Of all the places we could have visited, we came here first. But to be honest it was only because we were lost and found it before we found Aya Sofya. Still, it was a great introduction to the city of Istanbul. This huge empty underground space held the city's water supply. People would dip buckets through holes into the ground, into this beautiful, atmospheric space, to get their drinking and washing water.
Aya Sofya, aka Hagia Sophia
We talked a lot about why this building was special before we ever got there, which helped a lot. Spots which best grabbed my kids' attention:
ancient Viking graffiti, carved into an upper rail while the mercenary Viking guards were supposed to be guarding the empress;
the hole in a pillar either where the angel protecting Constantinople escaped two days before the Ottomans took over the city, or where the angel put in his hand to turn the building and reorient it toward Mecca, thus making it suitable to be a mosque (depending, obviously, on whether you're on the Christian or Muslim team).
Quiet and beautiful. We sat on the thick carpet mostly and just rested and watched people. Sarajevo is majority Muslim, but most Muslims there are not devout, so it was interesting to the kids to see the serious facilities for the pre-prayer washing.
Cruise on the Bosphorous.
Absolutely, positively wonderful. We were going to take one of the cruises to an island, but because we were there off-season, the ferries were not running the days we could go. Luckily for us, the conference organizers organized a private cruise. Even if you can't go to one of the islands or on a private cruise, though, there are the city ferries. Well worth it.
And it was the first time for me and the kids to ever set foot in Asia!
The harem was fascinating, and although the lines to see the treasures were long, once we got up to the display cases, we were glad we had waited. The gallery of Islamic treasures (Muhammed's beard hair and tooth, Moses' staff, Abraham's saucepan--that kind of stuff) was packed and didn't speak much to us. We were disappointed the kitchen displays were closed when we were there.
The spices were gorgeous and smelled good,
but our very favorite part of the spice market was outside where the animals and the pet food and the leeches were for sale.
|According to the signs, leeches cure just about any ailment.|
Just a city park with trees and benches and modest playground equipment and statues and ducks (and an odd little museum about the influence of Islam on science). It was the perfect respite when we'd sightseen ourselves out.
And a bonus photo for all those Bays I grew up with!
Istanbul with Kids: Strategies. Tomorrow: Final Istanbul post.