I have so many days to catch up on!
On our last day in Istanbul we went mosque-hopping: the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and then the Suleyman.
The Hagia Sophia
was built as a church in the 530s and converted to a mosque in 1453 when the Ottomans came to power.
It is absolutely mind-blowing that people had the mathematical and architectural knowledge necessary to build this in 532. The central dome is 102.5 feet in diameter and 182 feet tall, resting on 40 arched windows which take the weight of the dome down into the side walls, so that no additional pillars are needed. The builders of the Blue Mosque next door were less ambitious, and instead relied on enormous pillars to support the weight of that dome. That's how amazing a feat of architecture the Hagia Sophia is: when people sought to equal it a millennium later, they couldn't. Even today, the Hagia Sophia is an awe-inspiringly vast interior space. And it was built in five years
My knowledge of architectural history is derived almost entirely from my Uncle Jon's tours of English churches, where I learned various features of Saxon vs. Norman architecture. All of the changes over time that I learned about represented progress
: stonework got better, ceilings got higher, windows got larger. Cathedrals grew in size and light and splendor. But long before the Saxons' rough-hewn triangular window-slits were replaced by Norman arches, the Byzantines were making 182-foot-tall domes!
Here in Istanbul, architecture did not progress. Seventh century people had access to Greek mathematical treatises that allowed them to create buildings that simply could not be made a few hundred years later. What would it have been like to be a medieval visitor to Istanbul, faced with a church so magnificent that no one on the entire planet had the skill or resources to reproduce it? What would it be like to know that knowledge had been lost?
After touring the mosques, we flew to Adrasan, where we are now. This is a small agricultural town of 3000, mostly made up of greenhouses of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, and orchards of oranges, lemons and pomegranates. We're staying in a hotel run by a British couple who specialize in walking holidays. Every morning they help us choose a route and drop us off with a map and directions.
Yesterday we walked with an Irish/British mother and daughter who were good company and amazingly well-traveled. We did an easy walk to test my ankle: several hours in the morning, then a stop in town, and a lovely afternoon walk. I proved by untrailworthiness by choosing to answer the call of nature in a patch of stinging nettles. Ow. The highlight of the day, though, was surprising two tortoises in flagrante delicto. The surprised male fell off his mate, which was apparently a rather frustrating experience as he then proceeded to ram her with his shell and bite her neck before running off.
Today, Tuesday, we had a lovely walk. I was stiff from yesterday, so Jon suggested a short but scenic circular hike for us. We followed the Lycian Way up the valley to a high pasture with a stone hut, then took a side path back to the village. It's a 3-hour walk but we did it in five and half, stopping for lunch in a meadow, taking frequent breaks and stopping to read our books. Oh, and taking the wrong trail for half a kilometer at one point. Justin gallantly carried all our things so my ankles would have a lighter load.
The countryside here is lovely -- a bit Mendocino-ish, in a way. Mountainous, with plenty of fir trees, wildflower-strewn glades, little streams. There are a lot of half-fallen-down stone walls that once demarcated terraced fields, like in Yorkshire. Walking here is very calming, and exceedingly quiet. We have seen a total of two other walkers. The local people we come across wave and say Merhaba. The women here ALL wear baggy floral trousers, several sweaters and a headscarf. The uniformity of the trousers is rather astonishing; they're all DIFFERENT floral patterns, but they're ALL floral patterns. What would happen if someone showed up one day in leopard print, I wonder?( More photos here )