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From the time-machine: Istanbul’s Aya Sofia

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Two years ago we decided to spend Christmas in Istanbul, and I was thinking about it earlier today. Of course, I also went back to Istanbul with my good friend Sarah this past September, so I have more recent memories as well.  I really love Istanbul. No, I mean I REALLY LOVE Istanbul. If I wasn’t living in London, I could very easily be convinced that the Bosphorus was the place for me. 🙂

So here are a few pictures from the Aya Sofia, (follow the link for all the information about the site). It was built as a Christian church in the year 537 during the Byzantine Empire. It was a Greek Orthodox Basilica until the year 1453, when Byzantium was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and the city became known as Constantinople. At that time, the Aya Sofia was converted into a mosque. Many of the religious icons in the church were destroyed, but some of the most beautiful mosaics were simply plastered over, which actually protected them quite well. The building served as a mosque until 1931, when it was closed for four years. In 1935 it was reopened as a museum, although it is the building and it’s history that is being preserved, not any collections inside. (There are some snarky comments on TripAdvisor about people who are expecting a traditional museum experience – clearly they didn’t do their homework!)

Some of the largest and most impressive doors I have ever seen. I like the arrows telling you which way to go. Those Byzantines had good way-finding!

Some of the largest and most impressive doors I have ever seen. I like the arrows telling you which way to go. Those Byzantines had good way-finding!

To give you a sense of scale.... Alex is just about 6 feet tall!

To give you a sense of scale…. Alex is just about 6 feet tall! Notice how the marble in the center of the floor is worn down from centuries of foot traffic.

Looking down into the main space. It's fascinating because many of the Christian and Islamic remnants are still visible, coexisting side-by-side.

Looking down into the main space. It’s fascinating because many of the Christian and Islamic remnants are still visible, coexisting side-by-side.

I love the detailed stonework. It looks like lace, but it's carved from rock.

I love the detailed stonework. It looks like lace, but it’s carved from rock.

One of the most well-preserved Christian mosaics.

One of the most well-preserved Christian mosaics.

They have these hanging chandeliers in the main space,  which creates the odd effect of a false ceiling. It minimizes the vastness of the space, but offers much needed light during the winter days.

They have these hanging chandeliers in the main space, which creates the odd effect of a false ceiling. It minimizes the vastness of the space, but offers much needed light during the winter days.

A view of the arches that support the large, interior dome.

A view of the arches that support the large, interior dome.

This must be one of the most popular spots to take a photograph in Istanbul - with the Aya Sofia in the background!

This must be one of the most popular spots to take a photograph in Istanbul – with the Aya Sofia in the background!

Luckily for me, Alex has a work trip to Istanbul next fall, so I’ll definitely be going back again!

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Snapshot from a rainy day walk in Kyoto

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Kyoto’s Tenryu-ji Temple

This is embarrassing. We went to Japan more than 2 months ago, and we still have pictures to post. Rather than wait on the ever-decreasing likelihood that we’ll get around to writing about all our amazing experiences, I’m just going to post the photos. Consider it an artistic expression, sans words, of our time.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day today, Alex is taking me to a fancy Japanese restaurant here in London. Maybe if we close our eyes we can imagine that we’re back in the Far East …

Anyway, here are some pictures from the Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto.  The following text has been copied from the website Japan-Guide.com:

Tenryuji (天龍寺, Tenryūji) is the most important temple in Kyoto‘s Arashiyama district. It was ranked first among the city’s five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. Tenryuji is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.

Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor’s spirits.

Tenryuji’s buildings, were repeatedly lost in fires and wars over the centuries, and most of the current halls, including the main hall (Hojo), drawing hall (Shoin) and temple kitchen (Kuri) with its distinctive small tower, date from the relatively recent Meiji Period (1868-1912).

Unlike the temple buildings, Tenryuji’s garden survived the centuries in its original form. Created by the famous garden designer Muso Soseki, who also designed the gardens of Kokedera and other important temples, the beautiful landscape garden features a central pond surrounded by rocks, pine trees and the forested Arashiyama mountains. Muso Soseki also served as Tenryuji’s first head priest.

 

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