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Hagia Sophia

Istanbul Under the Snow (Walking Around Sultanahmet)

Istanbul (Turkey). After the landscape of Istanbul from Hagia Sophia posted some days ago, here there is “just another” photograph taken the same – unique – day during a nice walk under the snow around the garden in Sultanahmet.

One of the things that impresses me much – every time it snows in Istanbul – is the sound of the city, which is normally noisy due to its intense traffic. Believe it or not, the snow therefore does not change only the landscape: Sultanahmet becomes somehow quite, silent, muffled.

I’m still developing some photos of Istanbul covered by snow: stay with me!

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Thinking About My Beloved Istanbul

Istanbul (Turkey). It was a sad day, today. A kind of “day after” feeling is all over Istanbul, as well as pervades medias and social networks, which are populated of hastags such as #PrayForIstabul or #JeSuisIstanbul (why in French, by the way?). However, the city slowly tries to find its new equilibrium, but probably nothing will be the same anymore (or at least for a long time).

The word “violence” comes from from Latin “violentia”, which is the combination of the two words “vis” (strength) and “-ulentus”, adjective-forming suffix meaning “abounding in, full of”. And this is what is hurting me, and I guess million of people like me, from citizens to expats to just Istanbul lovers: the idea that Istanbul, and more specifically Sultanahmet, has been targeted for a violence or, in this case, has been the place chosen to demonstrate an excess of strength.

By who? This is not a blog about geopolitics: it does not matter “by who” – not here at least. As everybody, I’m following news to understand more and, of course, I hope that the all those behind this terrorist attack will pay for their responsibilities. However, what counts is that what happened yesterday – 12th of January, 2016 – is really shocking. And not because “I was there many times” or “it could have happened to me”. No, this honestly does not make sense, at all. But because, hurting Istanbul – and more specifically its heart, Sultanahmet – meant hurting a city that was founded in 660 B.C., which since its foundation has been teaching to the entire world what is “being an eternal bridge between continents, cultures and religions”; hurting Istanbul is hurting all of us – violently.

Napoleon once said: “If the world was only one country, Istanbul would be its capital!”. This is not the world I want: I hope from here now – from Istanbul today – we can start changing the world and make of it a better place for everybody.

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Istanbul Under the Snow (Welcome to My World)

Istanbul (Turkey). This end of 2015 has been magic for those who were in Istanbul! Since December 30th, a generous snowfall has been covering the city with a thick white layer, changing completely the landscape – and not only, considering that even the “city’s sound” is different. I was walking around Istanbul with some friends and of course my camera, and the last day of the year we took the advantage of not too many people around visiting Sultanahmet to head – in my case one more time – to one of my favorite places ever: Hagia Sophia.

As written in one of my previous posts, there is a small window at the first floor of this wonderful Church Mosque Museum: from there, the view is breathtaking because it’s possible to admire both the domes of Hagia Sophia and those of the Blue Mosque with its minarets; such a perfect postcard of Istanbul! But this time was different: everything was so incredibly white, magic, poetic, muffled. It is impossible to described this situation with words, I wish I could do it with this image.

And for photography geeks, this photo made me also reach the conclusion that “my world” is more and more at 28 mm… What does it mean? Since July, I’m travelling and using almost always my Leica Q camera, with a fantastic 28 mm Summilux lens. There’s nothing to do: this is MY LENS, this is my focal distance, this is the perfect extension and the ideal angle of my eyes. So, like it or not, if you wanna follow me, you must get prepared to see more and more the world – my world – at 28 mm! Oh yes, welcome to my world!

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The Altar and the Mihrab of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Istanbul (Turkey). This is probably the most “symbolic” and characteristic part of Hagia Sophia, which was built as an orthodox basilica, then converted into a mosque and today is a very popular museum in Istanbul.

But why this corner is so symbolic? The answer is simple but – in my opinion – extremely logic: it shows at the same time the apse (where there was the Hagia Sophia Basilica’s altar) and the mosque’s mihrab, the semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the “qibla”, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. The mihrab was added when Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 1453, after the conquest of Istanbul with Mohammed II.

Visiting Hagia Sophia is like hopping on a time machine: there are so many testaments of the building’s history, that the visitor bears the risk that being mesmerised by the wonderful mosaics and the magnificence of the interior, will not notice them. When I accompany someone at Hagia Sophia, this is the first place where I go: here there is the essence of a place that is unique not only for its beauty, but also for its history.

 

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Domes and Minarets From Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Istanbul (Turkey). I have probably taken this photo five or six times in the past years, basically I shoot it every time I have the opportunity to visit Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish). This landscape is what you can see from a small hidden window at the upper floor of the former basilica, which was converted into a mosque and now is (and hopefully it will remain) a museum.

This is probably one of the most typical photos of Istanbul, and despite this fact it’s still not annoying at all for me. I consider the Blue Mosque somehow framed between two domes of Hagia Sophia one of the most beautiful skyline in the world. And beyond this, it is also a very “symbolic” image of the former Constantinople, today Istanbul.

So, if you are planning to visit Istanbul – and I’m sure you will include Hagia Sophia in your itinerary – do not forget to look for this small window and to watch outside through it: a significant portion of Istanbul’s history will be displayed in front of your eyes.

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