Visiting the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) and the Grand Bazaar

 The Hagia Sophia has had all its scaffolding removed, the first time in years.

On our second day with Elenor, Angela and I took her to the Hagia Sophia, one of the most iconic images of Istanbul, This 6th century church amazes everyone who sees it (apart from Mark Twain, who called it, "The rustiest old barn in heathendom"). The sheer size alone is overwhelming, but when you consider that it was raised without the aid of modern-day machinery, the sight is overwhelming. At last, all the scaffolding for the renovations has been removed, for now, and its magnificence is revealed for all to see.

 The great dome of the Hagia Sophia

 Elenor and Angela

 The upper gallery, showing one of the eight roundels that were added by Sultan Abdülmecid, between 1847 and 1849.

The 9th century mosiac at the exit to the Hagia Sophia (although this was originally the entrance.) It shows Constantine offering the city of Constantinople to the Virgin Mary, while Justinian I offers the Hagia Sophia.

From the Hagia Sophia, we walked to the Grand Bazaar where Elenor still had to do some last minute shopping. Then, finally shopped out, we headed for her hotel to pick up her luggage, then took a taxi to the House Café in Ortaköy for lunch, before catching a ferry to Bostancı where I left them to take the dolmuş home. They, in turn, took another ferry to Büyükada where Elenor went to enjoy Angela's famed hospitality for the weekend, before returning to Norway.

The Grand Bazaar dates back to 1461, and is always fun.

While we were there, we saw the Muezzin giving the call to prayer in the Bazaar's mosque.

Elenor bought a beautiful blue ceramic bowl.

Winter is a good time to visit the bazaar, as there are far fewer tourists.

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