The temperature has really gone down. We may have to start insisting on a heater instead of an aircon now. It was a cool 23 deg when we left the hotel this morning and I think it only warmed up to 28 deg when we got to Istanbul. In the evening, when posting the previous reports from the roof of the hotel, Jamaliah had to cut it short. Her fingers were freezing at 24 deg. As you can see we are really looking forward to the Dutch weather. The drive here was interesting. Some 60 km before Istanbul we took the toll road. You can drive faster but you do not see much while driving because you have to concentrate so much on the road at the higher speed. If this is how it will be going back the rest of the way, then we will have to take turn at driving. We were nicely cruising on the motorway into town wondering when to turn off to the town center when we suddenly realized we were heading for the bridge back to Asia. JJ had the money ready for the toll bridge but just before the booth there was a turn off road, which we took. We drove more or less on compass direction a bit further and then asked the way at a Burger King. While there we decided to take a (rare) lunch break and then set off in the indicated directions. This road took us through a lot of narrow back- alleys and underneath bridges crossing the Bosporus. Map reading was difficult if you do not know exactly where you are and no road sign to refer to. Therefore we mostly used the GPS as well as “follow the Tram lines”. Later when we made it to the center of the old city we realised that our overview map was only a small overview of the town center and not of the whole city. No wonder it did not make sense. Rudy made it to the Aya Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom, which was later converted into a mosque and now a museum) and found a parking spot and gave up driving. “Let’s walk and find a hotel”. A man pointed out to us that we could not park here and that all the small hotels were around the corner. Off again we squeezed ourselves through very narrow street, not designed for cars and, with some help of friendly hotel owners, found this lovely hotel, which had rooms (not cheap) free. He even had a space in front to park the car. We were glad to be at our destination: Old City Istanbul. From the mentioned roof top we saw that we are right in between the Blue mosque and the Aya Sophia.
At prayer time we can hear that as well. After unpacking we set out to at least make one visit today and that was the Aya Sophia. No more ruins. A former Christian Basilica from 532 AD, which was converted to a mosque after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD. It is a fascinating building although not a pretty one. I think it must be the oldest still used church in the world. It also looks that way. There is continuous restoration work going on and the floor marble looks heavily cracked and used. At various sections the Muslim wall pastering (which was used to cover the Christian painting when the church was converted into a mosque) is being carefully removed to reveal beautiful Christian mosaics. Both world religions are clearly visible in the building. From there we wandered through some streets, had a drink and back to the hotel for a bit of R&R and website updating before setting off again for dinner with the boys and later street wandering for JJ and Rudy. We even found the pudding shop where Rudy had his breakfast some 30 odd years ago when he first visited Istanbul as well as the Obelisks’ in the park (a old hippodrome) hidden now behind large trees.