Hagia Sophia and Back to Balat


Coming down the Galata hill, the Hagia Sophia looks like it is swimming in clouds- a red tanker ship on a whipped cream ocean, Venus ushered into the world on a bed of sea foam. Its rosy facade shines like a promise. I rush down the cobble stoned hill, teetering on the edge of speed and balance, while dodging the masses that aggregate like blood clots on the street. I am on my way to meet Gabby to sketch at the Hagia Sophia again. Although it is spring and sunny, there's still a chill in the air, as if the weather can't quite decide which earrings to wear. Once through the gate, we sit and have a coffee in the sun before heading inside to draw.

The inside of the Hagia Sophia is bright today, in contrast to its more sullen mood on our last rainy day visit. We sit in a quiet spot away from the crowds and sketch a tiny portion of its momentous architecture, catching up, but mostly absorbed in concentration at capturing the richness of the details, the proportions, and perspective. Although I am slowly improving in my depiction of architectural spaces, they continue to be challenging and engaging to draw. A few people stop by and offer us encouraging words. One young artist from Saudi Arabia with a smart, eager face comes to show me his sketchbook. He is too shy to speak, so his mom tells me how passionate he is about drawing and how excited he was to see people drawing at the site. This interaction warms my heart. After a few hours, the cold of the pavement gets the best of me and I pack up my things to find a place to warm up.
Sketch of a column in Hagia Sophia. Still working on getting the proportions right.
Not wanting to go home yet, I continue towards Balat, loosely heading towards Fethiye Camii- a building that I haven't visited yet. Early on my walk, a mosque that looks like it has Byzantine roots catches my eye- Gül Camii, or Rose Mosque. I peek inside shyly and a kind man who sees me going in bellows to the key man across the street to let me in. Seconds later, an older man with twinkling eyes appears with the most enormous key I've ever seen. It is a fairytale key- one so hefty that it requires two hands to turn. He lets me in and waits for me to get my fill. On my way out, he asks me where I'm from. When I say, "Amerikaliyim," he laughs, exclaims that my Turkish is very good for an American, and gives me a huge bear hug. I laugh too, at his overly generous assessment of my Turkish abilities at at the unexpected affection.

I continue on my walk, taking in the neighborhood's sights. The atmosphere is tranquil and many kids are playing outside: riding bikes, jumping rope, playing ball... There seems to be a football game on every street. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting in the air is like beckoning fingers, luring your to the neighborhood's many bakeries. The small artisan shops wear their goods like medals- clocks, keys, shoes. Through one winding turn and another, I finally make it to Fethiye Camii. It is beautiful in the same jewelry box type of way that Chora Church is beautiful. Unfortunately, it is closed. I walk around it and stop to watch three boys playing football. Their enthusiasm mimicking the drama of World Cup upsets. After spending a few more minutes taking in the view and the evening's golden light, I head down the hill to go back home.


Gul Camii, interior

Leo Lunatic mural in Balat
Traveling ride waiting for customers


Patriotic street

Pink jacket and streamers to match

Fethiye Camii

Football stars in the making in front of Fethiye Camii

Fethiye Camii

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