Istanbul: Day 5

Today was a relatively short day. We started off with the Hagia Sofia. Not sure I have all that much to say about it. It's big, beautiful, and particularly impressive given that it was completed in 537. The last part is totally nuts to me. Its history is pretty interesting. It started out as a church, not a mosque, because Islam had not even been invented, yet. It spent around 900 years as a church then another 500 as a mosque before becoming the museum it is today.

The interior seemed surprisingly haphazard to me (perhaps an inevitability in a building so hold that has been re-purposed several times). I took a fair number of pictures and will share a few despite there likely being better ones all over the place.

After the Hagia Sofia we went to the Basilica Cistern, conveniently located across the street. Also built in the 6th century, it was used as a source of water. It was pretty interesting - very atmospheric, almost spooky.

We then had lunch at a thoroughly and unfortunately unremarkable place. Our afternoon was devoted to a (perhaps) requisite experience: Turkish baths. We found a well-regarded place near our apartment. The only issue was that, like pretty much all hamams, this one was gender segregated. Some places segregate physically, but others (like this one) segregate temporally. So Grace went earlier in the afternoon and I went later, meaning it took pretty much the whole afternoon. We could hardly begrudge the time, though, as the experience was very enjoyable (and, to me at least, very novel). Not sure it's something I'd feel the need to do again or on any sort of regular basis, but I'm glad I tried it out.

You basically arrive, change (into a towel), and then get rinsed down before hanging out on a giant, heated marble slab for 20-30 minutes. This was very relaxing, particularly as I went early and was pretty much alone. Then again, I can see the appeal of going with friends and just hanging out. The building itself was very pretty. Obviously I didn't take any pictures, but I'll include a few from the website. After the marble slab, I was thoroughly scrubbed by a burly Turkish gentleman, a phrase I'm not sure I ever anticipated writing. The most interesting part of this was the suds-generation device, for lack of a better term. Basically a large, porous sack that the scrubber would dunk it soapy water, puff outs (like you might with a garbage back) and then wring out to generate a huge quantity of bubbles and suds. Somewhat comical, but effective. I'm not sure my skin has felt quite so smooth in many years.