Well, I never got to the blue mosque yesterday, but discovered that it is literally about a 5 minute walk from my hotel. So, as I strolled in the rain in the direction of the Blue Mosque, I discovered crowds of tourist looking people getting in line, and a sign for "Basilica Cistern", so I stood in line, slightly protected from the rain, then headed inside to see this most unusual underground Basilica. Dark, damp, water, and beautiful columns. Lonely Planet tells that it was built by Justinian in 532. The feature to find in this underground relic are the carved heads of Medusa at the bottom of a couple of columns in one of the back corners of the cistern. Found them, read an interesting story about the myth of Medusa, and enjoyed seeing her carved head once upside down (my favorite!) and once sideways.
After the dark and damp of the cistern, I emerged, and stepped into the, too much like Syracuse damp of the outdoors, and promptly found a vendor who could sell me an umbrella. I continue my walk towards the Blue Mosque, and quickly make my first, and hopefully my last, single American woman traveling alone mistake. A man approaches me and begins to speak to me in broken English; I hesitantly reply, but don't shoo him off. Before all is said and done he has my first name, tells me the Blue Mosque is closed for prayers, and escorts me to the head of the line for the Aya Sophia museum, then tells me that maybe he will see me again, and leaves as I head into Aya Sophia. I think to myself, thankfully he's gone, and what is the likelihood of seeing this guy again??
I enter Aya Sophia, and literally spend a couple of hours drinking in the awe and beauty of the place. The ancient sacred art of Islam juxtaposed with Christian art offers an honest perspective on the history of peoples who share a common beginning. The holy building is grand with a very high domed ceiling with all kinds of beautiful mosaic. The walls, columns, and flooring are all marble. As I walk, I both crane my head to see what is above in the ceiling art, and I look down and sideways marveling at the sheer volume of incredibly beautiful marble. I enjoy playing with my camera, wondering if I will be able to capture the magnificence with my cameras eye. As I emerge from this "museum"/holy building, I realize that the sun has come out, and I have a skype text from Justine! At which point, I find a park bench and sit in the sun and chat from my iPhone in Istanbul with my daughter in Bamako, Mali, about my son who was in Syria, and who has now landed safely with family in Amman, Jordan! The wonders of technology!!
I then begin to head back to my hotel and low and behold creepy guy calls out to me, "Donna! Would you like to come into my shop?" At which point I do shoo the guy off. He is obviously agitated, tells me that I have "broken his heart" and says some awful thing about what will happen when I die. Like I say, inshah'allah (look it up in Wikipedia) I will not see this guy again, and lesson learned.
Off to the Grand Bazar, or possibly Istiklal Jedeci today, and Blue Mosque probably tomorrow.