Istanbul is fabulous! We've walked around the Sultanhamet area and settled into the Hotel Sultan Hill, which has a roof terrace from where you can see the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia (a remarkable 1,400 years old Byzantine architecture style church), the Hippodrome (a chariot-racing stadium that was built by the Romans in about 200 AD), and the Marmara Sea. I ran up during call to prayer, and the sights and sounds are simply magical. The Blue Mosque is called that because the interior is decorated with 21,043 blue Iznik tilework of 50 different designs. (Iznik was one of two major centers where exquisite painted and glazed pottery was made during the Ottoman period from the 15th to the 17th centuries.) The Blue Mosque was built by Mehmet Aga, the imperial architect; it was completed in 1616 and is still one of the most important religious buildings in the world. After sundown, we had dinner at a restaurant on the 6th floor of a hotel from where you can see the mosque's six minarets floodlit making it all seem like a dream.
All around our hotel there are lovely 19th century Ottoman houses that have been renovated, like this yellow one; some are still private homes, others are now hotels and stores. There are laws that forbid demolishing these wooden houses, but many have been destroyed by one of the frequent fires in the city. I'm a bit fried, and the internet connection is slow--plus, the directions for blogging are now in Turkish (I have to figure out how to get the screen in English)--so, I won't say much else right now. Enjoy these photos--no, we did not eat at McD's!