkey's history and unique east-meets-west culture; for example, in this picture, I tried to capture both the Mihrab (at the bottom), which points Muslim worshippers to Mecca for their prayers, and the mosaic of the Virgin Mary and Jesus at the top of the alcove.

Later in the day, we went to a hamam (turkish bath). We opted for Cagaloglu Hamam, and after shuffling off to the seperate men's and women's baths on ill-fitting sandals, we were each treated to a hearty massage in a steamy room. I relaxed on the heated marble slab in the middle of the bath, and tried to burn away some of the knots from our travels. Abby said her (female) masseuse was almost as hairy as mine, though to her credit she didn't have a moustache. The only negative part to the whole thing was when my masseuse came by when I was done changing and decided what tip I should give him, but in spite of that I would still highly recommend the experience for anyone going to Turkey.

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