Our next stop was Istanbul. We were back in Europe and winter. The last time we had been in Istanbul was 1995. The city has changed a lot in 17 years. We were staying in the same area we stayed in last time and actually our hotel turned out to be just a block from the one we stayed in before. We wouldn't have recognized the hotel or location, but we remembered the name and the fact that it was on a corner.
We arrived about 4:00 pm and went out for a walk after getting settled in the hotel. This scene is not far from Taksim square, which was walking distance from our hotel. We were happy to be in a city where the streets were walkable.
The next morning I bought a transit card and rode to the old part of Istanbul--the former Constantinople, where the most famous mosques and landmarks of the city are. To get there I rode a funicular down to the bottom of the hill. Then I took a tram across the bridge to the other part of town. This was not across the Bosphorus; both the section where we stayed and the old town are in the European part of town.
The tram stopped near a park, which lead to the former hippodrome, which is another park-like area. This was my first view of the Blue Mosque or the Sultanahmet Mosque. It has 6 minarets.
Here's another shot of the park.
As you can see it was a sunny day. The temperature was in the 40's, but it was very pleasant sitting in the sun. Here's a shot of the roof of a pavilion in this park.
From the park looking towards Hagia Sophia or Ayasophia. More in the next post about that building. I saw very few burkas in the newer part of Istanbul, but there were a few in this part.
I took advantage of the nice weather to walk around some of the streets on the hill below these two mosques. There were a lot of new hotels in this area.
These buildings almost look Scandinavian.
And here's a cute little corner.
Detail of the door above. You know why I snapped this photo.
I wandered back up towards the mosques and the hippodrome. The hippodrome goes back to Roman times. Horse and chariot races took place here and apparently these obelisks were in the center of the race track. The ground level is much higher now. Inside the fence they have excavated down to the original ground level. Is this still happening today or was it just that they didn't have trash collection back then? How does the ground level rise like that?
Here's another pretty shot of this area, looking towards Ayasophia.
Next I visited the Blue Mosque.
Most mosques have a courtyard with a fountain in it. The fountain is used in the ritual washing that Muslims do before praying. This courtyard is surrounded by an arcade on all four sides.
Here's a shot I took inside. I didn't have a tripod, so used the flat top of a barrier to set my camera on to get this shot indoors without using the flash. This is the back part of the mosque. The ladies area is behind the screen at left. The entrance to the courtyard is in the center left, below the columns and smaller arcade.
Then I tilted it up to get this one.
This mosque gets its nickname from the blue tiles inside. The ceilings and upper parts are painted, but the walls on the second level are tiled.
And here is a shot of the ceiling near the central dome. The trouble with relying on using an available flat surface for this kind of photo is you can't really frame the picture. You sort of get what you get.
One more shot of the outside, as I walked away.
I had lunch in this restaurant. this is actually the second floor which wasn't open at this time.
One more shot of the street outside the restaurant.
I spent 3 more days walking around, but we had rainy, cold weather, so these were my last sunny pictures. Ok, I just realized the only word you can read on these shops is 'silver.' I suppose the shops sold silver. I don't really remember.