Thursday, November 6, 2008

Aya Sophia and Arsenal

"Me an Arsenal fan? Nah, I hate Arsenal with a passion. I'm a Tottenham supporter. I'm just here because I like good football... I'm a Fenerbahce supporter tonight."

- the English guy in the pub down the road

So I was sitting at the hostel's rooftop bar this evening, puffing on a water pipe, and I started think that Istanbul's a pretty cool place to be. From where I was sitting, there's a stunning view over the rooftops to the Sea of Marama on one side, and there's a view of the Blue Mosque on the other side. The sky was red from the setting sun, the city was aglow with lights, and in the distance, you could hear the muezzin calling the faithful for evening prayer. 

All in all, it was pretty fucking good way to end a day. 

And then I went to the English pub down the road and watched the Arsenal grind their way to a draw against Fenerbahce. And that brought me back down. We looked hideously out of form - our passing was disjointed and inaccurate, our attack was directionless, and we seemed content to just pass it back and forth without even trying to score a goal. van Persie endeavoured to miss an absolute sitter. Denilson was anonymous as a central midfielder. And Bendtner was a couple of steps behind the team for most of the match. 

But I'm not going to write too much about the game. It's a meaningless game - we're going to qualify despite this result - and the real test is against Man Utd on Saturday. But I do hope we play a bit better against the Mancs, or otherwise I'm going to be pretty miserable come Saturday night. 

What I want to write about today is something I've wanted to do since I was thirteen. 

Today, I went inside the Aya Sophia and saw the immensity of that domed space. It's massive. It's hard to explain just how awe-inspiring it is. It's not particularly pretty - the Turks turned it into a poorly-funded musuem in the 1930s - and it's pretty run down. The plaster's peeling and the marble floors are crac. But it's still amazing. I think it's because there's a sense of permanence about the place; it's been around for 1500 years, and you get the feeling that it'll still be here long after Turkey's gone and the EU's dissolved, and global warming and nuclear war has turned us all into apes. 

Plus, the mosiacs in the upper gallery are pretty damned special. The tiles are made of gold and the figures are the most expressive I've ever seen. They've got these incredibly sad, soulful eyes. It's a tragedy that the Ottomans covered them with plaster for 500 years, because it destroyed one of the marvels of the world. 

It would've been something to see the Hagia Sophia in all its golden glory. Here's a bit of what it once looked like:


Anonymous said...

I will have a chat with your sister-in-law about the Christmas thing. I sure it will be good one way or the other. Hope you enjoy Istanbul. It's always a city I wanted to go to.

Your Brother

thisthingison said...


found you - sorry, haven't been keeping up my own blog. You're linked again.

Istanbul is great. Glad you liked Aya Sofia, there's another one called I think Sulemanye (sp?) which is just beautiful, too. The space inside is magnificent.

Meantime, we turned over the nasty reds...


Connolly's agent said...

How the hell did we do that? I purposely caught the bus so I'd avoid seeing that game, and fucking hell... that's amazing.

Aya Sophia's amazing, and I'm planning on seeing the Suleyman mosque whne I get back to Istanbul. It's a far hike from where I'm staying, though, so I put it off.