April 28, 2011

What Will Your Teenager Love about Turkey?

Christian at the Hagia Sophia

We are always wondering how to keep our teens active and engaged, with plenty of physical action to tire them out. But let’s not forget open and curious minds, waiting to be filled with fascinating tales and images. Turkey is perfect for teenagers because of its history, art, and culture… but then it has ocean, mountains, and rivers too that offer so much outdoor excitement. Turkey is ideal for teens.

What does 14 year old Christian Kackley have to report on his visit to the magnificent Hagia Sofia? Read on…

“10,000 workers, working from sunset to sundown, 6 days a week, and it still took 6 years to finish. Well, that’s what happens when you’re building a church with the largest dome in the world at the time. Actually it was the second largest dome but even now, 1500 years later, it is still the third largest in the world. The dome is pushing so much pressure down that buttresses were built to keep the church standing, otherwise it would have collapsed. Even so, the church is still moving, you can see it by the leaning pillars.

Mosaics cover every surface, beautiful, colorful, mosaics, with golden backgrounds. The Turks recognized their beauty when they captured the city and didn’t destroy the mosaics…they painted over them with colorful yet dull designs. The Turks also recognized the beauty of the massive dome…they decided that all mosques were to be built with a dome.

The massive pillars holding up the enormous dome are decorated with intricate carvings at the top. The largest pillars in the church are from the temple of Artemis. At the top of each pillar, in the middle of the intricate carving is the sign of the craftsman that carved that pillar. What is extraordinary about Hagia Sofia and all the intricate things is that they were made by normal people, carpenters, farmers, bakers, they weren’t skilled carvers.

There are no stairs in Hagia Sofia, this is because the empress wanted to be wheeled up to her balcony. SO in the 6th century the first handicap accessible building was built.The empress was of course very important so she had bodyguards. At one time her guards were Vikings, they didn’t have very good manners and drew on her stuff. So now on one of the balconies you can see Viking graffiti from the 1;th century carved into the handrails.

The Ottoman presence can be seen all over the church. One example is the 5 enourmous medallions with Arabic writings hanging around the church, completely out of place. Also more Arabic writing in the form of mosaics cover the face of Jesus on the top of the dome. A small building made by the Ottomans shows the direction of Mecca. The church almost faces Mecca but not quite so the building is at an angle inside of Hagia Sofia, looking odd inside of this amazing church.”

April 20, 2011

Jim is in Turkey!

Fresco at the Hagia Sophia

In our Watertown office we are plugging along without Jim at the helm – he likes to say when he leaves town we are more productive anyway. His family is fulfilling their long time dream to visit Turkey, and we’re excited they are there enjoying all of the wonders they’ve been dreaming of. (My kids still say this was their favorite adventure)

Think it’s too foreign? Think again: Turkey is an amazing example of a secular country, where all religions and all people are respected and represented. You will be so welcomed in Turkey.

Jim writes:

“Our family journey to Turkey is over the April vacation of the Milton MA public school and happened to coincide with Holy Week leading up to Easter in the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. We looked forward to bringing our boys to see the richness of Turkey as the crossroads of the East and West. We prepared them by having many a long talk about the history of the region and it is rich tradition in the Muslin and Christian worlds.

The mosaics and frescos that were so carefully restored at the Haghia Sophia and at the Church of the Chora can’t be described unless seen by ones own eyes. We can’t express enough gratitude that these wonderful works of art were covered up so carefully and not destroyed when Constantinople fell to the Turks.

Listening to our Muslim Guide Huseyin explain the significance of these mosaics and frescos without any animosity towards the topic can’t help but make me think that there is great hope between our cultures as long as we take the time to listen and understand one another. If we learn from the past on both sides of the table maybe we can come closer together. It is clear to me that Turkey does a great job at this… I expect that this discovery is the same for my family and will be for many others who travel to this magical country.”

Come to Turkey! It is one of the most amazing places you might discover with your children. Some space still available for summer 2011.