PC HSToday my group was taken on a big, intense, bordering-on grueling march through three od Istanbul’s greatest hits: the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia.  Any one of them could (and probably should) command at least several hours; to do them ( and lunch, and the Basilica Cistern, just for good measure) in one day, during summer tourist season, is ambitious, to say the least.  We were somewhat rushed, as you might imagine; further, I had been most eager for one of the sites in which our time was particularly compressed.  This is the great Byzantine church, and later Ottoman mosque, Hagia Sophia.  Our guide took us through the building and kept to her script, allowing us only 15 minutes to explore on our own.  This was a little vexing, since I was so looking forward to time in this amazing building that I only knew through the drawings and photos that I show my sophomore class every year.   What saved the day was my foresight, a few weeks ago, to download some Byzantine liturgical music, so I plugged in and spent my 10 minutes not madly taking pictures, but taking in the church.  The music had a near-magical effect; the noise of the crowds was drowned out, and all the other people actually seemed to slow down and sort of fade away, like I was gifted with Matrix-like powers of perception.  It was really quite moving, to see the building with something like the soundtrack it was designed to house.  Impressive how digital media and earbuds enlivened and enriched the best 10 minutes I could have spent in that sixth-century cathedral.

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