That’s not the world’s best photo but it’s a picture of the famous Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul which is right by our hotel. We landed yesterday and spent the day today checking out our neighborhood and going through the Hagia Sophia museum.
I first learned about this church in a class I took as an undergrad on Byzantine art and architecture and it has fascinated me ever since. In fact all of my impressions of Istanbul were historic and of course that’s all here but the main impression I’m getting in the short time I’ve been here is actually how modern the city is.
For a place that has had human inhabitants since before the dawn of recorded history it’s in remarkably good shape. It’s clean, the people are happy and friendly, it’s easy to get around, there’s almost no petty crime, the buildings are modern in style and it’s beautiful. At times it’s hard to forget that literally every step you take is over ground containing thousands of years of history.
You can’t do anything in this town without thinking about the past and yet it doesn’t have a weightiness to it that you would associate with such an old place. It’s also a bustling modern city of 14 million people, much as it has probably always been. Istanbul is a place that keeps up with the times.