I booked my hotel online. It was allegedly 3-stars. Let me tell you, it was not! If you have the money to book a really nice place – go ahead and do it. If not, my advice is to look for a place after you get there (assuming there is not a big event that would preclude you from getting any room. Once you are there, go to a small hotel. Ask to see the room first. If you like it, return to the front desk and thell them what you will pay for it. Haggle for about 30 minutes. Drink some nice hot tea. Retreat to your room for way less than the prices found on the internet.
First on the tour, Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya). It was built as an Orthodox patriarchal basilica, dedicated in 360 a.d. It served as the cathedral of Constantinople until 1453, except for a short period where it was the cathedral of the Latin empire. It burned in in 532 a.d. and reopened 5 years later as that buidling which still stands today. In 1453, when Sultan Mehmed conquered Constantinople, changing its name to Istanbul, the cathedral was converted to a mosque. In 1938, Atatürk ordered it to be opened as a museum. On the grounds is Ablutions Fountain, built circa 1740. The fountain is an example of Turkish Rococco style.
Next, I toured my neighborhood, Sutanahmet and some of the neighboring streets. Not being afraid to wander, I took some lovely shots of tombs and cemeteries. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly where I was and no longer remember to whom the tombs belonged!
The next day I visited the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I.
The Blue Mosque visit was followed the next day by a tour of the Bosphorous. This was the closest I got to the Asian side of Istanbul. Along the way we passed Dolmabahçe Palace, built between 1843 and 1856, and other beautiful buildings, hotels, and homes of the very wealthy. The boat turned around at the suspension bridge between Oraykoy and Beylerbeyi.
Istanbul was fabulous! I had seen nothing like it in the Philadelphia area. Unfortuanately, in such a short time, I did not have a chance to visit the Spice Bazaar, the Palace, and hundreds of other attractions. (Although I did make time to purchase a bit of gold jewelry!) If I had access to You Tube, here in the Ottomans, I would leave you with a video of a fine old tune. Since I can’t, please look it up! “Istanbul Not Constantinople.” There’s two versions out there, a slow one by the Four Lads, and a newer version by They Must Be Giants. It’s a great tune! Or try this link if you happen to also be in Turkey, http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=52638666.