After leaving our home nearly 30 hours earlier we landed at the Istanbul airport about 11:00 PM. Arriving at night tired and ready for bed was a good way to get the body clock adjusted to the new time difference.

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Arriving in mid-April the city was decked out in its finest colors with the wisteria, lilacs, and many other flowers in full bloom including millions of tulips. A couple of other good things about traveling at this time of the year are that the tourist crowds haven’t arrived yet and the weather is pleasant.

The city was called Constantinople from its founding in 330 until Ottoman rule in 1453 when it was renamed Istanbul. Hmmm? I’m not so sure the city shouldn’t be called CATstaninople. There are cats everywhere. The whole country is full of cats. Cats are definitely the pet of choice in Turkey.

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Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Every few feet in the Sultanahmet District you are assaulted with dishonest well wishes that are merely a means to lure you into their shop. As you are walking to your next exotic sight you don’t dare try to steal a glance at something interesting or you’ll be pounced on by a salesman that will stick like glue. By day three I was ready to scream.



Built in the 6th century the Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya) is one of Constantinople’s oldest treasures. The 1,400 year old church was an amazing architectural feat at the time and it still looks good today.


The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) was built about 400 years ago during Ottoman rule but it isn’t blue. It is actually a gray structure and get's its name from the blue tile work in the interior. It is a strikingly beautiful structure but was built with some controversy. Some feel the six minarets (spires) was an attempt to rival the sacred architecture of Mecca.

The largest mosque in Istanbul will hold 18,000 people! There are more than 3,000 mosques in the city, about 400 churches, and I only saw one McDonalds. No wonder the people look fit and trim.

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  One thing that seemed very foreign to me when we first arrived was the call to prayer that happens 5 times a day. Before the end of the trip however I found it to be quite beautiful and had a comforting effect on me. Standing between the Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia is the perfect place to listen to the orchestrated call that starts with a short verse at the Blue Mosque and then repeated from the surrounding mosques and continues until completed.

The 550+ year old Topkapi Palace is grand with several large courtyards, living areas, pavilions, and a maze of rooms that make up the harem quarters.

The best part of the palace is not the buildings but the things stored in the buildings. Much of which could not be photographed. I was especially intrigued with the heavily jeweled Topkapi Dagger and the huge 86 carat spoon maker’s diamond, but a piece of skull decorated with jewels and the forearm of John the Baptist was the thing that surprised me the most. The arm is incased in gold with a small opening on the back of the hand that allows you to see some bone and other mummified pieces of the hand.

The Topkapi Dagger

The arm and skull of John the Baptist


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The Grand Bazaar is the place to buy just about anything. It’s huge! But if you want to buy rugs, ceramics and such we found better deals in the smaller cities of Turkey and with fewer hassles.
  The only thing left of the Hippodrome is an obelisk, column, and the nearly 2,500 year old serpent’s spire. Seventeen hundred years ago this was Constantinople’s version of NASCAR with chariot races and a seating capacity of about 100,000 spectators.
The Chora Church (Kariye Camii) has some of the finist Byzantine mosaics and frescoes anywhere. It is located a little bit off the tourist
path but not difficult to get to and well worth the effort.

  On our way back to the Askin hotel we visited the Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars. The entire church is made of iron which was cast in Vienna and shipped piece by piece to Istanbul.
  Istanbul is truly at a crossroads. The city is divided by the Bosphorus Canal. The west side is in Europe, the east side is in Asia, the north boarders on the Black Sea and the south is on the Marmara Sea.

Ortakov Mosque

Dolmabahce Palace

Galata Tower

Fortress of Europe

Entrance to the Black Sea

One day we took a tour that included a boat trip up the Bosphorus Canal and on a separate day we took the ferry part way up the Bosphorus and had lunch in a part of Istanbul that is very laid back and mellow. The Bosphorus is a bustling waterway with huge ships commuting to and from the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. Along the way we saw many fun and historic sights.

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Varol, Patti and Jimmy

On the terrace at the Askin Hotel.

I found Varol of the Askin Hotel to be very helpful with helping me plan our stay in Istanbul and with other general tourist questions. He was quick to answer emails and had a taxi driver waiting for us as we got off the plane that whisked us straight away to our pleasant accommodations.

The hotel is easy on the pocketbook, comfortable, and perfectly located in Istanbul. It’s right across the street from the Blue Mosque, maybe 3 blocks to the Haghia Sophia, and another block beyond that to the Topkapi Palace, and less than 1/2 mile to the Grand Bazaar.

Varol and Jimmy work the front desk at the Askin Hotel. Both are quick with a smile and have a very helpful attitude. They helped make our stay very enjoyable.

Istanbul was great but we were excited to see other parts of Turkey - NEXT PAGE >>>

Jimmy and Varol are no longer working at the Askin Hotel. The hotel is still very nice but these guys made it great! Varol Günaç is now the 2nd manager at the Blue Hills Hotel.

These photographs of the Blue Mosque were shot from our room.

Our room overlooked the
Blue Mosque and the Marmara Sea.
If you contact the Askin Hotel tell them you heard about them on John Wall's website.



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This page was last modified: December 15, 2007