If the Earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital
It is great to be back in Istanbul. After dropping my bags off at the Turkoman Hotel (with a fabulous view of the Blue Mosque) I was off to get my cultural fix. While staying in Sultanahmet is expensive, I think the accessibility it gives to the sites is well worth it.
The thing I like most about Turkey is how open they are about their heritage, opening their mosques to non-muslims outside of prayer times. I was again struck by the sheer size of the splendid 17th century Sultan Ahmed Mosque (more popularly known as the Blue Mosque and with six, rather than the more common four, two or one, minarets). It is however not my favourite. That is, for me and many tourists and Turks alike, Rustem Pasha Mosque, which I am saving for the end of this trip.
And of course there is Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya in Turkish) – “Church of the Divine Wisdom”. I wandered around awe-struck (again!). The astounding architecture (no elephant columns like the ones in the Blue Mosque used here), the mosaics, the odd bits that don’t belong and yet do. Built between 532 and 537 under personal supervision of Emperor Justinian, it is a must see.